Friday, August 31, 2007

Definitions of Child Abuse

When parents or guardians hurt their children's bodies
or feelings over and over again on purpose,
and the only way such parents give a child attention
is by yelling at him, hitting him, or being angry at him...
Definition of child abuse in Let's Talk About Abuse
by Michael Pall and Lois Streit

Today I'm wondering about the meanings of child abuse and neglect in general. Some, like the above, seem abusive to me. Examples abound of death resulting from parent's choices that come no where near meeting the Pall/Streit definition. For instance, the parents weren't home when the boy picked up a hunting rifle and somehow shot himself in the head. The parents said the gun had remained in the same place in their home nearly a year without the child bothering it. They also said they had believed it wasn't loaded. This state has no law requiring guns be locked up or otherwise secured. At this time the parents aren't charged with anything and probably won't be. On the news, people express the opinion that the parents have suffered enough so should not be charged with anything.

So what's your opinion? Is it "neglect" if parents leave a loaded gun around the house and a child kills himself or others with it?

Seems like everyone knows what Child Abuse and Neglect is... but it turns out their definition when pressed is a lot like the Pornography definition of "I know it when I see it." In fact, there is no consensus among various professionals, and none among the states, let alone the average person, about what actually constitutes "child abuse and neglect." For some "intent" is an important element; for others the degree of measurable harm separates abuse from discipline, for another the frequency of occurrence makes all the difference. But who decides? "Is the absence of medical/dental care by a caretaker who doesn't earn enough money to buy health insurance, but earns $5 more than the poverty line in her state neglect or abuse...even if as happens...a child dies from lack of treatment? Or does it only become maltreatment by default if the caretaker has the insurance or money but fails to seek treatment. Perhaps the caretaker must intend for the child to suffer harm? What about the caretakers who defend any action as a parental right...or even as a parental long as it's "for your own good," As long as a professional child welfare worker can define housekeeping as not an issue unless "the dust bunnies have teeth" what really makes the difference between a parent who loses her children to "the system" and another of similar circumstances that doesn't

Not surprisingly there isn't a consensus among professionals or states about the definitions of child abuse. If you want to compare your state's definition with that of other states, here's a link to do so...

Take Care...Be Aware

Nancy Lee

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Failure to Protect

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

Today I'm wondering about how we react when a news account focuses on the death of a child resulting from abuse or neglect.

Maybe you are one of those of us who cringe when we notice the daily news includes horrific cases involving Child Abuse and Neglect? Maybe you, too, turn away from such news before your feelings actively engage? Maybe the helpless, hopeless kind of pain you would otherwise feel is just too much bear?

Maybe you think, "Why should I pay attention? There's nothing I can do about it anyway?" Maybe you say, "I can't imagine that anyone could do such horrible things?"And thank whatever god's may be that no one you know ever could?" Maybe you comfort yourself with the thought, "The professionals are doing something to make a difference for the children who remain at risk?"

Well, whether we notice or not, such news occurs every day somewhere in the US. At least 5 children die each day as a result of primary caretakers' actions. Most of the children are under 5 years of age, too young to ask for help, or speak out about their experiences. The majority of these under five are actually less than one year old...too young to stand up, let alone stand up for themselves.

So what can you do? First remember what Dr. Phil says... you can't change what you don't first acknowledge! Then acknowledge that children really do die as a result of abuse and neglect. Next acknowledge that all the professionals' efforts aren't enough to save these children. And finally take a deep breath and acknowledge that the pain you feel even noticing news about child abuse is nothing compared to the pain real children are living and dying with every day.

Remember the "Hundred Monkeys? Remember the "Butterfly in Brazil?" Remember "Where ever two or more meet..." ?

Visit here to add your thoughts, share your experiences, vent your anger, feel your pain and pass along ideas for others to build on. Only thing required to be a part of this community is a willingness to show up!

Now, let's take that first baby-step. We can do it. Let's notice, really notice, what's in the news about children. Let's notice what's happening on the streets where we live, in the stores where we shop... anywhere children wait for someone to notice they aren't invisible.

Here are a few children in the news recently...

Cary Man Charged In Infant Son's Death [7 months old]

Man Charged In Infant Daughter's Death [10 months old]

Fort Wayne Man Charged in Infant's Death [3 weeks old]

An 11 month old baby dead is after a beating by a 9 year old boy at a day care center.

Father & girlfriend on trial for murder of his 3 year old son, who was allegedly beaten to death with a hammer.

Man beats six months pregnant girlfriend to death with baseball bat; beats and shoots her 4 year old son to death.

Woman charged with murder of two year old son by covering his head with a comforter until he stopped crying.

Take Care...Be Aware

Nancy Lee

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Speak Out on Child Abuse

Do you hear the children weeping

Oh my brothers...

The Cry of the Children
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Why is there so much silence, so little public outcry concerning child maltreatment? Why is there so little legislation protecting children's welfare? Why do so many invoke children as a means to attract attention, sell products, gain support for some legislation that does little for children, or worse, actually cuts funding for children's programs like Head Start, SChip, Food Stamps and more?

It isn't that some people aren't noticing child abuse and neglect, aren't trying to make a difference for the children, aren't crying out for changes in the child welfare system. Here are a few bits and pieces on CAN in a recent "National News Roundup" in Children's Voice magazine...
  • In Connecticut, groups are developing legislative proposals for often invisible children of prisoners...
  • In Florida, an abused girl is awarded $2.6 million...
  • In Rhode Island, casework supervisors for the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) seek reduction in case loads from their average 16-20 to the recommended 14 each...
  • In Washington, faster responses to child abuse reports required...
  • In South Carolina, new state law requires schools to develop anti-bullying policies and punishments...

If you want to speak out... American Counseling Association makes it easy.

Or by

Or to find out about bills and laws of interest to you.

Why not find out if your Congress person is a co-sponsor on the bill H.R.3132? Title: To amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying and harassment prevention programs.

Or of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006? S.3525

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Alice Miller Defines Child Abuse

Alice Miller makes chillingly clear to the many
what has been recognized only by the few:
the extraordinary pain and psychological suffering
inflicted on children under the guise of conventional childrearing.
- Maurice Sendak

Alice Miller has written 13 books on child abuse. She has a PhD in Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology and researches childhood. She remains actively involved in changing the world children live in. Miller defines child abuse:

Humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, betrayal, sexual
exploitation, derision, neglect, etc. are all forms of mistreatment, because
they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are
not visible right away.

Check out her ideas and works on these links: Alice Miller The Roots of Violence Spanking is Counterproductive and dangerous Every smack is a humiliation

Take Care...Be Aware

Nancy Lee