Lack of Policy Protecting Children From Abuse Neglect Essay

Pages: 9 (2726 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Children

¶ … Future Generation

Listen to any discussion of public policy and it won't take too long for you to hear somebody talk about how children are our most precious resource and how we have to do everything possible to protect them. And yet -- while these statements are unarguably true -- when it comes to funding and designing public policy, it is all too often children who find themselves ignored and mistreated -- not only by their caregivers, but by our social welfare system. This paper examines one possible way in which the harm that befalls children from neglectful and abusive caregivers might be mitigated. There are other possible ways, no doubt, to reduce harm to children. But this one has the advantages of being relatively simple to put into place within the current system and also the advantage of being able to protect many children from injury and even death.

This paper examines one of the most serious problems in the current system of child oversight before critiquing current policy and then turning to a proposal that could help reduce all forms of harm to children in a variety of situations.

Statement of the Problem

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There is a significant barrier in the current system for child advocates at private non-profit organizations like Kid's Voice to be able to provide the protection and care that such organizations would like to be able to give: The first line of defense for at-risk children has far too many weaknesses in it. In order to provide a best practice level of service here at Kid's Voice it is essential that there be a standard protocol by which county (CYFS) caseworkers assess reported cases of neglect and/or abuse. Unfortunately, it is currently the case that CYFS caseworkers are not properly trained to assess and handle such cases. Because the system breaks down at this initial point, agencies such as Kid's Voice become blocked from providing our clients with quality legal representation. Moreover, we cannot currently recommend services that best meet our clients' needs.

Essay on Lack of Policy Protecting Children From Abuse Neglect Assignment

A key part of the current problem is that many CYFS caseworkers are overloaded with cases. This in turn results in a lack of attention to each individual client, which often leads to prolonging the time children spend in abusive or neglectful situations. This is not meant to indict any particular caseworker (for they certainly do not ask to be over-assigned). But the real effect of this is that our Child Advocacy Specialists and team of attorneys are prevented from carrying out our mission to ensure that perpetrations of abuse and neglect against persons under eighteen be addressed immediately and that these children be given their own legal representation.

Caseworkers are both overworked and under-trained. The consequences for both of these facts is that even when caseworkers do meet with a family, there is no standard protocol is put into effect to assess cases of child abuse and neglect. Because of this, the incidence of child abuse and neglect will continue to rise even as the time children remain in abusive and neglectful situations will increase.

In the simplest terms: The problem is that children will continue to suffer and even die if the caseworkers who stand at the initial point of the process of keeping children safe do not begin to do their job differently. When they do so -- and This paper explores how that might be done -- then "second-responders" such as non-profit agencies will be able to work with social workers to provide the kind of specialized services that each child needs.

Gaps in the Current Safety Net

The appalling statistics about child abuse highlight the ways in which the current system is not working.

Although the incidence of child abuse and neglect has been decreasing in recent years, more than 1.25 million, or 1 in every 58 children in the United States, in 2006.

More than half (61%) of the children (771,700 children) were victims of neglect, meaning a parent or guardian failed to provide for the child's basic needs. Forms of neglect include educational neglect (360,500 children), physical neglect (295,300 children), and emotional neglect (193,400).

Another 44% were victims of abuse (553,300 children), including physical abuse (325,000 children), sexual abuse (135,000 children), and emotional abuse (148,500 children).

An average of nearly four children die every day as a result of child abuse or neglect (1,760 in 2007). (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.)

The Violence Against Children Act of 2009 (VACA 2009), which is currently in the first step of the legislative process in congress, may be what is needed to help resolve the most serious issues that are currently preventing children from getting the care that they need. This act is meant to provide comprehensive assistance for the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for harming children. It is also meant to award financial assistance to existing agencies that are involved in the investigation, education, prevention, and victims' assistance services for such crimes.

However -- and this seems to be the truly vital part of the act -- it would require that agencies receiving assistance, such as CYFS, use a standard set of guidelines and a model incident-based reporting system by which crimes committed against children be filed. Anyone who has ever reported child abuse knows that there is a great deal of variety in how seriously those complaints are taken. Sometimes reports of what might seem to be egregious examples of child abuse are met with social workers who dismiss them. Setting strict and universal standards for how children neglect and abuse is defined, recognized, reported, and assessed will substantially improve the process of protecting children.

Because a standardized protocol is so important, I propose that Kid's Voice actively advocate on behalf of VACA 2009 so as to help ensure its passage in Congress. The current deficits surrounding the assessment and referral for legal services of incidents of child abuse and neglect are based in some measure in the fact that there are overlapping local and state jurisdictions. This is especially the case when children are in a situation of joint custody with caregivers living in different cities, counties, or states. Each of these entities has its own standards (in fact if not in theory) of child abuse and may not communicate well with other agencies (Jonson-Reid, 2007, p. 188). VACA -- by federalizing the process of caring for children -- will thus remove a number of inefficiencies that may prove to be fatal to children.

VACA of 2009 may also help to establish guidelines and protocol for the intake and assessment of crimes involving neglect and abuse perpetrated against children. Anyone who does not have personal experience with reporting child abuse or seeking to provide protection to children at risk might think that the above proposal -- for a standard reporting and assessment protocol -- must already be in place. But in fact it is not, and until caseworkers have such a protocol and the time needed to use it for each family with whom they interact, there will be no possible way in which other agencies, such as ours, can step in to provide complementary services (Juby & Scannapieco, 2007). A standardized protocol will untie our hands.

The lack of federal oversight and the lack of systematic protocols has left far too many children vulnerable. Federal legislation -- with a concomitant commitment to fund child welfare services at an adequate level -- are the only ways in which there can be a significant reduction in child abuse. Enough workers, each of whom is trained in a rational protocol for reporting and handling cases involving child abuse and neglect, would ensure that nearly every child at risk would be removed from a home when necessary to ensure physical and emotional safety.

A related part of the current safety net is the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA Public Law 105-89). This law, which was enacted under President Clinton, was designed to limit the number of homes that foster children were transferred among. This is a serious problem -- the lack of a single placement or even a small number of placements -- for foster children. However, the desire for permanent placements has at times canceled the far greater need for children to be safe. Caseworkers seem to be reluctant at times to move a child even when the situation is unsafe simply because they are advocating for a lack of change. This is a potential harm that would be reduced by a standardization of protocol. While there is now -- again, in actual practice as opposed to policy -- differentiation between the ways in which children in their kinship homes and those in foster care are treated, a standardization of assessment would treat all children equally in terms of potential for harm (Brems et al., 2008, p. 40).

Critique of Current Policy

A large part of the problem with the current assessment system is that much of it revolves around… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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