Child Abuse, Past, Present and Future

By Kennesaw Taylor

In 1873, Etta Wheeler, a nurse was making rounds in a tenement, in New York City. She had heard stories about a girl who was being held hostage and abused by her foster family. After talking her way into the apartment, she caught her first glimpse of nine year old Mary Ellen.

The child was barefoot, half clothed and half starved. A cat of nine tails lay nearby, and her arms and legs showed the effects of its use. Her face bore the look of suppression and misery. Over the next two months, Mrs. Wheeler reported the child’s plight to police and charities trying to save her, nothing was done. As there were no laws to protect children, no laws were being broken.

She contacted Henry Bergh, the president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which had been started nine years earlier. Bergh convinced a judge to allow the society to intervene.

“I saw the child brought in wrapped in a horse blanket, at the sight of which men wept aloud.” Jacob Riis.

Mary Ellen’s body was one large bruise, and her face wore scares and slashes caused by her foster mother’s scissors. Using the only tools available, which were laws placed on the books, to protect animals, they saved Mary Ellen. This was the first case of removal, and New York City was the first to establish a child protective agency.

Mrs. Wheeler and the suffragettes then went on a campaign against child abuse. Their programs were rooted in prejudice as most were women of wealth and privilege. However misguided their efforts, something was being done.

Throughout history, children have been viewed as property or as possessions. In many cases, people had as many children as possible, to provide the free labor needed to run the farm or business. Up until the Civil War children were being used as slave labor throughout the world. While slaves had some rights and were considered valuable for their monetary worth, children held no such value. A war was fought in this country, to end slavery, as children worked in factories and died every day from starvation and worse.

If you became an orphan before the Civil War and for some time after, your chances of living to be old enough to escape the orphanage were slim. After the Civil War children were taken from families at an alarming rate. To be placed in foster care or an orphanage, at that time, was akin to being placed in prison. The entire affair was a good old boy system which further victimized those placed into it. Since most of those being taken were children from the poor, immigrant neighborhoods, no one cared.

Then child abuse advocacy faded again. Throughout World War I, the depression and World War II, it was ignored. The family needed to be a strong, sacred institution so children took one for the country.

Child abuse advocacy mirrors, social revolution, and as it had begun during the years following the abolishment of slavery, it resurfaced during the Civil Rights movement. In the early sixties, laws were passed requiring doctors and teachers to report suspected child abuse. It was during this time it was discovered X-rays could clearly distinguish between normal broken bones and those broken during abuse. For the first time, child abuse could be proven.

With the freedom of the Cultural Revolution, sexual abuse was discussed for the first time. Studies determined that all forms of abuse ran across our entire society, crossing all cultural, economic and sociological boundaries. Abuse was no longer believed to afflict only the poor, which was never true.

What followed was a veritable witch hunt. For years, allegations of abuse destroyed children and parents alike. While much was accomplished, many innocents were persecuted. Many lived in fear of a system, still rife with better than thou people. Children and adults, mostly from the lower classes feared and loathed it. We are still dealing with the backlash of that witch hunt today.

 

Last year there were three million reported cases of abuse in our country. Admittedly the studies, which produce these statistics, indicate there are two unreported to each reported case. That means nine million cases in America last year. Of those, only nine percent resulted in charges. Out of that nine percent, only nine percent resulted in a conviction. There are five children beaten to death in our country, each day at the hands of those they know, love and trust. Their average age is three years old. This number has recently been raised to ten per day.

The child protection service agencies have now become reactionary entities. So many laws were placed into effect, after the witch hunts, that in many cases, their hands are now tangled in red tape. By the time a child can be removed, many times that child is damaged beyond repair. They will go on to visit the horrors they endured upon another generation of innocent children.

The thousands of Social Workers and Foster Parents are not at fault. They are far outnumbered and poorly supported. These jobs are the hardest on the earth and those who do them are unsung heroes.

Foster Parents must give of their hearts freely, to children who have no idea what a heart is and place no value on the gift. The Foster Parents I’ve talked to, assure me one child who becomes a productive, loving person, is worth the hundreds of broken hearts and spent tears they endure.

