Sexual abuse and its impact on the young
by Gloria Ogunbadejo
Over the years, there have been numerous stories, articles, rape cases and other sexual abuses on young girls and boys. So, it has always been a topic that is ever present in the media. However, over the past few years, it feels as if these stories have not only increased in numbers but in severity and in the degree of perverseness. It is beginning to feel very uncomfortably and perversely as if it has become fashionable and somehow we are getting accustomed to hearing or reading about it. Even though the discussions on many social networks and most of the responses by people holding these discussions are of outrage and condemnation of such acts, I am still left wondering if people really understand the totality of losses involved in the savagery of the act. A survivor's emotions, behaviour, sexuality, attitudes and spirituality are all damaged. For many of the clients I see, sometimes the aftermath of their experiences is their reason for seeking therapy even though their presenting problem may be quite different.
The survivors of sexual abuse have borne many losses. Some may be more obvious than others. Many reports feeling ‘different' from other people as if the abusive relationship sets them apart from others. Right from the beginning of the abuse the victim undergoes a crisis of identity and an ultimate loss of a sense of being normal or being like everybody else. Another obvious loss is the loss of innocence. Survivors of sexual abuse are caught in a very complex and bewildering situation where they are trying to cope with adult experiences and feelings but only having the resources of childhood. They are not actually catapulted into true adulthood as may be thought, with its mature understandings and motivations. Instead, survivors of sexual abuse are caught in a no man's land where they are confronted with events that they are not equipped to deal with.
The loss of innocence in childhood sexual abuse is physical as well as emotional and has repercussions at every level. Survivors tend to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them for anyone to have treated them in that way. Sometimes this believe is deeply buried and may resurface in self- destructive behaviours such as eating disorders, drugs and alcohol abuse. Others may engage in promiscuity, become suicidal, or may find huge difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships. What is clear is the devastation sexual abuse causes to every aspect of a person's attitude and life.
One way in which our psyche protects us is by repressing or denying truths or events which it would be unbearable to acknowledge. If in the right environment, feeling safe and contained, maybe with a counsellor or a trusted person, tiny fragments of memories of abuse might begin to surface.
Most people will assume that the abuse victim's strongest feelings of betrayal and exploitation would be towards the perpetrator. However from what the majority of my clients say, the strongest sense of outrage is directed towards the mother. Whether the mother is seen as having a direct part to play in the abuse or of turning a blind eye or remaining ignorant, survivors feel the mother had failed at performing her vital role of creating and maintaining a secure environment for her child. Obviously in the cases where the mother is the perpetrator, the effect on the victim is almost overwhelming. Also very damaging for the survivor are the deep feelings of guilt and self- blame.
For some survivors of sexual abuse, loss is a continuing experience. Though sexual abuse is generally thought of as something occurring in infancy or childhood, it is a perfectly valid term for unwanted sexual contact at any age. Victims of rape and sexual harassment in the work place, or sexual brutality within marriage could all be described as having been sexually abused. Their self-esteem usually deteriorates, and they feel sullied. Rape victims sometimes develop fears around things like going out alone, and women abused by their partners can find satisfying, loving relationships hard to achieve or sustain. All these have their parallels in childhood sexual abuse.
The impact and their ramifications on survivors of childhood sexual abuse vary, particularly because of the age at which the abuse occurs. The sense of powerlessness and of intimidation or menace, while quite real for an adult victim of rape, loom even larger for a child, who has far fewer resources and coping strategies.
It is useful for family members or those around survivors of sexual abuse to bear in mind common psychological processes such as transference (Where a person transfers an emotion meant for one person on to another). It is also important not to minimise the awfulness of sexual abuse, or to turn away from survivors or to try to deny how they are feeling. It is important that they feel able to express how they feel and for them to be validated.
I have written about this topic a few times and I am sure there will be many more occasions for me to return to it. Similarly, I have also shared experiences from readers mostly women. Today I am sharing a rare letter from a male reader to whom I am very grateful and humbled that he feels trusting and brave enough to share such a painful time in his life. We both hope his strength and bravery will be beneficial to others with similar experiences. If you have a similar story you can share, I invite you to send in your letters in confidence or if you would like to make any comments about Emeka's experience.
