Saturday, September 29, 2007

A child speaks... at least, please listen!

If children find the courage to speak,
adults must listen and respond.

"Can't help wondering...what you think about child abuse?" I said to a young [almost 12 she reminds me!] friend. I invited her to share her story with you. Here is her response:


When I was a baby life was good I lived in an apartment next door to my aunt, great grandmother & grand mother, but some time after this perfect life they all helped take care of me about a year later my brother comes along we ended up in a place called Foster Home for children whose parents did or have some kind of problems. My little brother was only in 1 or 2 homes and it only cost about a thousand to get him out but as for me I was in so many homes I cant keep track of. One home I was in I hated was with two people ... & ... the woman was nice but her husband ... was so mean like if there was a food I did not like he would shove it down my thought and if I vomit I would have to stand in the corner for a half an hour he would also try to get me to drink beer and smack me around. If did not listen the first time he told me to do something he would make me sit by the TV while my favorite cartoon was on facing the corner for 1 hole hour and I said if he ever did something like that to my brother I will do something about it. They lost their license and were not able to be Foster Parents anymore. The next family was nice and 1 thing I did not like was the cereal she bought was Fruity Pebbles and I hated them. there is one more Family left I remember they were my favorite because I always wanted a sister and I got one my age she was pretty funny kind and had good scene of style. we lived on a farm the very first time I lived on a farm, but I never got board! My life is was and is probably going to be miserable and all bad luck. then the last place was not a home it was sort of like a school except you can live there for how long they put you there for. I was there for 30 days I think see I barely know where I was for some part of my life it feels like a puzzle with a lot of pieces missing. If I could find these pieces I would be put them together. Then after I got out for my brother and my birthday on Christmas. All my moms' side of the family was there and it was great. We got lots of presents and then we lived there for a little while and moved to a place called Cherry Ridge in Northern Cambria. We lived there in an apartment for about 2 years, then things went wrong I was staying over my aunt & uncles house across the street in another apartment. That next morning my mom came running in saying ... get up my apartment is on fire my brother … got a hold of a liter and caught the apartment on fire and there was a lot of damage done so we got kicked out. So we moved again to a place in … and it was called Cherry Tree. We moved into a falling apart trailer and it was beside 2 other trailers. I really don’t know how long we lived there and guess what we did? We had moved again to a place in a small town called Lilly and that is still where I live in an old brick house I hate. My dad use to beat my bottom and ground me. I have barely any friends, fun, or as my parents call it free time. I stay over my gramothers house on some weekends or some times my best friends my only friend's house sometimes in the summer or weekends when there is no school. It’s a bad life to me getting in fights for stuff I never did being picked on is one thing then trying to stick up for myself but get in trouble for trying, I hate school so much but things wont change. I keep trying to tell my mom I want to transfer but she wont let me. I hate my whole life!!!!!!

I don't think I can say anything better than my young friend has done that would help you understand the effects of child abuse and neglect. I know more of her heart-rending story, but it is her story and she will share it when she chooses to. In the meantime, please pray for her, and every child like her. The shame is ours that there's so little else we can do to help.

A child is waiting in silence. Give each child a voice when you can.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Friday, September 28, 2007

Remember Maddie...

The child is our first priority.
Not the needs of the family. Not the child's 'story.'
Not the evidence. Not the needs of the courts.
Not the needs of the police, child protection, attorneys, etc.
The child is our first priority.

Can't help wondering...about Maddie, and the thousands of missing children who suffer so deeply. Aren't they all victims of child abuse and neglect...if not by parents as much by a society that puts more effort into judging and condemning the parents for doing or not doing something that might have avoided the loss of the child, instead of putting forth as much time, energy and effort into protecting the children and changing the situation that made their disappearance possible to begin with?

Where ever Maddie is, and I pray for her safety and well being, for her grieving family and friends, the fact remains Maddie's video shares so much of the feelings and fears children experience when they are removed from their homes by a system they can't begin to understand and placed with strangers that may or may not treat them better than they were before. Where do they find hope? How do they cope with the feelings of helplessness? Who comforts them in the dark nights and never ending days?

What can we do? Maddie's message makes one thing clear. We can take care and stay aware. Stop ignoring children near you. They aren't invisible. Their presence isn't some nuisance or disruption to more important things you may have on your mind. Look at every child with interest in their wellbeing. Watch for suspicious behaviors by the child or adults with him or her. Listen for odd verbal exchanges between them. And interact in a friendly manner with the child and adult.

I realize with the harsh realities of stranger danger we often hesitate to interact with children lest we seem suspicious and be misunderstood. As so often happens when faced with something different we went too far in response to a real problem. We over reacted. Went to the far side before we could see the answer, as in everything, is in moderation. Yes, teach children safe behaviors with "strangers." Teach them to recognize and tell about inappropriate behaviors from friends and family. Teach them ways to protect themselves.

But let's stop teaching them irrational fear of everyone unknown. A friend told me children are now being taught to NOT go to a police man if in danger, but to look for a woman with children. Clever... and probably not the worst idea I've heard. But we've made the majority of people the enemy in these little one's minds and inadvertantly increased their danger through fear and hesitation to seek help lest they put themseves in worse danger.

