Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alternatives: Birth Families? Foster Families? Both?

...children who stay with their families
are less likely to become
juvenile delinquents or teen mothers and
more likely to hold jobs as young adults.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
There is much professional debate on what's in the best interest of abused and neglected children. Usually the debate centers on a black and white choice. Birth Family is best because... or Foster Family is best because...
I'm wondering why there isn't more serious consideration of other placement alternatives such as the various ways children are placed in divorce situations. Why not half and half? Weekdays and weekends? Any combination that provides as much family life and foster family life as is deemed necessary for the best interests of the children. Not the easiest solutions. Not the cheapest solutions. Not the most politically correct solution. Just maybe more workable and effective solutions.
The present solutions of removing children from families and "protecting these children from the threat of harm frequently comes with a high cost: trauma, fear, loss, guilt, grief, fractured relationships, and insecurity about the future."
But on the other hand, "the harsh truth is that simply removing children from dangerous homes does not, by itself, ensure that they will receive the protection, nurturance, structure, and stability that they need to grow up healthy and successful.Too often, the opposite is true."
Because they believe that "most children are safest, emotionally and physically, in contact with their birth families" others are "searching for ways to increase birth family involvement and responsibility for children" through the use of START Sobriety Teams and Recovery Teams. Their purpose is "to keep children safe; to develop a safe, nurturing, and stable living situation for them as rapidly and responsibly as possible; and to help their parents overcome their drug problems."

Alternative Response allows child protection agencies to divert cases to different tracks or response paths in order to better address the specific circumstances and needs of each report of child maltreatment. The philosophy behind alternative response is quite straightforward – one
size does not fit all in child protection matters.
In Helping At-Risk Parents Become Better Parents Prevents Child Abuse and Neglect and Crime , you can read about a program that "can prevent most child abuse and neglect and reduce future crime. Quality in-home parent coaching programs have been shown to cut child abuse and neglect in half...Nurses or other trained professionals help parents manage stress, understand newborn health and nutrition needs, identify early warning signs, make their home child-safe, teach practical steps to meet their child's developmental needs."
Incredibly, this program "saves as much as $4 for every $1 dollar invested." But not surprisingly, "due to underfunding, only a fraction of the estimated 500,000 at-risk families nationally are being helped."
Since the Total Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States
is a conservative estimate of $94 billion per year which doesn't even include all the indirect costs of child abuse and neglect, imagine the dollar savings for finding better alternatives.
Attorneys Supporting Crime Victims and Crime Survivors: Children as Victims explain that
"Child abuse not only impacts its victims and their families, but society. It is intertwined with suicide attempts, separation, divorce, anti-social personality disorders, unemployment, underemployment, loss of life, monetary costs to society, and so much more. " Seems like a few more reasons to consider alternaticves, doesn't it?

The upcoming National Family Week (Nov. 18-24) "premise is: Children live better lives when their families are strong, and families are strong when they live in communities that connect them to economic opportunities, social networks, and services."

Another position emphaisizes the Participation Rights of Children and Young People in Family Group Conferences.
These are just a few of the creative alternatives to the present child welfare system that by most accounts can only be called broken...

Halloween Boo! To Consumer Product Safety Commision Chair

...over the summer,
more than 20 million toys
manufactured in China
were recalled in the United States
because of lead paint and other hazards,
despite the fact that
lead paint was banned on toys 30 years ago.
Jean Halloran, a director at Consumers Union

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about this Halloween?

I'm still wondering about the lead in children's toys and the nonsense going on around the entire issue of product safety in this country.

Wasn't too long ago when all we had to worry about was rotten spots in the apples dropped into out pillow cases...or later, razor blades (if you believed the myths) in the trick or treat bags.

But now...even the costumes...the buckets used to collect candy...and the false teeth meant to scare the other guy threaten the kids and scare the parents.
Amazing isn't it that one man of the 400 (no typo...only 400!) people who work for the Consumer Product Safety Commission...and only one! responsible for toy safety testing, and his specialty is small parts! Watching the video as he drops toys to see how they break apart is almost surreal. You gotta see it to believe it...
Because this country is business, and not consumer, oriented products here have always needed to be purchased with a heavy dose of "caveat emptor."
Let the buyer beware...even if the product you're buying is intended for the vulnerable among us...children! So who is abusing and neglecting children in this case? Companies no doubt will point the finger at the parents...their job after all is to protect the children. Let them buy a lead testing kit...oh yeah, but caveat emptor! The kits don't really do what they purport to do...