Reporting of suspected child abuse becomes mandatory
The Irish Association of Social Workers has criticised the HSE for failing to appoint designated liaison persons to oversee the handling of allegations of child abuse that are brought to its attention.
The criticism comes on the day mandatory reporting of concerns about child welfare has been introduced by the government.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone says the Government's introduction of mandatory reporting ends 20 years of stalling by Governments in the face of a series of reports on child abuse in church, State and voluntary organisations.
From today, thousands of professionals, such as teachers, doctors, nurses and gardaí, must report suspicions of child abuse to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
The HSE has appointed officers called Children First leads to oversee its handling of abuse complaints but the organisation representing social workers says it is failing to appoint Designated Liaison Persons (DLP's), a move which would be in line with official best practice.
Frank Browne, who chairs the Irish Association of Social Workers, says DLP's have been appointed in many private organisations to provide personnel with experienced and professional leadership on abuse issues.
He says they would ensure that the HSE is notifying the right type of referrals to Tusla. He instanced the HSE's primary care and mental health services as the areas which would need DLP's.
Mr Browne predicts that if the HSE does not appoint DLP's, Tusla will be overwhelmed an outcome he says most people are predicting. He says that could have consequences for protecting children from abuse and for their general welfare because Tusla's resources would to be sucked into handling inappropriate referrals.
A major children's charity which has long campaigned for today's initiative believes that Tusla is ready to handle a predicted upsurge in reporting.
Fergus Finlay, the CEO of Barnardos says the agency is "reasonably well equipped" and has been working flat to prepare for today.
Speaking on RTE''s Morning Ireland , Mr Finlay said that there is a culture of silence in Ireland that has to be broken.
He said if this means that there will be short-term problems in relation to Tusla's capacity to deal with a spike in reporting, then this must be weathered.
Last week, the Government-appointed Rapporteur on Children, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, recommended a review of Tusla's policies and procedures in investigating allegations of abuse. He warned that they may not meet the requirements of natural justice for the accused person.
Child abuse common in Vietnam
by Liden University
Child abuse is a common problem in Vietnam. All forms of child abuse – emotional and physical – have a negative emotional effect on the child. In some cases, the child's physical health and memory are also affected. These are the conclusions of Ph.D. candidate Nhu Kieu Tran. Her Ph.D. ceremony is on 12 December.
Little research has been conducted into child abuse in Vietnam. Tran, herself from Vietnam, got almost 1900 Vietnamese school children aged between 12 and 17 to fill in a questionnaire. The results showed that child abuse is more prevalent in Vietnam than in the Netherlands. This was particularly true for emotional abuse (31.8 percent versus 8.5 percent), neglect (25 percent versus 4 percent) and physical abuse (19 percent versus 7 percent). Only reported sexual abuse was lower in Vietnam than in the Netherlands (2.6 percent versus 5.8 percent). But this could also be due to the cultural taboo around reporting it, Tran suggests.
Tran discovered patterns that could form the basis of a more targeted approach to preventing child abuse. From the questionnaires, she concluded that boys in Vietnam are at slightly higher risk of sexual or physical abuse during childhood. Furthermore, almost all forms of abuse are more prevalent in single-parent families. Tackling child abuse should therefore also focus explicitly on single parents.
Tran also researched the effects of child abuse . She concluded that all forms of abuse have a negative emotional effect on the child. Children who have suffered from physical and/or sexual abuse also reported lower physical health . She also found a link between sexual and/or emotional abuse and decreased memory performance.
Tran highlights another striking finding: emotional abuse was reported relatively often by the children of parents with high socioeconomic status. She also found that children who had experienced this form of abuse often had better results at school. She thinks that this could be related to 'tiger parenting,' a strict form of parenting that is popular in Vietnam that involves using emotional discipline to attain outstanding academic achievements.