We can't know if someone saw Maddie being taken but chose to ignore any signs that something was amiss. We can't know if she wanted to yell for help but was afraid to because the stranger on the street might be more dangerous. We can't know anything at this point about why Maddie isn't safe at home with her family. But we can look, really look!, at her and the many other missing children on posters, milk cartons and such, then look, really look at the children around us everywhere. We can.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Child Abuse: From the Inside Out

Since my earliest childhood
a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart.
As long as it stays I am ironic—
if it is pulled out I shall die.
Soren Kierkegaard
Danish Philosopher

My children are abused. By me. Rest assured they aren't defenseless, innocent little ones, now.No need to find the Child Help Line number. At ages 46, 45, and 37 they survive the abuse I inflicted on them. They recognize the ravages of abuse in themselves and others. They protect themselves from me…or anyone else who means them harm. And they remember what I remind them of frequently…child abuse is their legacy.

My children tell me they don't remember much of the actual abuses. True to the findings of researchers, as with the majority of child abusers, I abused my precious children the most when they were younger than five. They don't remember the slaps on tiny, dimpled baby hands, or on chubby thighs. They don't remember spankings before they could walk, beatings with belts, wooden spoons and other weapons before they could ride two-wheelers. They don't remember when I shook them, threw them down on beds, yanked them up by their hair, pulled, pushed, punched, pinched, bit, knocked down and kicked them. They don't remember, they tell me. They don't remember those early years, but I do.

Every minute of every day, I remember my ugly screams, laced with foul language, aimed at my innocent children. Their big tears flowed down tiny upturned faces twisted with pain, contorted with fear. Through all the years since, their desperate pleas echo in my mind. Mommy, please. Mommy, don't. No, Mommy. I'm sorry, Mommy. I promise I'll be good, Mommy. Their choking sobs as they fell asleep, alone, confused, crying out their agony and abandonment. Where are you Mommy? I need you Mommy. I love you Mommy.

I remember, and my heart aches, with a sorrow too deep to express fully, for what my children deserved but didn't receive from me. Where was the unconditional love, comfort, safety, nurturing and everything else any child is entitled to? Guilt and shame tear at my soul for the terrible emotional, psychological and physical pains they endured because I failed to protect them from my rages.

My children were so young and defenseless. Too young to know that mothers and apple pie are supposed to be the sweet stuff of American Idealism. Too young to know how mothers are revered and venerated by saints and sinners alike, hallowed as the source, the inspiration, and the teachers who create the world anew for them. Too young to know why mothers are praised in rhyme, exalted in prose, honored with the last dying breath of soldiers. But they knew I was Mother. That meant I knew best. Tat meant they knew I did what I did, when I did, for their own good. [ii]They knew I did it even though everything I did hurt me more than it hurt them. They knew they made me do it. They knew these things because I told them so…over and over and over again. They may not remember. But I do.

In their innocence, they trusted me. They believed me. They faithfully learned everything I taught them. Over time they learned they were not good, would never be good. They were only good for nothing and nothing they ever did would be good enough. They learned no one would ever love them…certainly not anyone who knew the real them. They learned to deny the pain, hide the shame, and carry the burden of guilt they never deserved. They learned the bigger and stronger survive, control equals power, and power makes right. They learned do unto others before they do unto you, bully or be bullied, go along to get along then do what you intended in the first place.

Fortunately, one day in 1976, I stopped short, stood still and listened. A voice on television screamed, "I'll teach you to hit someone smaller than yourself." I watched in awe and disbelief. Child abuse became a fact before my eyes. With sudden insight and clarity I could no longer deny that I abused my children. I felt sick to my stomach. The guilt and shame and pain of what I'd done to my children flooded over me. Overwhelmed with helpless, hopeless, grief, I cried out to God as I had so many times before. But this time I didn't ask for strength to deal with my children. I asked for help to control myself, to save my children from me. I reached for the phone, called the mental health clinic, said, for the first time, "My children are abused…by me."

Help was immediate. With professional help my children and I began the long and difficult process of healing. I learned methods to avoid the rages that drove me to nearly destroy those most precious to me. I learned ways to parent that could help my children develop in healthy ways, heal the wounds I'd inflicted on them, become adults determined to break the cycle of abuse. I developed the courage to begin to show the love I'd felt afraid to show for fear the children would see it as weakness, a way to control me as I'd tried to control them. And with my daughter's stubborn determination, I even learned to give hugs and accept them with joy! And for which I giver thanks every day.

Is this a happily ever after story? I wish. But as Herbert Ward, an Episcopal priest stated so eloquently, "Child abuse casts a shadow that lasts a lifetime." [iii](Andrews, Biggs, & Seidel, 1996a). And child abuse is an ugly chain that continues generation after generation, until the cycle is broken. One of my children chose to stop the abuse by having no children. I damaged another so much the cycle couldn't be broken by her. Help came too late. Four living children were taken by the state and placed for adoption. Perhaps for them the cycle is broken. And one angel died during childbirth because her mother overdosed on drugs that night. Ironically my words haunt me…what I did to my children hurts me…oh not as much as them of course…but the hurt continued and it grew.