So here's my Halloween Boo!!! US Congress pretends to scare Corporations and Businesses that import unsafe products that frighten consumers and threaten children. Consumer Product Safety Commission howls that increased fines and whistleblower rewards are tricks not treats. Nancy Nord complains that the legislation Congress is pushing isn't good for her organization... Nancy Pelosi says she should quit...
And this Nancy wishes my name was Bob or something...

A Child is Waiting.
Take care…be aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Put your teeth in this one!!! And Howl About It...

recently complained to Congress
about the agency's lack of resources,
and confirmed that
the commission only has one person who tests toys.

CBS News Story

Wondering if you're wondering if today's post is about children biting someone, or someone biting children? Could be, but it isn't exactly like that.

This is about another kind of child abuse and neglect in the news today...although it isn't easy to find out about it. The cynic in me wonders if that has anything to do with protecting businesses' profits over children's health and safety?
I mean after all Halloween will be over in a couple of days so why ruin it for the kids by scaring them and their parents about something that might turn out to be not true? Right? I hope not.

Here's the link to the story from CBS News:
Urgent Call for Recall of Halloween Toys: Professor Tips Off Feds to What He Says are High Lead Levels in Them.

The "toy in focus is called ugly teeth. Besides being ugly, the fake plastic teeth have what the researchers say is 100 times allowable levels of lead in the paint on them." Repeat that slowly... "100 times the allowable level of lead in the paint on them. "

Now remember we are talking about fake teeth know those things kids put in their mouths and chew on... so, as the story points out, although, "They say they also found high lead levels in some Halloween baskets...they say the plastic teeth are of greatest concern, because lead enters the system fastest when ingested."

That means...chewed on and swallowed, right? Something the littlest, and most vulnerable are likely to do, right? So why isn't this news everywhere warning parents? Well, because "It usually takes the CPSC a few days to run its own tests or investigate complaints..." and Halloween will be over then.

But, apparently ever the optimist, "considering how the toys Weidenhammer is worried about could be in the hands and mouths of children Wednesday, Weidenhammer hopes his latest heads-ups become the CPSC's top priority. "

We can only hope, I suppose? How sad is that? Oh, and by the way, all the dangerous baskets and other Halloween toys weren't recalled... and even if they had been that doesn't stop anyone from selling them somewhere without mentioning the "recall."

A Child is Waiting.
Take Care…Be Aware,
Nancy Lee

Friday, October 26, 2007

Infant Safe Haven? Neglect, Abandonment or Best Alternative Available?

State legislatures have felt the need
to address infant abandonment and infanticide
in response to a reported increase
in the abandonment of infants.
Child Welfare Information Gateway:

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?

Thanks to DK at Kelsey's Purpose for posting information on Infant Safe Haven laws today, I'm wondering about safe places in general for babies.

Every baby deserves to feel as safe as if held within the arms of an angel.

But sometimes even the best of Caregivers can't provide that perfect situation.

So... on a temporary basis, they may resort to rather creative solutions to ensure that baby has a safe place to stay while they attend to ...whatever seems most demanding at the moment.

As long as the baby is safe, at leasst those involved in these two pictures seems content about the solution.

But sadly, sometimes Caretakers seek a safe haven for a baby for a longer time...sometimes forever. Whatever the reasons for such a sad decision there is a solution safer than many other desperate alternatives, available in most states (46), beginning with the Texas' "Baby Moses" law passes in 1999.

Unfortunately, not enough is known about the laws...especially by those who might most need to know of them. Part of the reason for this is that many people are against the laws. They suggest that these laws somehow encourage promiscuous behaviors and too easily allow the mother to avoid responsibility for her choices.