This 1 Practice Might Identify Child Abuse-but Many Believe It's Far Too Dangerous to Try
by Lauren Weiler
While you certainly can't imagine hurting a child , abuse happens to millions of those under the age of 18 every single day. Every year, the National Children's Alliance reports around 700,000 children are abused annually. And its even scarier to think kids under the age of 1 are the most likely to be victimized, with the parents often perpetrating the violence.
Many children receive the help they need — but others move through life in silence as to what went on. Psychologists and therapists now are wondering if there's a way to identify the abuse early on, before the kids stay silent into adulthood. There's one practice that some believe really works — but other professionals think it's dangerous, unreliable, and too risky.
Abuse changes the brain in unique ways
As Joshua Gowin, Ph.D., notes on Psychology Today , the experiences you have in your first few years of life are of the utmost importance. If you're nurtured and provided with opportunities for growth, you're set up for a healthy adulthood. If abuse occurs, however, the affect this has on the brain can lead to lasting behavioral problems. It can also cause issues with memory and learning and increase the odds of developing a mental disorder later on.
Here's something else disturbing: TIME reports abuse can leave parts of the brain underdeveloped. And this thinned brain tissue sometimes never fully recovers.
There are many signs of child abuse to be aware of
Not every child who's been abused shows symptoms, especially if they're older and fearful of their abuser. But there are a few general symptoms that WebMD says you should know.
If the child in question is very young, then they may be slower to socialize with other kids, or they may even start to lose skills they learned already. They may also show behavioral issues at home or at school, or have unusual interactions with their parents. Young kids may act afraid, violent, or uninterested in everything around them, while slightly older children may engage in risky behavior. As abused children reach adulthood, it's not uncommon for them to develop PTSD .
Child psychologists are helpful for many kids
If you think someone may be hurting your child, psychologists who specialize in helping kids can be particularly useful. Houston Chronicle notes child psychologists exclusively work with those under the age of 18 to help resolve any behavioral or emotional issues. And if child abuse is occurring, they're skilled in analyzing the situation and getting to the core of the problem.
Child psychologists may also refer kids to other specialists depending on their diagnosis. Or, they may recommend certain therapies or treatments during scheduled visits going forward. While some practices are standard, others are a little more experimental — and that's where the controversy lies.
Disassociation is a common result of abuse
Anyone who's gone through trauma can experience disassociation. Robert T. Muller, Ph.D., tells Psychology Today disassociation is actually a way of coping with severe stress. What happens is the brain allows you to feel detached from the traumatic event. You may even feel as if you're in a fog, or you aren't really present. It's your brain's way of keeping pain at bay.
Children who disassociate due to abuse or trauma may be prone to entering a trance-like state, where they stare at nothing or forget what they were just doing. And this can carry into adulthood as well. Many adults seek help from therapists, which is where the possibly dangerous practice comes into question.
The 1 uncertain practice: Recovered-memory therapy
We know disassociation happens — and it makes sense to assume some of us can't remember our trauma. New Scientist explains some therapists are fans of recovered-memory therapy. Essentially, the therapist coaches the patient into remembering traumatic events that may be buried deep in the brain. Sometimes the patients are even hypnotized or put under tranquilizers so the professional providing the treatment can easily access those memories.
Here's the problem, though: Most psychologists think repressed memories rarely happen. And it may actually cause the patients severe distress and further problems.
Why this type of therapy may be extremely dangerous and damaging
More research needs to happen to determine whether recovered-memory therapy is effective. But here's what's troubling: the American Psychological Association explains laboratory studies show memories aren't always accurate, and people are easily swayed. Loved ones or therapists can convince patients they're remembering events that never actually happened. This can cause the patient severe stress, and may lead to incriminating thoughts that aren't real.
As far as child abuse is concerned, there is the theory that children may be more likely to have repressed memories due to how abuse affects the brain. But still, there's not enough evidence to support this.
