How Disasters and Trauma Can Affect Children’s Empathy

The researchers at OHSU analyzed 11 studies that evaluated the effectiveness  of child abuse and neglect prevention programs or interventions that took place  in clinics — such as meetings with a social worker, for example. They gave  parents questionnaires that assessed such risk factors as substance abuse,  depression, stress and attitudes  toward physical punishment — as well as noting whether parents were concerned  that their child may have been physically or sexually abused. Doctors discussed  the risk factors with parents and referred them to social workers if needed.  After three years, researchers found that parents who took part in risk  assessments and received social work referrals, if necessary, had decreased  incidences of abuse, fewer reports to Child Protective Services (CPS) and  better adherence to immunization schedules.

But the studies’ results were not persuasive enough to warrant new  recommendations for physicians, says Dr. Heidi Nelson, senior author of the  study analysis published in Annals of Internal Medicine and a research  professor in medical informatics, clinical epidemiology and medicine at OHSU. “This is not about identifying kids who are being abused,” says Nelson. “This is  about determining if a family in front of me is at risk for abuse in the  future.”

A major challenge with determining who is at risk for child abuse is how — and to whom — to pose questions. If the parents who bring a child to a check-up  are mistreating that child, says Grossman, it’s not likely they will volunteer  that information. “You are potentially asking the perpetrators if there is a  problem,” he says.

While evidence underpinning the effectiveness of screening questions is  scanty, home visits seem to have had more success. Last year, a study in the Journal of the American Medical  Association (JAMA) found that home visits can cut child maltreatment cases  by up to half. States determine eligibility for home visits in different  ways, but poor moms, single moms, homeless moms, teen moms and those with a  history of domestic violence typically top the list. Home visitors serve as a  sounding board and support system, educating moms about normal infant behavior,  cautioning them against shaking crying babies and offering suggestions for  stress relief and interacting with their babies. Parenting can be overwhelming  even for educated, well-to-do women, but those who are less fortunate stand to  benefit even more from having someone help them navigate the challenges of  child-rearing. In fact, when researchers evaluated the effect of home  visitations, they found that those babies whose families were visited by nurses  were less likely to die of all causes by age 9 than other children. Some studies  showed that children who benefited from home visits had less contact with CPS  and fewer trips to the hospital.

But other studies on home visits have shown mixed results, leading the task  force to stop short of issuing a blanket recommendation for primary-care clinics  across the U.S to adopt the program for families they perceive to be at risk. “It’s one thing to say that it’s a good idea, but it’s another to say that we  have definite proof,” says Nelson.

The task force last took up this issue in 2004; it will take another look at  any new studies that have emerged five years from now to see if things have  changed. In the meantime, for the next 30 days the public is welcome to submit comments on the task force’s preliminary  recommendations. “We are looking to see if we missed any key pieces of  evidence,” says Grossman.

Credits: http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/23/child-abuse-why-its-so-hard-to-determine-whos-at-risk/#ixzz2JUcdo28r

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Sandusky Back in Court, Says Trial Wasn’t Fair

Jerry Sandusky was sentenced months ago, but hearings in the Penn State abuse case aren’t over. Today, the court will hear lawyers debate the fairness of the trial, the AP reports. Calling for a new trial, Sandusky’s team holds that it wasn’t afforded enough preparation time. Defense lawyers must make “reasonable investigations,” the attorneys say. “Given the vast amount of material the prosecution turned over at the 11th hour, it is clear counsel could not come close to fulfilling this obligation.”

But prosecutors say Sandusky and his lawyer knew of a sexual assault report as far back as 2008. The former coach “identifies not a single act that counsel could have performed or a single piece of information that would have been learned with more time before trial that would have had any impact whatsoever on the jury’s consideration of the evidence,” which hinged on witnesses’ credibility, a prosecutor notes. The defense takes issue with several other aspects of the case, including a janitor’s hearsay testimony and the vagueness of some charges

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Miramonte abuse scandal: Lawyers claim new evidence

Lawyers representing students and parents in a civil suit are leveling new accusations at the Los Angeles Unified School District over the Miramonte Elementary School abuse scandal.

Attorneys representing nearly 70 children and parents from Miramonte Elementary School say they have proof that the LAUSD ignored alleged lewd and lascivious acts by teacher Mark Berndt.

They say they have newly discovered documents supporting their allegations that there were clear signs of such behavior against children by Berndt.

“This is a pattern of years by the Los Angeles Unified School District to intentionally suppress and conceal evidence of suspected child abuse,” said attorney Brian Claypool.

Berndt is now in jail. He is pleading not guilty to criminal charges of lewd and lascivious behavior.

There is a separate civil action against the school district.  Parents are suing the school district for what allegedly happened.  The school district denies wrongdoing and has been trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement in the civil action.

The school district documents include a state auditor report that the district mishandled allegations of misconduct.  The document says they failed to report at least 144 cases of teacher misconduct in a timely manner.

“The L.A. Unified School District was put on notice about the alarm bells and the triggers that were going off and yet they didn’t hear them and they didn’t see them,” said attorney Luis Carrillo.

The school district issued a statement on the Miramonte case:  “The school district has consistently sought to resolve the claims in the Miramonte matter in a way that respects the needs of the students.  Our primary goal in this process is supporting the health and well-being of the students.”

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