Whatever the outcome of the debates over time, at least for now babies can be given a safe haven while the debates rage on. For me that is the most important part of the laws, and the primary reason to encourage everyone to learn the laws for their states and share the information at every opportunity. An infant may live because you do....

The information provided by DK at Kelsey's Purpose about Infant Safe Haven laws comes from the Child Welfare Information Gateway. The 2004 State Statutes Series, State Statutes , and the Infant Safe Haven Laws: Summary of State Laws (pdf) are all available from here, with the quick click of a link.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When CPS Workers Make the Wrong Call...Simple Mistakes?

An e-mail from a child welfare worker
less than two hours before
Nicholas' body was found
reiterated that
the boy was not at risk and
that the father
was attending parenting classes.
The Grand Rapids Press

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about when you read about children who could have been saved by CPS but weren't? One article offers the following caveat about CPS workers:

Yes...this little boy is human, and might easily make a mistake trying to identify his bug. And if he does? Probably won't matter much to him... or the bug either, when the boy lets him go free.

But the boy is about to make a bigger mistake...

Although he only wants to be nice...
wants to share the butterfly with his sister...

Fortunately some mistakes have happy
endings... this one did.

The baby missed.

The butterfly was safe to fly away!

But when people in the child welfare system make mistakes, the results are not so benign.

The Grand Rapids Express article includes these questions:
Is it standard operating procedure to leave children in homes where abuse has occurred, even if that child has not yet been a victim?
How much weight is given to concerns from law enforcement officials in child abuse cases?
What options do law officials have if they disagree with a decision made by child protection officials?

If recent news accounts are any indication, the answers are No, None and None. And the resulting mistakes lead to situations that are heartbreakingly familiar.

In Angela Delli Santi's Newsday article "Review of child deaths find flaws in state system," a child advocate says of the cases in the system where children died, "These cases revealed serious failures by workers and supervisors to perform very basic, accepted social work that, when done properly, can help keep children safe...Assessments were not completed, services were not provided, supervision did not occur."

And the "mistake" of not prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases is amply illustrated in the following article: "No charges in many children's deaths: 18 cases in last decade have never made it to court" found at:
In this article, Susan Sherman, a "pediatric nurse practitioner for The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, which examines and interviews abused and neglected children," explains the reason many cases can't be prosecuted is that, "Parents don’t always tell the truth in abuse or neglect cases." She adds, “The ones that bother me the most are the ones where parents lie about what happened and blame everybody else."

Is she serious? Do prosecutors only go after other criminals who confess? I don't think so.
A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Think Your Children are Safe at School? Think Again...

Legal loopholes, fear of lawsuits and inattention
all have weakened the safeguards
that are supposed to protect children in school.
The system fails hundreds of kids each year...
It undoubtedly fails many more
whose offenders go free.

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about as you look at these beautiful children... so innocent and proud at their first graduation ceremony? I'll bet you wouldn't be thinking which ones might become victims of sexual abuse in school. I'll bet you wouldn't be wondering which of their future teachers might already have served time for sexual abuse of children before coming to their school to teach. I'll be bet you wouldn't be wondering ... But maybe you should begin wondering why:

  • A total of 2,570 educators nationwide were punished for sexual misconduct from 2001-05, representing about a quarter of all educator misconduct cases in that time period.
  • The total number of times an action was taken against a teacher s license for sexual misconduct was 2,625 (more than 50 teachers lost licenses in more than one state).
  • Licenses were revoked in 1,636 of the cases; surrendered in 440 cases; suspended in 376 cases; and denied in 108 cases. Other punishments were handed out in the remainder of the cases.
  • Students were clearly identified as victims in at least 1,467 of the sexual misconduct cases. The victim was a young person, a category including students, unidentified youths, family members and neighbors, in at least 1,801 of the cases.
  • Educators made physical contact in at least 1,297, or 72 percent, of the cases in which the victims were youths.
  • The remainder were cases that did not involve physical contact, including verbal sexual harassment and other offenses.
  • There were criminal convictions in at least 1,390, or 53 percent, of the cases.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 of the educators punished for sexual misconduct were male.
  • At least 446 of the cases that the AP found involved educators who had multiple victims.
    Above information from the AP Report via the Salt Lake Tribune:

Reported by Juliet Williams in a The Salt Lake Tribune article, "While some of the most egregious sex abuse is flagged, state law allows many offenses to remain confidential in education records, even when teachers go to prison and register as sex offenders….
Mary Armstrong, the state credentialing commission's legal counsel...says her agency seals some disciplinary records because state law requires it..."It's a balance between the rights of a teacher who may be falsely accused," she says, "and the rights of the public."