Court cases in the '90s show the dangers of this therapy
Repressed memories made national headlines in the past. In the '80s and '90s, children claimed satanic cults abused them. Though it caused widespread outrage and panic, officials deemed the claims false after all.Out of 84 satanic abuse claims, no physical evidence existed to back them up. It turns out misguided social workers may have questioned the children in such a way that induced these wrong memories.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus performed studies showing it's possible to induce false memories, too. By convincing subjects an event occurred and then asking them to imagine it happening, about a third of the subjects came away with memories of the nonexistent event after repeated sessions.
Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor sentenced to 60 years on child porn charges
Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor who admitted to sexually abusing underage girls, has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, a court official said Thursday.
US District Judge Janet Neff sentenced Nassar to 20 years for each of three counts -- which are to be served consecutively, according to the docket.
But the child porn charges are not the most serious accusations against Nassar, 54.
In November, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitted to using his position to sexually abuse underage girls. Three of those charges related to victims who were under age 13. He will be sentenced on those state charges in January.
More than 140 women and girls have accused him of sexual misconduct, including several American gymnasts on the "Fierce Five" team that won gold at the 2012 Olympics.
Nassar pleaded guilty in July to receiving child pornography in 2004, possessing child pornography from 2003 to 2016 and destroying and concealing evidence in 2016 as he was under investigation, according to the US attorney's office for the Western District of Michigan.
In a sentencing memorandum last week, prosecutors asked the judge to consider the "full scope" of Nassar's criminal behavior.
"(T)here is a close link between the defendant's child pornography activities and his prolific molestation of children," prosecutors wrote. "The seriousness of his conduct, and the devastating impact it has had on the lives of so many, cannot be overstated."
Nassar was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics through four Olympic Games, and he worked at Michigan State University from 1997 to 2016 as an associate professor and as the gymnastics and women's crew team physician.
In the federal case, prosecutors say Nassar downloaded images and videos of child pornography in 2004 and kept thousands of images and videos -- some of which showed children under 12 -- on his hard drive for years. He then paid $49 to have his laptop wiped of the child pornography and threw away hard drives that contained child pornography, according to court documents.
In return for the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute Nassar for sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of children. Those accusations related to conduct with two minors in Nassar's swimming pool in the summer of 2015 and for "illicit sexual conduct" with two other minor children during interstate and international travel, according to the plea agreement obtained by CNN.
Over the past several months, gold medal winners Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have each spoken out about Nassar's abuse. In a November interview with "60 Minutes," Raisman specifically took aim at USA Gymnastics for allowing the abuse to go on for two decades.
"Why are we looking at why didn't the girls speak up?" Raisman said. "Why not look at what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?"
After his guilty plea to criminal sexual conduct charges, attorneys representing more than 100 victims said USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University all "miserably failed" to protect those under their care.
"Make no mistake: This is an American tragedy," said attorney John Manly.
USA Gymnastics instituted dozens of changes in the wake of the scandal that the group says will help it prevent and respond to any future cases of abuse.
In April, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs revoked Nassar's medical license for a minimum of three years, according to Jason Moon, communications director for the agency.
Protecting Our Children: Improvements made, but work remains to protect state's children
by Marcia Moore
Increased awareness of child abuse and expansion of the mandated child abuse reporting law in Pennsylvania has improved the lives of at-risk kids, but more needs to be done to protect the commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens, experts say.
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch said the high-profile arrest and conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sexual assault charges has had an indelible impact on the issue.
"When it comes to child abuse awareness, we are clearly living in a post-Sandusky world," said Piecuch, who also serves as chairman of the county's Coalition for Kids initiative. "Today, more people know the signs of child abuse and more people are making the call to report it. The expanded reporting requirements enacted by the legislature were a critical move to implement a 'see something, say something' approach (to) keep child abuse out of the shadows. The network of child advocacy centers has expanded its reach to child abuse victims that previously did not receive adequate services."
The new legislation also raised the stakes for child care workers responsible for responding to those calls.