And the third child? She did everything possible to learn, and change, and break the chain. She accepted help. She relived the pain of her own childhood so she could lean from it. She refused the ruse of so many, the "I'll never do that to my children," denial that is the first step in continuing the abuse because too late the abuse is happening and hidden from shame. She understood the risk. She did everything possible to protect her children from her legacy. And with the grace of God, she succeeded.

Could this be your story? Or the story of someone you love? Although most people like to think they would never commit child abuse, Gonzalez-Crussi they can. Professor of pathology, and author of "Reflections on Child Abuse: Notes of an Anatomist," he said, "The germ of violence is laid bare in the child abuser by the sheer accident of his individual experience…in a word, to a greater degree than we like to admit, we are all potential child abusers." (Andrews et al., 1996a)

I don't forget. I can't forget. I won't ever forget. As long as children wait in silence...wait for someone to make them visible even when locked behind closed doors, wait for someone to acknowledge and validate their reality no matter how painful to look upon, I will speak out. I'm so glad so many of you are speaking out today, September 27. Please don't stop until child abuse exists only in a few memories and then is no more. Thank you.
Nancy Lee
And now another perspective... from my abused and beloved daughter.
When I was a child my parents divorced. Although my stepfather loved me he was never able to replace the abandonment I felt from my birth father. In the late 1990’s I reconnected with my birth father, he had cancer. Although I was never able to forget I was able to forgive and we had a few years of a nice friendship, but the abandonment still hurts to this day.

I made the same stupid mistake of abandoning my daughters when they were 3 and 5. They are now 23 and 25. While serving in the military a small town judge ruled that I had “abandoned my children in order to fulfill military obligation.” Who would have thought that while serving my country I would loose my children? I tried for years to obtain the visitation rights that were mine, but things happen, the girls got older and didn’t want to visit. In the long run I avoided confrontation at all costs and let well enough alone. This turned me into just a name in my daughter’s lives. My daughters and I have reconnected and share a friendship, but they have abandonment issues and have trouble trusting that people will stay in relationships with them.

When I was a child I was physically abused. I don’t remember the early years, I do remember from about first grade to six grade. The painful hits with belts, hands, wooden spoons, anything that was within easy reach. I remember words that I never understood “This hurts me worse then it hurts you.” How can the person welding the weapon and inflicting the pain feel worse then the one receiving the blows. I understand these words today because I understand inner turmoil. I remember holding my hands in the air out to my sides, sometimes with books on them, sometimes just mid air, and being told not to let my arms drop. This was a good punishment. The eventual pain in the arms was nothing like the physical blows. Plus when holding the books I could always escape into them by closing my eyes and imagining I was a part of the book and not a part of reality.

When I was between sixth and seventh grade, I stopped being physically abused and the healing began. The whole family was in counseling and I vowed one day when I had children of my own that I would never abuse them. My relationship with my abuser has opened up years of friendship due to our recognition of the situation and the choice to make it better.

I wanted to be the one who broke the cycle of abuse; of course I had already failed with abandonment, as it is abuse. I have also failed because I have failed to protect them from verbal and emotional abuse found in my household. But in a very small way I have succeeded because I am responsible for my actions and I do not physically, verbally or emotionally abuse my children, current ages 10, 13, 14.

As painful as it is to take a step forward and say I grew up in an abusive household, it is extremely embarrassing to have to take a step back and say I still have a long way to go.
Damara Lee

Andrews, R., Biggs, M., & Seidel, M. (1996a). The Columbia World of Quotations. Retrieved July 15, 2004, from
Andrews, R., Biggs, M., & Seidel, M. (1996b). The Columbia World of Quotations. Retrieved July 15, 2004, from
Miller, A. (2002). For your own good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence (4th ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[i] (Andrews, Biggs, & Seidel, 1996). Quotation #32581.
[ii] (Miller, 2002) Miller frequently includes common phrases known to abused children everywhere, as in "for your own good."
iii (Andrews, Biggs, & Seidel, 1996b). Quotation #25584.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wise Words From The Thinking Mother: Give Them What They Want. Period.

The Thinking Mother: Give Them What They Want. Period.: "Give Them What They Want. Period. "

I think that is a pretty big job,
to try to instantly convert a person to that other mindset
over the course of a couple minutes
by simply listening to a person’s own testimony and opinion.
What I am saying is that whatever the person is saying
will probably fall on deaf ears or be wasted breath.
The Thinking Mother
I'm wondering about what Christine said so well! I wish I had a dollar for every time I've made that mistake or witnessed others doing so. People can be educated... ideas implanted to be later developed...but generally speaking timing is everything. And the right time is not likely to be anytime that other person is seeking information or pushing his or her own agenda.
Last night...well 2-4 AM this morning actually, I watched a House Commerce Committee Hearing on HipHop's impact on our culture, on C-Span 2. There were so many times when what the Thinking Mother refers to happened!
I also see and hear many such examples every morning when C-Span's Washington Journal is on. For those not familiar... WJ is a call-in show, but the host or hostess offers no personal opinions or answers to callers questions. Callers express their opinions without sarcastic responses from the host so some people probably wouldn't enjoy the format, but I do. I like that the guests on the show interact directly with the callers.
Yes. I am a C-Span junkie. I'd rather watch the real thing and form my own opinions, than be fed someone else's opinion, even when I highly respect that person. That's just the way I am... My only complaint with C-Span is the dearth of shows on children's issues, but in fairness, C-Span reflects what's happening in Congress and other political news. Politicians don't get votes on children's issues so....
Apparently, children, family values, health, and education simply aren't "sexy" enough to draw the attention that other issues do on a regular basis...unless, of course, they "bleed, then they lead." Even the hearing on HipHop lost most of its audience when the entertainers finished their presentations.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Catching up. Catching Child Abuse