And the rights of the child victims? I think it's time to contact our legislators on this one! They haven't even held one hearing yet.

Read The Salt Lake Tribune's 3 day series on the 7 month AP investigation into School Sexual Misconduct for more information.

Then if you think it's time to do something:

A Child is Waiting.
Take care…be aware,
Nancy Lee

Labeling Children? Necessary or Incredibly Discriminatory?

Children who have disabilities
which are physical, emotional or mental
also qualify as special needs.
Children who are eight years old and older
are considered special needs
and all African-American children
one year and older
are considered special needs.

Georgia Adoption Law Blog: Adopting in Georgia

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering? Are you as offended by this categorization of children as I am? I understand the underlying basis that leads to this conclusion as necessary for funding purposes and services, but that doesn't make it any less offensive as far as I'm concerned.

Children should not need to be labeled in order to be protected and taken care of. As a society that claims children as important to our future, if not in their own right, we can find alternative means for accounting purposes...for isn't that the real reason we stigmitize children and adults with labels.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Things Aren't Always What They Seem!

Neighbors say they never suspected a thing...

I would hear them cry sometimes like normal,
and you would hear some yelling.
You know, mothers will yell.

But I never would have imagined
she would have been beating on her kids.
Reported by Melissa Duran

Can't help wondering... when you look at this child... do you see an angel...complete with her shiny halo?
With her angelic looks that's an easy mistake to make
if you aren't being totally aware!

But she is no more an "angel complete with halo"
than this child is a "devil with horns" because she has an impish grin and we all suspect she could be develish at times!

Both children, like most children, act like a little bit of both so we know better than to judge their overall behaviors on the basis of a snapshot in time.

Things really aren't what they seem in more cases than we might like to admit. Remember the picture of the young girl and old crone, or the vase and two profiles? Our expectations influence what we see. Our biases alter how we see even simple things. The perspective from which we view something also impacts what we see. And if there is incomplete information available, we are even more likely to make misjudgements.

Three stories of child abuse in recent days make it very clear how easy we can misinterpret what our senses seem to tell us, and what will drive us to action, when faced with what might be child abuse. In one case a child was reported and "rescued" when people heard him crying in a dark van. In another, children were not even checked on when the mother was heard yelling and children were crying. In a third, no one hesitated to report two children, outside, without supervision.

In the first case, the child was 7, the father couldn't get childcare so left the child in the van while he worked, coming out on breaks to check on the child. Not a good thing, but maybe not abuse in and of itself. More needs to be known before deciding with any certaintly. Most of us probably would have reported the situation...and that's understandable.

In the second case, the mother and her girlfriend brutally beat a seven year old girl and 9 year old boy the name of discipline. The girl remains in a coma, after two months and is not expected to recover. A neighbor says, "I never saw any marks or bruises. The kids were always laughing and smiling." Sad to say, most of us, as with the neighbors, would not have reported this situation.

In the third case, as of this writing, a mysterious circumstance remains. Two children, one about one and the other between one and two, were discovered alone outside an apartment complex. They haven't yet been identified. Maybe abuse? Maybe not? At this point there isn't enough known about the children or how they came to be there to even guess. This one is easy... no one would hesitate to report a situation like this.

So what do we do? "Dream Mommy" has an excellent blog today where she attempts to sort out similar complex issues with regard to when to adopt a child and when to try for reunification. The line is not easily drawn on that either.

But perhaps what makes all these issues more difficult than they need be, are the failures in the child welfare systems...around the world. Child abuse and related attempts to deal with it is a global issue.