Finding that balance will be key in addressing children's needs. In particular, making sure the right people with the necessary skills to discern who is most at risk compared to families that just need a little support are filling child welfare positions with a clear expectation from the people employing them, said Sandra Moore, director of the Office of Children and Families in the (Pennsylvania) Courts.
"The consequences of the new mandatory reporting laws are so significant. Our workforce issues are so fundamental," she said. "We didn't gear up our staff after Sandusky and the mandated reporting legislation. We have to make sure resources are available."
In September following a sixth-month review of the state's child protective services system, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a critical report calling the state's child protection agencies "broken" due largely in part to overworked and underpaid caseworkers.
With the aid of federal and local dollars, the state spends nearly $2 billion a year on services aimed at protecting at-risk children. Yet, DePasquale's report found, there is a high caseworker turnover throughout Pennsylvania where 46 children were killed and 79 seriously injured as a result of abuse or neglect in 2016.
That report prompted a statewide committee to come up with solutions, on which Northumberland County Children and Youth Director Katrina Gownley serves as a member.
"My staff was thrilled to realize someone recognizes what they go through on a daily basis," she said.
The simple act of awareness that caseworkers need support and children need more services is a significant step in improving lives, Gownley said.
Already some improvements are being made in Northumberland County, including the revival of the Family Finding Program; a new alternate family court program to prevent child placements outside the home and a school-based partnership that will tackle truancy among county students.
In the year since Gownley took over at the agency, the number of children who have been placed in permanent homes has more than doubled.
Another advance in protecting children has been the team approach law enforcement and courts have taken investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases, said Piecuch.
"But punishing the abusers after the fact isn't enough to protect kids," he said. "The prevention side needs more attention and more funding. In a revealing report, the Pennsylvania auditor general documented that the child protective services system would function better with more resources."
Another positive step taking place is the understanding that emotional safety is as important as physical safety, Union-Snyder County Judge Michael H. Sholley said.
Programs designed to keep children with relatives or people they know have helped reduced the number of youth being separated from loved ones and training to recognize trauma are helping experts to provide better outcomes for kids, he said.
"We've learned that removing a child from a bad (family) environment is a traumatic experience," he said.
Added Moore, "We moved kids from bad people to better people (in foster care) but kids need an emotional connection."
More children, she said, are being placed with people they know and are remaining in limbo for a much shorter period of time.
While there are still situations when children must be placed in foster care and with strangers, Sholley said, a concerted effort is being made to house children with people they know when removal from the family home is necessary.
There is still room for improvement, particularly with children and families struggling with mental health and addiction issues, experts agree.
In Northumberland County, Gownley said, opioid addiction among adults and mental health issues facing both adults and children is a serious matter taxing the agency.
Staff is overworked dealing with families hurting from addiction and mental health struggles, she said.
"We need the least restrictive services for kids with mental health issues and support for the parents," said Gownley.
Mental health is the "number one concern" where the courts and other child welfare agencies are falling short, said Sholley.
"We don't understand mental health, we need more training," he said.
Currently, a child in the system who is connected with a counselor must work with a new counselor they relocate to another county, which Sholley said causes a disruption in the child's life and treatment.
Community members can be a part of the solution to keeping children safe, said Moore, who recommends people get involved in mentoring programs or volunteer with groups such as the Court Appointed Special Advocate program that provides a voice to abused and neglected children in the court system.
Communities across Pennsylvania are making it easier for people to get involved in the effort.
In Snyder County, the Regional Engagement Center catering recently opened in Selinsgrove and is offering area youth a safe place to socialize, study and learn.
In Mercer County, Summer Knapp serves as executive director of the newly formed Youth Social Service Advisory Committee tasked with looking at the needs of area youth and issues negatively impacting them.
Representatives from more than 10 groups including Mercer County Children and Youth Services, Mercer County Communities that Care, Catholic Charities and Prince of Peace attended the committee's first meeting last month and Knapp expects more organizations to join up.
The first order of business for the committee will be discussing the needs of youth affected by poverty or are in the juvenile probation system, Knapp said.