...we move into a context
of expectations and precedents of past and future,
and the present, whenever we manage to catch it and realize it,
is a shifting, elusive question mark,
not altogether comfortable,
an oddness that the scheme of our lives
does not allow us to indulge.
Alastair Reid,
Scottish Poet

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about today?
I'm wondering about being my age...64 fast approaching 65...
and trying to catch on, catch up, catch anything
(hopefully no viruses or other nasty stuff) in this new me...of Blogs?
I wonder about stumbling or falling so deeply into some black hole beneath the net that I end up locked away for my own protection...or that of others.

What are the rules in this world, I wonder? The laws? Copyright laws are nightmares even in the relatively simple real world. How does one ever figure them out here?

Rather belatedly I realize that picture of myself now plastered more places than I may ever locate again probably is copyrighted! Will some secret police come knocking when I least expect it because I missed one somewhere?

I take a deep breath and committ to being involved with Technorati. I add buttons, and links, and banners, and things I know not of in the hopes that as God protects so many children and drunks there's still some way left to take care of old ladies journeying into strange new places.

More seriously though, I wonder if this is the right direction to invest time and energy in the hopes of making positive changes for children? I wonder which way to go? Am I trying to do too many things on one site? Aren't there more established Blogs already doing something similar? Doing it better? With a lot more knowledge about how to reach the people I'd like to reach...

Which after all is just about anyone with any interest in making positive changes for children, especially those maltreated children waiting in silence for someone to notice, to be aware, to acknowledge their suffering even when...or especially when nothing else seems possible to do for them.

So...for today I take another few steps deeper into this alien world that turns out to be occupied by so many more wonderful, caring people, concerned about child abuse and neglect, than I dared imagine...and I look forward to the day when others who seek it, find this site as I am finding theirs.

While any child is waiting in silence, every voice is needed, every butterfly makes a difference, every swing might be the one that makes a home run.
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Perpetrators, Predators or Raptors...Sexual Abusers are more than just birds of prey

Can't help wondering about why we use some words, and not others, when discussing child abuse and neglect? For instance, the general usage of the word Perpretrator to label those who abuse children fails to capture the depth of the damage to the victim. We use the same word to describe those who embezzel money and commit lesser crimes.

Predator when used to label those who sexually abuse children also minimizes the impact on the victim. Raptor is so much more descriptive of a person who indulges in the plundering and violently destructive act of sexual abuse against a child.

Generally speaking perpetrators, according to Websters, are guilty of doing or or performing "something evil criminal or offensive." Predators "plunder, rob or exploit others...plunder to feed themselves." Raptors rape. And rape? The plundering or violent in warfare.

Here I want to share a book recommendation by dd... , at Kelsey's Purpose. Salter, Anna Dr. (2003) Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders. Who They Are, How They Operate and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children. NY: Basic Books.

A Child is Waiting.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

When Society abuses and neglects children...what can you do?

Between 2006 and 2017, the share of the budget pie

that the federal government will invest in children

is projected to decline by 14 to 29 percent

Two out of three is okay...if you aren't the one left out.
Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about when you see or hear of a sick child, held in the arms of a tired parent, waiting for hours and hours in an over-crowded emergency room, to see an overworked, exhausted medical person, who may or may not be qualified to diagnose or treat whatever the child may be suffering with?

Are you willing to let their numbers increase so that whereas three children are now covered, only two will be, if we do nothing? And what if due to circumstances beyond your control, that child is yours? Won't we all benefit if every child has access to medical care?

It's not too late to be a voice for all children to have access to medical care.

Families USA: The Voice for Health Care Consumers, offers suggestions for "what you can do to make sure all children get helath insurance:
1. Send an e-mail to Congress
2. Send a letter to your editor
3. Call 1-800-828-0498
4. Tell your family, co-workers, and friends to do the same"

Families USA: The Voice for Health Care Consumers even tell you: "what you should say:

  • Support full funding of CHIP, as promised in the budget.

  • CHIP must ensure that all eligible kids get the health care they deserve and don't fall through the cracks into the ranks of the uninsured.

  • EVERY child in America deserves health care!

  • Thank you for supporting full funding of CHIP for America's kids"

And Families USA: The Voice for Health Care Consumers provides the following links to make it easy to learn about SCHIP and why your voice is needed:

SCHIP 101: What Is the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and How Does It Work? explains the basics about SCHIP, including who qualifies for SCHIP, how SCHIP is financed, and whether eligible are children getting enrolled. (November 2006, updated June 2007)
SCHIP and Children's Health Coverage: Fitting the Pieces Together examines where children, including low-income children, get their health coverage, as well as how SCHIP and Medicaid have reduced the number of uninsured children. (November 2006, updated June 2007)
SCHIP and Children's Health Coverage: Leveling the Playing Field for Minority Children looks at the crucial role Medicaid and SCHIP play in covering children of color. (December 2006, updated June 2007)

A child is waiting.