Louise Uccio in her Blog, "Disgusted with the System," offers a fighting-mad personal view. However she supports her view with that of others. In a piece she entitles, "This is child protection?" Uccio provides an in depth perspective on the system written by Gregory A. Hession, J.D. in The New American , that is extensive and thought provoking.

A Child is Waiting.
Take care…be aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, October 15, 2007

On sticks and ropes and other weapons of child abuse...

Although a change in the methods used to discipline children
will undoubtedly be difficult for many,
by recognising that children learn through example,
and teaching children to resolve conflict
and deal with difficulties without using violence,
will ultimately benefit our society...


About which Cheryllyn Dudley , African Christian Democratic Party MP, responded, [they are] "hell bent" on undermining parental authority by banning corporal punishment. "Children are having their rights taken away by removing their privilege to be guided and corrected by parents."

I'm wondering what there is about change that makes some struggle so hard against it.

This dog is determined to keep the stick she thinks the child is trying to take from her! The child is equally as determined to take the stick so she can throw it for the dog to mimic what she has seen others do so many times before.

And so it seems to be with changing laws that could lead to less child abuse, since so much of violence comes from ever increasing degrees of corporal punishment in a futile attempt to use it alter children's behavior...for the better.

Children's behaviors are altered through corporal punishment, and its extremes of ever increasing physical abuse, but only towards ever increasing degrees of resistance to authority and ever increasing levels of violence against those who are smaller and weaker.

Since animals, as with children, learn by example, it's not surprising that later the dog tried to take the child's rope.... All's fair in love...

And we shouldn't be surprised that children who are abused often grow up to abuse their own children. What else have they learned by example? How else will they try to control a situation without having learned alternative means "to resolve conflict and deal with difficulties without using violence"?

Children See...Children Do is a video you might want to watch at Child

Research indicates that nearly all violent criminals were abused as children. Bullies were bullied. Violence begets violence. And nothing is unfair in war... or child abuse...or so it seems going by a few of the recent stories mentioned on "Parents Behaving Badly." Note the titles at end of links to see some of the weapons used against children...or go read them for yourself.

A Child is waiting.
Take care…be aware,

Nancy Lee

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blame the Child...Blame the Parents...but Don't Blame Me!

In America, it's OK to kill a child
so long as you have been hired to
practice "tough love"--
that's the message from today's verdict
in the boot camp death of
14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
Maia Szalavitz

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about as you read or hear about the verdict in this Florida case?

Do you wonder, as I do, "what are you thinking, jury?" How can it be okay in any way that a child is dead because people thought he was "faking it" to avoid exercizing. Since when is a 30 minute group beating by men against a child "fair discipline."

I suppose a state that still allows corporal punishment in schools even after a child died there a few years ago as a result of a "paddling" by the principal has a different perspective on life and death.

The child in this picture is 14 now...the same age as Martin Lee Anderson when he died. If the child hurt the cat...or the cat hurt the child...who was to blame? The cat? The child? The parent?Or the person holding the camera? If this child now stole her grandmother's car would that justify... the question deserves no answer. Nothing would justify abuse of her at any age.

Once Martin Lee Anderson, too, was this precious baby's age. He didn't deserve abuse either. Now he is dead, because among other people there that day was a nurse, who watched the entire beating...and did nothing to stop what was happening...

How ironic that the "anniversary" of Terry Schaivo's death is upon us. How many of the people involved in this sickening situation are the same ones carrying on about "right to life issues without regard to all of the lives involved?" How many are the same ones defending Abu Garaib and the punishment of only a "few bad apples" rather than all who were involved? What is happening to us in this country?

There seem to be a majority of opinions being expressed on blogs yesterday and today that do not agree with this decision as in any way not agree that its okay to kick children to not try to justify this result in any way. Thank God for them.

What sickens me are the other ones...the ones who jump right up and blame the child! Or blame the parents! Blame anything and everything beside the people who did this, or the system that creates an environment where it is considered acceptable to abuse and neglect children?

Most of the negaqtive opinions I've read so far have one other thing in common...they haven't read the GAO report on these "boot camps," didn't watch the congressional hearing on them, or C-Span's show this morning. They don't know the specifics of the case. I suspect they never will. Why ruin a chance to spout off personal opinions against "others" by determining the facts before running off at the mouth?