"A lot of these kids are in the system or transitioning out of the system and they have no one as a positive influence," she said.
With the agencies all communicating with one another, Knapp said they will all be pulling in the same direction, which will increase their ability to gain state and federal support and eliminate duplication.
Committee treasurer Thomas Hawkins said the group will offer greater opportunities for cooperation and efficiency among agencies.
"We're taking not a new tactic completely, but a new strategy on how to work together," he said
"The fact that we're paying attention to what's happening to children" is a step in the right direction, she said. "Children are safe when everyone has their eyes on them," she said. "An isolated child is the most in danger."
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse-What Parents Can Do?
by Laila Khondkar
MYTHS AND REALITIES REGARDING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
The most common misconceptions about child sex abuse is that it is only perpetrated by strangers and that it is gender specific to girls. Some think that children from poor families are vulnerable to abuse and children who are healthy or attractive are more at risk. There are misconceptions about perpetrators also, as many think it is only men who abuse children. Collective experience from different parts of the world suggests that relatives and someone known or unknown to the child, men and women-- all can be perpetrators. Sometimes older children (boys and girls) may also abuse younger children. Boys/girls of any age, from any socio-economic background in urban and rural areas are at risk. That said, some children are at an increased risk compared to others (e.g. children with disabilities, children living on the streets). Child sexual abuse happens in many different ways, which can range from inappropriate touching to rape.
IMPACT OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Children are affected very adversely due to sexual abuse and this has long-term negative impact on their lives, although the full extent of the trauma will vary from child to child. Survivors of abuse may suffer from fear, anxiety, depression, anger etc. Moreover, some may face problems in school, demonstrate negative attitudes, and engage in inappropriate sexual conduct. There are also risks of engaging in anti-social activities; some may even leave home, develop self-destructive tendency, suffer from low self-esteem, and face problems in forming personal relationships.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO TO PREVENT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Parents should explain if somebody (even if this is a person whom the child likes) does or wants to do something with the child's body that s/he does not want they can and should say “no.” Also, parents need to teach their children to speak up and inform them of anything that strikes them as unusual. Parents on their part should also notice if the child wants to avoid a particular person. If yes, they should try to understand the reasons and must not force the child to interact with him/her. Parents should not prompt the child to cuddle, kiss or sit on relatives' and friends' laps. Instead, they should ask if this is something s/he should like to do.
Children need to be educated by parents that it is the perpetrator who has done something totally unacceptable; the child is never to be blamed for any abuse incident. Children should also be made aware that they should disclose to family members if someone has given a gift in secret, and they should never feel obliged to do any favour in exchange of gifts.
RESPONDING TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Parents and adult caregivers need to know what they should do if they get to know that a child has been abused. They must listen to the child with attention, trust the child, control own emotions, and should not support the perpetrators. They need to assure the child that s/he is not responsible for what has happened and measures should be taken to protect him/her. If needed, medical, counselling, and legal services should be offered to the child. Other parents in the family should be made aware of the perpetrator so that they can also be more careful about their children.
Adults should not show that they are alarmed, over react, ask too many questions or punish the child. Doing something that the child may feel bad, expressing annoyance or fear, underestimating the incident or taking the side of the perpetrator are all very traumatic and negative feedback for the child.
In some cases, children do not disclose the incident of sexual abuse out of fear and shame. But adults can identify that something is wrong if the child shows the following symptoms: inappropriate sexual behaviour, complains of headache or stomach pain, have sudden problems in school and show an unexplained drop in academic performance. There may be changes in regular behaviour, lack of interest in playing as well as problems in relationship with same age cohort as that of the abuser. Parents/caregivers who observe any such changes in children's behaviour should immediately but subtly explore the issue in depth.
Parent-child relationship is very important when it comes to preventing and responding to child sexual abuse. Children will only feel comfortable in expressing themselves if they feel confident in communicating with the parents without fear.