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Can Child Abuse be Prevented? What Individuals and Communities Can Do

The prevention of child maltreatment

can often be achieved

through the simple, singular acts of

concerned individuals

and the support of caring communities.
American Humane

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about when you witness violence against children?

Do you do anything? Or just wish you had?

Do you feel like it's "family business" so you should mind your own business?

Do you wish you could do something, anything, but you don't want to do or say the wrong thing for fear of making the situation worse?

American Humane offers the following tips:
  • If you decide to respond to public mistreatment of a child, try to be helpful and supportive, not judgemental and critical.

  • You can do so in a number of ways: looking at the adult in a neutral
    way might be just enough to make them realize
    they are getting out of control;

  • striking up a conversation with the adult may divert their
    attention from the child;

  • or complimenting the child (e.g., he/she has the prettiest eyes/hair) may divert the parent’s anger.

  • Individuals can also take the time to get involved
    in their neighborhood or in their place of worship.

  • They can introduce themselves to neighbors and
    parents so that they can become a source of
    support to them when needed.

  • Spend time coaching, tutoring, mentoring, or
    just playing with a child.

  • Help a family exhibiting signs of stress before
    problems escalate into abuse and neglect, for
    example, make a meal or invite the family over.

  • Offer to baby-sit the children of a single,
    working parent.

  • Encourage and show patience to difficult
    children. Include them in activities with your

  • Volunteer at a child-serving agency.

Have you found other actions you will share that help make a difference for a child...without resorting to calling the authorities...prematurely?

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Abuse Connection: The Link Between Animal Cruelty and Interpersonal Violence

...neighbors are far more likely to report suspected animal abuse
than child abuse and neglect, domestic violence or elder abuse.
This is because the animals are often in plain sight
and people feel sympathy for the animals' plight.

Hey! Who's Abusing Whom, Here?

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about? Do you feel as I do? That there's something inherently sorrowful about the idea that something has to be in plain sight before we acknowlege it is, feels sympathy, and decide to do something about it?

Do you also wonder why I've included Pet on this site about child abuse?
Pet answers that. "One of the basic premises behind integrating animal cruelty enforcement with other types of family violence prevention" is that there are so many established connections.
They say:

  • If you break it down to its bare essentials: "Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend itself."

  • Now break down a human crime, say rape. If we substitute a few pronouns, it's the SAME THING.

  • "Rape is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves."

  • Now try it with, say, domestic abuse such as child abuse or spousal abuse:

  • "Child abuse is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves."

  • Do you see the pattern here?

A child is waiting.

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Monday, September 17, 2007

Child Abuse Neglect Annual Report of Child Fatalities: 2006

There are definitely different types of child maltreatment...
If someone sees you swat your kid on the fanny in the grocery store
and someone called [Children Services],
in the past we either had to
label it child abuse or do nothing.
Marcia Tiger
Child Abuse? What about making me dress like this when the sun's shining...
and I just got a new truck?

Can't help wondering... why some states are so more advanced than others when it involves trying changes to stop child abuse and neglect? I can't imagine what political benefit to anyone in power not actively fighting for changes to all our laws involving child abuse and neglect. Call me naive...and I admit many do!... but who loses if everyone is required to report child abuse and neglect as in Indiana? Why "mandated reporters," who for various reasons too often avoid involvement. Look at the statistics on how few school reports are made, for example, and who, besides parents, is around our children more than a school teacher?

And how long, how long, I wonder, before other states follow suit and develop programs like the one in Youngstown, Ohio? The Youngstown Vindicator reports that the Agency chosen for program "was selected to participate in a pilot project that focuses on using alternative methods for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect." This is absolutely essential! The aritcle quotes Steve Hanson, who manages the Ohio Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Courts as explaining:
"A family assessment ... assesses the needs of the child or family and offers services without requiring a formal disposition [substantiation] that maltreatment has occurred or that the child is at risk of maltreatment."

I'm so excited at the possibility... just imagine if we had fully trained, maybe even volunteers, who responded to calls! Something along the line of CASA's in terms of authority from the courts to investigate and report to CPS on each call indicating an immediately actionable situation, and to another agency where any necessary services can be determined and provide? The volunteers could be assigned to follow any at-risk cases and to insure children don't "fall through the cracks. If we stopped treating struggling parents as criminals and gave them services to upgrade their parenting and life skills, we'd all benefit.

CPS can't begin to handle the reports they receive, and I suspect many, like myself, don't want to call them unless a child's life is obviously in danger because of the horror stories that abound regarding CPS. One woman I know, caught up in the system cried out in frustration, "Why do they call themselves Child Protective Services anyway? Tell me just who gets the service? Not children, not families. Or maybe it's just the privatized services making so much money through them?" One wonders...