They too need to take aware.
Nancy Lee

Friday, October 12, 2007

Monsters and Masks: Not Just on Halloween for Child Abusers

Not all monsters have horns and tails...
The ways adults have thought of
to torture children
are diabolical and endless.
If someone can think of it,
someone has done it to a child.
Fort Smith Times Record
Opinion Piece

Can't help wondering...just how many times an abuser thinks of "it"...or anything else...before, or while, abusing a child? I'm not convinced an abuser thinks of the child, the abuse, the consequences. I'm not sure the abuser is even capable of any thought at the moment of abuse.

What could the woman who swung her baby at her boy friend be thinking? Or the woman who threw her baby at a police man (he caught it).

October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month, so a Fort Smith Times Record opinion piece, titled "Don't Let Child Abuse Continue," reminds us "to protect the victims who cannot protect themselves." The author reminds us of things we don't like to think about:

Screaming at, threatening and intimidating children can be as abusive as
beating them. Leaving terrified children locked in a dark closet is abusive.
So is constantly belittling children, telling them they are worthless and
blaming them for everything from their own beatings to the family’s
poverty...Leaving children without food or care, failing to get them medical
attention, not providing shoes for their growing feet are neglect, but so are
failing to interact with children regularly, failing to love and support them,
and failing to send them to school.

The problen is, as long as we don't want to think about these things, the easier it is for abusers to continue abusing in our misdst, to hide their monster sides behind masks or other disguises they create as these children created this Chinese Dragon. It took weeks of dedication for the children to make the dragon, to simulate the fierce bravado to "terrorize" a town for an hour. But by the end of the parade the dragon fell apart, destroyed by the children's enthusiasm and forces of nature.

Perhaps, in the long run it will be the enthusiasm of children and forces of nature that destroy the facades abusers hide behind? Perhaps when adults add protection to all children, then children will feel safe enough to speak of their abuse? Perhaps, when adults believe children instead of dismissing their stories as bids for attention, their tears as "crocodile" tears, their pains as "growing pains," then the monsters hiding behind their masks as they commit abuse will be exposed?

No longer able to hide, abusers can then receive treatment. Because abusers are so often friends, family members, or others close to the children they abuse, sometimes the abusers can contribute a necessary part in the healing of the abused child. Sometimes healing cannot take place without it.

Dr. David Wood of the Abused Child Trust, says “There’s a lot more to breaking engrained cycles of child abuse than simply finding and convicting the offenders... Somebody has got to be there to pick up the pieces after abuse has occurred.”

The dragon these children created was not repairable. Tattered and torn, not much more left than bits and pieces of paper, cardboard, glitter, paint and sticks, the adults working with the children didn't see any reason to even try. The children, however, had other ideas. The dragon was part of themselves and they wanted any salvagable part saved. And so it was.

They created a mini-dragon to hang on the wall. Outsiders might have seen only a bedraggled mini-dragon hanging on the wall, but the children no doubt saw it as a mighty one...a symbol of a glorious experience they would never forget. Not that they would ever deny the dragon's ignoble end, they didn't need to. But they would remember the weeks of their laborious construction and often frustrating preparation...working together, solving problems, creating something awesome. And they would remember the excitement, the pride, the power of making something from nothing that the town's people all came out to see and would also long remember.

With a few exceptions abusers don't exist as something separate from a child's life. With a few exceptions the abuse isn't constant, doesn't make up the entire relationship between abuser and abused. Not that the damage isn't always there, always building with each abuse, but that, with a few exceptions, there is much more to the releationship...some of it worth saving, remembering and building on to the benefit of the child.

A Child is Waiting,Take aware, Nancy Lee

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Congressional Hearing on Troubled Teen "Treatment" Facilities"

Children Should Be Safe…
Children Should Be Important to Everyone…
Australian Childhood Foundation's motto

Can't help wondering...what you're doing today? I know what I'll be doing... today, Oct. 10, congress is holding their first ever hearing on teen abuse in residential treatment centers. So I'll be watching it on C-Span either live if possible, or later as a re-broadcast even if that's in the middle of the night. I'm sure it will also be available at C-Span for viewing as well.

