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Many children suffer at the hands of adults - often their own parents. They are beaten, kicked, thrown into walls, and/or burned with cigarettes. They have their heads held under the water of toilet bowls, are scalded by hot water or they are forced to stand in freezing showers until they pass out. A child could be stuffed into running washing machines or sexually molested, suffer from neglect in the forms of starvation and lack of medical attention, and still go unnoticed by outsiders. In fact, it is estimated that three children die every day in the U.S. alone from one form of child abuse or another. It is a sickening practice that has no set standard of rules to finish off the persisting problem. Different states have different methods and agencies to help prevent abuse in the home, some work quite well while others bomb - a dangerous gamble when it comes to the life or mental state of a child.
The precise number of deaths each year is not known because of the extent of most fatality investigations that could be suspected as child abuse but are seen as open and shut death cases. A report from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, however, depicts more than three million reports of alleged child maltreatment practices in the year of 1995 alone. Many more children are living with abuse rather than dying from it, too. So what steps are being taken to protect our nation\'s children?
All states have a Child Protective Services (or CPS) system. This is the governmental system responsible for investigating reports of child abuse or neglect. In state after state, the CPS agency lacks the resources to respond adequately to the overwhelming number of reports it is legislatively mandated to investigate. All fifty states have child abuse reporting laws requiring reports of suspected abuse to be made by specified professionals and others whose work brings them into regular contact with children. Any citizen may report suspected abuse as state laws provide for reports to be made to the CPS agency or its equivalent, or to a law enforcement agency. In most states, investigations are conducted by CPS personnel, although law enforcement officers may also be involved.
The basic concern of child welfare workers is for the safety of the child. Assessment of the risks involved in leaving a child with its family must be made quickly because children cannot be removed from their families arbitrarily. Once a child has been removed, the goal of child welfare agencies is to return the child to the family. Ideally, caseworkers develop a plan to provide parents with the education of the care that children need, free from abuse or neglect.
This plan is not always carried out to its full intention. No state has the financial resources to provide all the services to the children and families who need them. A problem is that in state after state, CPS workers have excessive caseloads, are paid low salaries, and lack adequate training for the sensitive work involved in investigating abuse reports, and participating in decisions to remove children from their families then placing them in foster care. The turnover rate among child welfare workers is exceptionally high. A report done by the United States Department of Health and Human Services showed the rate of 30 percent to be the norm, annually.
Whatever the reason - inadequate funding, unavailable services for children and families, high turnover rates, lack of training, overwhelming numbers of reports - questions are being raised about the CPS system. The system is based on the assumption that removal from a troubled family, followed by a return to the family when that can be done safely, is best for the child.
A different approach to the problems created by child abuse involves Family Preservation Services (FPS). Removal of the risk, rather than the child, is the goal of Family Preservation Services. FPS programs seek to modify the home environment or behavior of other family members so that it is at least as safe for the child to remain in the household as to be removed. Family preservation is based on the assumption that out of home care hurts children, and on the recognition that most families referred to Child Protective
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Social work, Child abuse, Child welfare, Social programs, Child Protective Services, Foster care, Family preservation, Child and family services, Child protection, Abuse, Mandatory reporting in the United States, Mandated reporter
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