Term Paper: Abused and Neglected Children

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Abused and Neglected Children

An estimated 3.3 million children in the United States are referred to the children protective services, on suspicion of maltreatment in 2009, with 700,000 being confirmed victims of maltreatment. To the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act 42 U.S.C.A. §5106g, child abuse and neglect, is any recent failure on the part of a caretaker or parent to act, resulting in serious emotional and physical harm, death, exploitation and sexual abuse. The section also finds that child neglect and abuse is any failure to act or act, which creates imminent risk of harm (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). Apart from this Federal definition of child abuse and neglect, states have a responsibility to have their own definition. Despite differences in definition, most states find major types of maltreatment as neglect, emotional abuse, sexual, and physical abuse. The most reported forms of child maltreatment are parental substance abuse and abandonment (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). They also find that though many forms of maltreatment can occur separately, they often happen in combination. This research discusses the different forms of child abuse and neglect, effects of maltreatment on the children, and current approaches to assisting abused and neglected children.

Children are considered abused and neglected if Child Welfare Services determines they are facing any of the different forms of maltreatment from their caregivers or parents. One of these is physical abuse, which is any non-accidental injury, either minor bruises, death or fractures to the physical body of the child (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). These are like beating, shaking, punching, choking, throwing, biting, kicking, hitting with objects, burning, or stabbing (Widom & White, 2003). The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services does not considered physical discipline like paddling or spanking as abuse, if it is reasonable and does not cause bodily harm.

Neglect is the failure of a caregiver, parent or guardian to give the child basic needs. It is medical, physical, emotional, or educational. Physical neglect is the failure to give basic needs like shelter, food, supervision, or clothing. A failure to give a child education or refusal to provide special education for special need children is neglect. In addition, the denial of medical treatment or the refusal to provide psychological or emotional attention is considered neglect. However, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2008) recognizes that these situations are not neglect is the parents or caregivers are acting within their customs, culture, religion, or socio-economic status. A family that is given information and resources on child safety and health by welfare services and does not meet requirements in the information is considered to neglect the child.

Sexual activities by a caregiver or parent with a child entailing penetration, sodomy, rape, fondling genitals, exploitation through prostitution, indecent exposure or production of pornography, and incest is sexual abuse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). Any behavior by a caregiver or parent that prevents the normal development of a child's sense of self-worth is emotional abuse. This includes any threat, rejection, or criticism remarks, withdrawal of guidance, support, or love (Widom & White, 2003). Since emotional abuse is difficult to prove, child welfare services seek evidence of mental injury to a child (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). Children are also said as abused and neglected if child services cannot establish the identity or whereabouts of their parents. This also occurs when parents or caregivers leave children alone in circumstances that cause serious harm to them. In addition, it occurs where parents and caregivers do not maintain contact with their children or offer reasonable support for a time.

Children are also identified as abused and neglected if child case workers observe that the homes or residential are poorly kept, that they present environmental risks to young children. Situations that cause physical threat and harm to the physical and emotional health of the children, in the homes are associated with neglect and abuse (Widom & White, 2003). These include lethal and hazardous materials and substances like uncovered outlets in the walls and manholes, firearms, and poisons. These environmental conditions are hazardous to the health of a child, causing the Home Accident Prevention Inventory (HAPI) to identify key categories of hazards. These are mechanical-suffocation, firearms, fire and electrical, solid and liquid poisons, and ingested object suffocation. The need to identify neglect in the home arises from the high number of children that are injured and killed each year from accidents in homes. Moreover, the HAPI need to classify dangerous and hazardous home environments as child abuse and neglect, arises from the fact 91% of injuries to children younger than five years occurs in the home.

The need for investigating abused and neglected children arises from evidence that each type of maltreatment has negative effects on the child and adults. Studies indicate that physically abused children are more aggressive, impulsive, and noncompliant that those that are neglected (Finzi et al., 2001). They also have a lack of empathy for their peers' distress, act-out; interact with peers through physical and verbal aggression (Finzi et al., 2001). Physically abused infants have high levels of negative impact from this maltreatment, while the neglected infant has blunted effect. Preschool children that are neglected are withdrawn socially and interact poorly with their peers (Finzi et al., 2001). These children are also more dependent, anxious, less popular, easily victimized, and have poor social competence.

Studies also show that neglected and abused children development attachment problems, from the insecurity they developed from low emotional attachment with their parents and caregivers (Finzi et al., 2001). Physically abused infants develop emotional avoidance, are anxious or ambivalent, and develop serious avoidance attachment in later years. Children that have faced serious emotional and physical abused in develop diverse behaviors that confront their mothers (Widom & White, 2003). They also indicate undirected expression of distress and fear, and are dazed or have a disoriented facial expression (Finzi et al., 2001). Overall, neglected, and abused children develop emotional distress and are socially maladapted.

Other negative effects of childhood abuse and neglect are contracting diseases like sexually transmitted diseases or poor health. A study by Wilson and Widom (2009) of 754 abused and neglected children between the ages of 0 to 11 finds that 95% were sexually abused. The study found that there was a high confidence level of 95% that those abused contracted sexually transmitted diseases, with some having more than one type of STD (Wilson & Widom, 2009). The study also found that those physically abused have higher risks of more than one type of STD infection. The study identifies that maltreated children are at risk of contracting STDs due to factors like direct exposure to sexual abuse (Wilson & Widom, 2009). Other factors include an increase of risky behavior by victims of sexual abuse or to non-sexual maltreatments, early initiation into sexual activity, and sexual activity with risk partners.

Another reaction to abuse and neglect by children is resilience, as investigated by Czaja, DuMont, & Widom (2007). The researchers carried out a longitudinal survey of 676 physically and sexually abused and neglected children. The study reveals that more than forty-eight percent in their adolescence and a close to a third in young adulthood develop resilience to abuse and neglect. More than a half of the children resilient in their adolescence continued with this resilience to young adulthood (Czaja, DuMont, & Widom, 2007). The study found that girls physically and sexually abused and neglected, were more resilient in adolescence and young adulthood than boys. The likelihood of resilience in young adulthood increased with factors like being white, a stable living condition, higher socio-economic status, stressful life events, and supportive partners (Czaja, DuMont, & Widom, 2007). Therefore, ecological factors promote… [END OF PREVIEW]

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