The industry that profits off children's misery needs to be exposed on a greater level than is presently happening. One of the witnesses will be Maia Szalavitz who helped spur this investigation with the first book-length expose of this billion-dollar industry, "Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids" (Riverhead Books, 2006), which detailed the horrifying abuse, medical ignorance, and neglect that caused thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths." Other witnesses include parents of children who died as a result of "treatment" in such places.

This morning I visited Kelsey's Purpose, as I often do. I went to share the above information but also commented on child abuse in general in response to a thread where parents were sharing how they deal with the frustrations of parentin. Although I don't usually, I thought I'd share part of what I said there, here.

CHILD ABUSE should NEVER be the answer! No matter what the circumstances. Unfortunately, too often it is the answer. I know. I was abused and in turn as a young mother I abused my wonderful innocent children. It wasn't considered abuse then...just excessive discipline and other such nonsense. In fact until the 60-70's "child abuse" as a parenting problem wasn't even part of any conversation. Kempe's article brought it to the attention of many, including me who sought help for myself and family. However, although the conversation is louder now, child abuse remains a global disgrace. The numbers continue to climb and most experts agree that the numbers represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I fear that as long as we focus on the horric, heart rending stories of the "newsworthy" abuse such as poor tiny Kelsey endured and lost her life to, we enable vast numbers of daily abusers to use Kelsey's experiences and others like her to kid themselves that whatever they do to their children isn't really "abuse." The rationalilzations for continuing their abuse run the gamut from "my parents did this to me and I turned out okay" (usually a dubious claim at best) to "children are resilient and won't remember anyway" even though that's not true on deeper levels of the body, spirit and soul, and hardly serves to excuse or explain anything. And of course the ever present, "it's for their own good," "they need to learn and this is what it takes to get their attention," "that's why God padded their behinds," "spare the rod..." (much debated meaning by spiritual leaders but seldom questioned by laypersons) on and nauseum.

A child waits,
Take aware,

Nancy Lee

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who are the "Bad, weird and wrong people" that abuse children?

Everyone wants to know
why bad, weird, and wrong people happen.
From: Mysteriously 56 Blog

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about when it comes to who abuses children...and why they do it? And who can do the most to protect children from abuse...and why they don't?

Generally speaking it isn't some crazed monster wearing a black hood, wielding a bag of drug-laced candy in one hand and digital camera in the other who abuses a child. No, regardless of the type of abuse, the abuser is almost always some friend or family member, some person regarded as a "nice" person who is never suspected until too late...and so forth. In the majority of cases the abuser is a primary caretaker... mother, father, sibling et al of similar ilk. Child abusers come from all socio-economic levels and vocations. There isn't any simple one-size-fits-all archtypical child abuser.

Identifying an abuser before serious damage to the child leads to suspicions, reports, and frequently ineffective action is difficult, to say the least. Since the most and the worst abuses occur against children less than five years of age, and the majority of them, less than one, the odds are against the child speaking out or seeking help. Silent partners in abuse cases usually turn out to be so intimidated they aren't likely sources of help for the child either. So realistically who is left to speak out for the child? To seek help for the child? To do anything to protect the child?

Mysteriously56 blog comments in The Home Visiting Program Falls Short of Goal to Prevent Child Abuse article... that the "researchers found that mothers with higher levels of depression were up to three times more likely to severely physically assault their children than those with little or no depression. Mothers with no partner and those in violent relationships were up to six times more likely to severely assault their [children] compared to those in nonviolent relationships." And Dr. Melissa Clouthier offers some interesting thoughts on theconnection of Nature and Nurture in relationship to depression that contribute some insight into why this all relates to child abuse. But regardless of who abuses or why, important questions remain... who are those who will speak for the abused child? Where are those who will protect the abused child? Why aren't they protecting more children now? When will they? What can change the present situation to ensure better future protection for all children?

Theoretically the professional or para-professional who is trained to recognize and identify children-at-risk could be a first line of defense. However, "A highly lauded and widely adopted program that relies on home visits by paraprofessionals to promote effective parenting in families at risk of child abuse succeeded in building trust, but neither prevented abuse nor reduced known risk factors, according to results of a study directed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Childrens Center."