Unfortuately, the cynic in me suspects we won't see any great strides in that direction until someone figures out how to make money on it... and then gets caught in the greed trap of cutting corners so more money can be made as is the case with so many other aspects of our world today.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Cartoons for Child Rights:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Race, Class, Gender, Child Abuse

Human animals...have tolerated—even tacitly condoned—
the nonprotector and the predator,
leading to an escalation of the rape,
murder and torture of our children.
Rather than making their survival, and the survival of our species,
an unquestioned priority,
we watch indifferently while the evolution of cruelty continues.
Much of it comes from the individual family itself;
all of it from the human family as a whole.
Andrew Vachss

Can't help wondering... how we move beyond the myths that race, class and gender account for "sexualized violence" without consideration of the deeper roots of violence in human societies.

I was wondering about this in a comment to Blogger: Diary of an Anxious Black Woman this morning. I was responding to a super posting she made on the subject of violence.

And then, still wondering, searching, searching, searching the net later...

What I found most easily and often is reiteration that violence and child abuse do go beyond race, class, gender and other common reasons as in:

But nothing substantive.

And then, about to give up and move on to other things for the day, I found:

DMOZ Open Directory Project – and WOW! I could be lost there a long, long time!

But then I found:
Our Endangered Species: A Hard Look at How We Treat Children by Andrew Vachss
and reluctantly pulled myself away to take time and share these with you.

While I'm into sharing, let me share this, too. When I was a child, abused and neglected, one source of hope along with escape for the moment, safety, warmth and shelter came in going into the public library and staying til it closed. I dreamed of someday reading all the books I found there...even the ones I passed on the way to the children's book room! I was too young and inexperienced to know that the number of books in that little small town library didn't make a ripple in the sea of books available.

When I discovered that, I was more than a little dismayed to realize that not only couldn't I read all the books written to date, more were being published everyday. Later, I used to watch Star Trek a lot and always found myself jealous over the gadget like a helmet that one put on and had knowledge "downloaded" directly into one's brain. And little did I realize that the "net" would exponentially expand access to the written word beyond anything one person could even scan let alone read. I am both grateful for the wealth of information available and greener than ever with jealousy that I can't read it all...make it mine forever. Oh well...

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Saturday, September 15, 2007

False Allegations & CPS: Reflections of a Foster Youth

If a village burns, all see the smoke;
but if the heart is in flames,
no one notices.
African Proverb from
Marcia Brown,
Lotus Seeds, p. 185.

Maybe today someone will see me...

and remember I'm here....

Can't help wondering...if it is known, as it is through much research, that the positive attention of just one person in the life of an abused and/or neglected child can mean a postiteve difference throughout that child's life, then why are we so reluctant to even notice or be involved with the children? For myself, the struggle is usually a sense of hopeless helplessness in the presence of so great a need. But that mistake is grounded in the failure to know what I know when I need to know it most... children see the Emperor has no clothes, and they see when someone notices them. Simply validating the existence of a child may be a gift far greater than we may imagine.

Check out PrairieGuy for his reflections on foster care... very interesting.

Yesterday I heard Dr. Phil say, "It isn't whether something is fair or not; what matters is what is." That reminded me of the day I really learned the value of not turning away because looking at something the way it is causes too much pain.

In 1991, while working with kids, ages 2-11, who were surviving in spite of moderate levels of abuse and neglect I learned that lesson deeply. I developed a free afterschool program at the local library to get them off the streets, into a safe place, for a couple hours a day. Nothing spectacular. A simple little program, where I read to them; did a craft with them; fed them a snack; listened to them and so forth. One day a couple of the littlest girls arrived in shabby dresses, no socks, shoes, sweaters, etc. That wasn't unusual, for many of the children came that way on a regular basis.

This day through they came that way through the sleet and snow. Red raw hands, cheeks and feet didn't stop them from coming. While the children were busy with their craft, I slipped into the hallway to cry out my anger at how unfair life is for so many, my frustration at being unable to do more for them. "What good is reading some damn book, doing some stupid craft, for kids who need so much?" But when I returned to the room and saw the children, warm and safe for the time being, happily immersed in their efforts, carefully helping one another as they had learned to do in a setting where their help was needed and valued, I realized that I could be frustrated over what wasn't for them, or celebrate with them what was.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shonya at Kelsey's Purpose Forum...a place that hears

The only problem is

parents and families didn't show up.

I'm wondering about what it takes to get more people involved in making this a safer world for children. Certainly there are individuals, groups, corporations, legislators, etc. attempting to provide information, training, educational seminars on a regular basis.

Recently I attended a community seminar offered locally by the Community Educator from the Women's Help Center. It was heavily advertised for weeks in advance in the local newspaper. Was free. Didn't require pre-registration. Offered refreshments. Was presented at a convenient location mid-afternoon on a Saturday. No bad weather that day. No big community event to occupy people. Not even any high interest sports events! So...who attended? No friends or families. Five people...all professionally involved in Child Welfare fields, but none from CPS or CASA or other similar groups.

This week's news from around the country included an account of a similar community seminar.

"The main point of the seminar was education -- making sure the
community knows what help is out there to aid them in preventing child abuse in the valley. What the community doesn't know can hurt them..

The article says no parents or families came. It didn't say how
many professionals attended.