Now for the question I am asked repeatedly. What can be done about child abuse?  Clearly our current system does not work. Greater minds than mine have worked on this problem for the last century. Yet the statistics grow. Frustrated, the majority of our population continues to turn a blind eye. They ignore the numbers which continue to grow despite the educated, enlightened nature of our country and the world.

When a thing hurts too much, it’s easy to look away.  I deal with this daily; advocates against child abuse are not popular and spend much of their time speaking to smiling, agreeing people who will never speak to them again. Many of us who were abused have inherent flaws, which prevent us from being Foster Parents or adopting. In many cases, the educated, have no experience and look down on those who do. They forsake the help of those who have a better understanding and a vested interest in stopping this epidemic. I say again, beware the self righteousness of the right. It’s easy to pass judgment on children when you have no clue what they are going through.

Now for the answer, if there is one. In some societies, children are trained to hate beginning at their earliest moments. I am in no way suggesting such a course of action. However, to put an end to such hate requires wiping the slate clean.

What I mean to say is, in order to decrease the massive amounts of abuse; the change needs to start with the young. First a few words of caution. Already the country believes that a child must simply cry wolf to condemn their parents. I am told often that we have lost control of our children, because we can no longer punish them. Furthermore, they are disrespectful and lazy. Again, excuses to stand by and allow what is happening, to continue. However, to some extent this is true and another indicator that our system is failing. If you don’t know the difference between discipline and beating a three year old to death, write me, I’ll explain it.

We cannot legislate this out of our society. We may jail as many as we like, but until all Americans understand, to our core, that children are not possessions or property there will be no change. Parenting classes given to adults will not make this go away. This change must start with our children. We need to develop a curriculum that can be taught, beginning in the first grade and continued throughout their education. One which makes it totally unacceptable to hurt a child under any circumstances.

The program D.A.R.E works on this principle, and it has made a difference. Now even smoking cigarettes has become deplorable in the eyes of many children. We need child abuse to become repulsive to all people, before they reach adulthood. Even if we take such measures, it may take up to three generations for this program, to make a difference. The monetary cost might be great, but our jails are full of the abused and our homes are full of the unhappy. Make no mistake we are paying heavily for what we do to our children. We must break the cycle, and it will require all of us to do it. Just because, abuse did not touch your household, does not mean that someone you love will not be abused, assaulted or otherwise victimized by someone who was abused. Now, for my question to you. Why does our society continue to become more violent? Nine million cases of abuse each year, HELLO.

We need to gather together people with the education and determination to make those in our government, who can make a difference, make one. Please feel free to contact me and point out how wrong I am, or to put petty differences aside and change the world for our children. kennesaw@kennesawtaylor.com

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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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Former Yankees Manager Joe Torre Wants Focus On Child Abuse

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A government commission co-led by former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said on Wednesday that the U.S. federal and local governments are not doing enough to identify and treat child victims of abuse and violence.

At a meeting with representatives from major federal departments, the commission of academics, law enforcement officials and others, issued 56 recommendations to help child victims, including expanded training for social workers.

Torre, whose own childhood with an abusive father led him to start a charitable foundation focusing on the issue of child abuse, said many social workers and law-enforcement officials simply did not know how to spot signs of domestic abuse.

“I don’t think society knows how to react, even if they think something’s going on,” said Torre, who won four World Series championships with the Yankees and is now an executive in Major League Baseball.

The failure of Penn State University to report former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for child abuse – charges Sandusky was convicted of this year – was one example, Torre said.

The commission, set up by the Justice Department and known as the Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, has held hearings for the past year. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has made the issue a priority.

Banging his fist on a table for emphasis, Holder told the commission its ideas would not sit on a shelf gathering dust, and that he would push the White House for support.

“The Justice Department is a big organization with a lot of tentacles in a lot of places, and my hope is to use the time I have as attorney general to continue the effort,” Holder said at a news conference after the meeting.

President Barack Obama has not said whether he wants Holder to serve into a second term, though Holder is expected to stay on as the chief U.S. law enforcement official at least into early 2013.

Holder said there was a moral imperative for the U.S. government to support child victims – whether they have witnessed violence at home, in gangs or elsewhere – and a financial incentive to do so if those children are kept off a path to crime.

CREDITS:  WSAU.COM

VISIT US:  FACECHILDABUSE

KENNESAWTAYLOR

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by David Brunnstrom