That's a major disappointment to many. I remember when this program began in the early 90's. I remember the high hopes (..and high hype!). I remember wanting to believe this project could lead to an answer to the same question still being asked...what can be done to minimize risk for identified at-risk of abuse and neglect children.

Well, in a sense the program and this report do provide an answer...but the answer isn't the one I wanted even though I admit it isn't one that surprises me. The question that remains for me is whether the program had to fail due to inherent flaws, or whether the program had to fail because the same problems that surface in all such programs contributed to the results disclosed by the researchers. "Insufficient training...lack of formal coordination between the home visit programs and community resource organizations, and poor record keeping" contributed to the problems. Ineffective supervision, failure to identify risks or direct families to community resources and other similar weaknesses doomed the program more than any flaws in the program itself.

Ultimately though, I think what most contributed to the failure of this and many other programs is a common human trait... "Program leaders and staff were very passionate about their work and really believed they were preventing child abuse." This desire to believe frequently leads to denial of the obvious when it conflicts with maintaining an ego image of oneself! And isn't that true for could-be, would-be, even those who are active child abusers?

Afterall, we've all heard that the road to hell IS so often paved with good intentions... How many new parents aren't "passionate" about being parents? How often do you hear "Oh we have the best baby, no problems, never cries...we must be doing something right!" They bubble over with parenting advice and secret or not so secret opinions that other parents, especially their own, did it wrong, but they won't. They "really believe" their own passionate desires represent future success. When reality suggests otherwise it's easier to deny reality than it is to evaluate their own parenting... or in the case of the program, the "work" or "prevention" etc.

Talk to any new child-welfare worker, from volunteer CASA to new Family Court Judge, and everyone in between, and you find that same passion and enthusiasm...and an unwillingness to consider that what they are doing, how they are doing it, and sometimes even why they are doing it, isn't producing the results intended. Those who cannon maintain the level of denial necessary to continue that passion and enthusiasm "burn out" and leave, or for reasons that have nothing to do with the children relying on them for help, remain in the field with bitter attitudes, convinced that what they do is "right," would be effective... if only the "other" would do what is "right" and not screw everything up by being true to stereotypical expectations. The other of course usually is the child abuser.

So what's the answer? Who is the most likely person to have knowledge of child abuse, and both the incentive and the determination to seek help for the child? The answer I propose won't be favorably received. However, I hope it will be openly considered as I pursue this idea further in the days to come. I believe the most likely candidate to protect a child from abuse is the abuser. And sadly, I believe the "system" that exists today creates circumstances that make that help for the abused child virtually impossible as an achievable possibility.

A Child is Waiting,

Take aware.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Spending Time...and Resources...Wisely?

If we can spend
four days on a cat's custody,
we can spend a little time
on what happens to women and children
after they leave an abusive relationship.

Can't help we set our priorities when it comes to child abuse?

Recently, in the local news: a story about a 34 year old mother who allegedly murdered her newborn last year by putting her in two plastic bags. She just gave birth to another healthy baby girl. What concerns me even more than usual about this story is that there is also a 13 year old daughter in the home. I can't help but wonder why the 13 year old daughter wasn't removed from the home after the death of the other baby last year. Was this wise?

But wise or not, there are stories galore on siblings left in a home after a child was killed there. And stories galore with an element that defies belief but somehow gets accepted as truth for lack of evidence to the contrary. Babies accidentally rolled on by sleeping adults... babies left alone in a tub who mysteriously drown...babies who can barely stand who turn on the hot water tap and get scalded to death...babies dead while their killers go free by agreeing to lesser charges. Wise use of time and resources?

There are ways to learn and explore methods of preventing child abuse. There are organizations like Comfort House, working on developing more effective ways to work with children after abuse without further traumatizing them by repeated interviews. There are alternatives to the ways we presently use time and resources in relationship to child abuse. But there still seems to be even more ways to avoid making any changes that might seriously change the outcomes for children at risk. Wise? Why not?