Shonya posted clear descriptions of Florida's definition of child abuse and neglect, and symptoms, today at Kelsey's Purpose. Assuming you are one of those who does want to learn... and why else would you be here?... and in learning be prepared to make a difference whenever circumstances arise to share, it's well worth reading.

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Everything in the Known Universe About Child Abuse

We betray children every time we act as if there is one way to do things,

one way of feeling, one religion, one road to enlightenment.

Experience, if we have learned anything at all,

should have taught us otherwise.

Marcia Brown, The Lotus Seeds

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?Is she? or isn't she? Abused? Neglected? In this moment does it matter to her? Should it matter to us? She seems blissfully innocent and totally immersed in something greater than herself. Who are we to judge what's best for her?

Maybe she just has a "Slacker Mom," who thinks spending time with her child, patiently watching for a butterfly to leave its cocoon, and then experience interaction with a butterfly is far more important than de-tangling hair today? Here's a quiz to find out if you are a Slacker Mom . It comes from Chatterbean by way of a site, Technocrati, that claims to have everything in the known universe about child abuse. Not for me to judge that claim! But the site is varied and offers much to fuel discussion.

Take aware, Nancy Lee

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Religion and Spanking

The philosophy that supports punishment
asserts that
compliance with the law for the law's own sake
("blind obedience") is a virtue.
Spanking is the chief example of punishment.
It is the height of external control.
Gregory K. Popcak

Can't help wondering about spare the rod, spoil the child. Many people who spank like to use it as some kind of proof that they are doing right by their children...whether or not they are the least bit religious. Today I found some interesting insights on religion and corporal punishment from other religions' perspectives.

If you are interested you might want to read: Ten Reasons I Can't Spank: A Catholic Counselor's Critical Examinationof Corporal Punishment by: Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW ,or A letter from a Christian Mom.

Other Religion and Discipline Information is also available from The Center for Effective Discipline:

Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Spanking: Facts and Fiction

If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society
and a safer world,
a revulsion against the physical punishment of children
would be a good place to start.
Dr. Benjamin Spock

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about when it comes to spanking? Yesterday I found a site where many regular people discuss spanking , pros and cons, from personal views. My guess is we won't ever stop spanking until we understand more about why some people spank. Why some stop. Why some never have and never will. Sites like this one give insights never reached through formal research.

According to The Center for Effective Discipline :
In 2005, there were l49,319 confirmed cases of physical abuse of children,
almost all of them beginning as "discipline". Child abuse prevention experts
estimate that actual cases of physical abuse may be 20-50 times higher than
confirmed reports. See a state-by-state chart of physical abuse numbers for more information.

Here is another discussion on punishment methods for children.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, September 10, 2007

Child Protective Services

It is the theory
that decides what we can observe.
-Albert Einstein

Can't help wondering...why so many well meaning and caring people who are part of the "system" that deals with child welfare act possessively of their positions as though some unknown enemy is trying to "get them?" Is that some form of group paranoia? The result of inordinate involvements in litigation? Trust issues from their own childhood experiences? Maybe it comes with saturation in a field that is difficult for anyone to be aware of let alone be involved with on a daily basis? Maybe though it is all the result of their training and therefore the theory upon which it is founded that makes them see the way they seem to?

Yesterday I spent a lot of time at a site you might want to visit...because it provides an in depth look at different sides of an issue and the people involved in a child welfare case that ended with the death of a precious child. Remarkable insights into how various people think and feel about the "system." Kelsey's Purpose includes the story of Kelsey and how her family continues to use her death as a catalyst for change so hopefully some day we'll have a system to protect other children before its too late.

For another perspective you might want to watch a PBS Frontline video entitled Failure to Protect: When should a parent lose the right to raise a child? This video and another related one, provide views from various participants in the child welfrare system.

Lots of perspectives and information also available through Alt Support Child Protective Services, including "Help for families involved with CPS."

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bullying in Schools

While boys typically engage in direct bullying methods,

girls who bully are more apt to utilize these more subtle indirect strategies,

such as spreading rumors and enforcing social isolation.

(Ahmad & Smith, 1994; Smith & Sharp, 1994)

Can't help wondering...why we seem so surprised when a child who has been "bullied" since birth by parents, siblings, or others who laugh and say they are only teasing as they drive the child to tears, and sometimes rage, suddenly begins to bully others who are smaller than he or she is? After all, these are the same kids we thought so "cute" when they mimicked someone who acted tough. Remember that "wanna fight" game Daddy played with the one year old because he didn't want the child to be a sissy? Remember the tough stough strut at two? Remember the early excuses when the child began practicing what he or she learned and pushed the other child down or wacked him up the side of the head with a handy truck...or doll...because "he made me mad?"

KidSource links to a Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education information on bullying.

Helping your child learn responsible behavior with Activities for Children, is a another booklet available. This one is from the U.S. Department of Education via KidSource.

Maybe our culture has as much to do with bullying in schools as any personality trait in the child. After all, some members of congress decided we "need" a new law "to allow school districts to use federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds to prevent bullying and harassment."Why not Contact your Representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3132, which would allow school districts to use federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds to prevent bullying and harassment.

Or check out this open discussion of political issues about children.

Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is described as
“a disturbance in which children are obsessively preoccupied
with depreciation and/or criticism of a parent.
In other words, denigration that is unjustified and or exaggerated.”
Joan T. Kloth, Masters Student quoting Dr. Richard Gardner

Can't help wondering...
Why we fail to notice so many kinds of insidious child abuse? As with "Parental Alienation Syndrome!" We know that exposure to spousal physical violence causes stress for children, and causes symptoms of abuse in them. But how many other children are suffering from an onslaught of verbal attacks by one parent against the other parent? And suffering the consequencences. Kloth's aritcle shines a bright light on the subject. Her emphasis is on separated parents but I've seen many cases of this behavior within two-parent homes.
You can read Joan T. Kloth's article on Peter Burns' Blog.

Take care....Be Aware
Nancy Lee

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Emotional Abuse

Certainly, words can be as abusive as any blow. . . .

When a three-year-old yells, “You’re so stupid! What a dummy!”

it doesn’t carry the same weight

as when a mother yells those words to a child. . . .

Even if you don’t physically abuse young children,

you can still drive them nuts with your words.
Mary Kay Blakely

The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996.

I wonder why emotional abuse seems epidemic in our society. On the streets of our neighborhoods. In stores and other public places and spaces. In our schools. In Child Care Centers.

Recently I overheard in a WalMart, a woman scream to a young child sitting in the shopping cart seat.

"Shut up you little b....! Why don't you just shove your hand up your butt(sanitized version) and pull out a bunch of money so we can buy everything you see on television?"

Unfortunately, there is little agreement on defining what constitutes these behaviors, but as with child abuse in general, we all seem to recognize it when we see or hear it.

In 1988, the Colorado Department of Education defined emotional abuse as:

  • Constant belittling and rejecting of a child.

  • Absence of a positive emotional atmosphere.

  • Verbal abuse.

  • Inadequate or inappropriate parenting.

  • Neglect.

  • Belittling the child so or she feels useless.

  • Blaming the child for things over which the child has no control.

  • Ridiculing or shaming the child.

  • Threatening the child's safety and health.

  • Taking no interest in the child's activities or problems.

  • Treating the child coldly.

  • Withdrawing affection.

  • Treating the child differently from others in the school.

  • Engaging in bizarre acts of torture or torment such as locking the child in a closet.
    (In Tzeng & Hanner, 1988; O'Hagan; in Shumba, 2002)

Take Care...Be Aware

Nancy Lee

Monday, September 3, 2007

International Child Abuse

We hear your cries, we share your pain

and we are going to do everything we possibly can to

stop abuse happening.

…a group of masters students at Southern Cross University’s (SCU)
Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

Can't help wondering...

Why it is that countries around the world seem to be so far ahead of the United States when it comes to taking child abuse seriously as an issue of National importance? Long term effects on the abused or neglected individual are not without negative consequences to society. Intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment results in measurable direct and indirect costs. Governments, organizations, media and people of other lands seem to more actively speak out about child maltreatment as a vital health, social and economic issue that is of epidemic proportions. Attempts to relegate child maltreatment as a problem associated with lower socio-economic levels contribute to false comfort levels for many who seem to prefer to ignore the facts.
International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
Save The Children
EPCAT International
End All Corporal Punishment of Children

Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma

Take care...Be Aware

Nancy Lee

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Even when they are deprived in every conceivable way,
children have the toughness to survive.
It is the indomitability of their own spirits that will save them.
This is a message that children should hear.
Maurice Sendak
Helpless. Hopeless. Terrified.
Wondering if any words can ever capture the intensity of some experiences, and the feelings they evoke. These words were used on C-Span 2's Book TV yesterday morning. The words were used by a combat doctor to describe the diagnostic basis for determining Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in war (PTSD). They are the same words that apply to the feelings of children who are abused or neglected. It isn't a reach to suggest that abused and neglected children share other things in common with our Warriors besides PTSD.

Our troops earn the designation Warriors, and they deserve the title. Each has "taken part or experienced in conflict" horrendous events that burn themselves into the body, change the brain, drain the emotional roots of the psyche. So have maltreated children.

We wouldn't think of calling Warriors "Victims" or "Survivors" as we do children who are maltreated. Maybe it's time to change our perspective? Maybe it's time to stop feeling sorry for these children and recognize and honor their strengths as we do with our soldiers? Maybe if we look a little closer we can see the children as front line soldiers on a war against child abuse and neglect? After all, they know the enemy. They know the terrain. They know how to fight for survival.

If you know a child fighting his or her own war against child maltreatment and feel "helpless, hopeless and terrified" by what you see as your own inability to do anything to make a difference without possibly making a bad situation worse, here's a weapon you can give him or her to relieve some of the stress associated with child abuse and neglect.

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder provides the following as ways to use breathing techniques known to reduce stress levels with children suffering from PTSD.

"Make a game of it:

• Blow bubbles with a bubble wand and dish soap

• Blow bubbles with chewing gum

• Blow paper wads or cotton balls across the table

• Tell a story where the child helps you imitate a character who is taking deep breaths."

...Or just listen when a child needs to talk. That can make all the difference!

Take care....Be Aware

Nancy Lee