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

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