Child sexual abuse is a taboo topic in our society. Many are in denial that it happens. Even worse, most want to silence the child and do not take any action when the perpetrator is a family member. This affects the parent-child relationship in a negative way, often irreparably, as children's feelings are severely hurt due to the insensitive behaviour of the parents. Can “family honour” be more important than the interest of one's own child? Absolutely not. It is time we break the silence on child sexual abuse. It is also important that parents educate the children on how they can protect themselves, support another child in case of abuse, and also take actions against the perpetrator (no matter who that person is). Parents have responsibilities to protect their children.
Are we doing enough?
Child abuse and neglect investigations surge by 60% over 10 years as services reach 'tipping point'
Local authorities urge new figures showing more than 500 child protection inquiries began each day last year must be a 'wake up call' for ministers to inject more funding into services
by Mary Bulman
The number of investigations into child abuse and neglect started by local authorities has soared by 60 per cent in the last decade, as councils warn children's services are reaching "tipping point".
An analysis of new government figures from by Local Government Association (LGA) shows that more than 500 child protection inquiries began each day last year, compared to around 200 a day 10 years ago.
The findings indicate that a growing number of children in England and Wales are being referred to children's social care services because of concerns over domestic violence, parental mental health, neglect and physical abuse.
Council leaders say there are a number of reasons for the rise, including increased public awareness and reporting of potential abuse, the impact of poverty and deprivation on families and a lack of funding to help families early on before problems escalate.
But they warn that children's services — which the LGA says face a funding gap of £2 billion by 2020 — are reaching “tipping point”, and urge that the figures must be a “wake up call” for ministers to inject more funding into early intervention services.
Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: “With councils now starting 500 child protection investigations each day, along with providing the other vital services that they deliver, children's services have now reached a tipping point.
"This has to be wake up call to government that unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention services, many more vulnerable children and families will need formal support from council child protection services in the years to come.”
It comes after Freedom of Information figures earlier this year revealed that as many as 140,000 vulnerable children at risk of abuse and neglect were not getting adequate help because local authorities had been forced to shrink or abandon family support.
The figures, obtained by charity Action for Children, showed that in 2015-16, 184,500 children's needs assessments were closed as “no further action” as they did not meet the threshold for statutory services.
This prompted concerns that opportunities to “act early” and protect youngsters from further harm were being missed because councils did not have the capacity to intervene.
Neglect was the most common initial category of abuse for children who were the subject of a child protection plan last year, accounting for almost half (48 per cent). This was followed by emotional abuse, which accounted for more than a third (34 per cent), the government figures show.
Responding to the latest figures, Eleanor Briggs, head of policy and research at Action for Children, said funding cuts had forced local councils to “shrink or abandon” children's services designed to help families before problems escalate.
“It's no surprise therefore that more and more children, young people and families are being referred to social services; even then many of them are not getting the help they need," she added.
“After they are assessed and then closed to social care, the needs of this group of vulnerable children would historically have been met by early help services such as children's centres or domestic violence programmes – but as these services have been reduced or closed, many now no longer receive any support.
“The status quo simply cannot continue – the Government must address the funding gap for children's services if we're are going to step in help children before they reach crisis point.”
Cllr Watts added: “By 2020, our children's services departments will be facing a funding gap of £2 billion. It was extremely disappointing that last month's Budget provided no additional funding for children's services.
"The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts have left councils struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need. We've reached the point where this service can no longer be ignored.”
The Minister for Children and Families, Robert Goodwill, said: “More than £200 billion will be available to councils for local services up to 2020, and councils increased spending on children and young people's services to over £9 billion in 2015-16.
“Our £200 million Innovation Programme is helping develop new and better ways of delivering children's services. As part of this, we have announced up to £20 million to support further improvement in children's social care services.”
'We're actually dealing with human beings.' Panel urges more money for child protection
by Deborah Yetter
An oversight panel that reviews child abuse deaths and serious injuries is urging that Kentucky put more money into child protection services, saying its social service agency remains "grossly underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed."
"Huge," is how Dr. Melissa Currie, a member of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel described the funding recommendation in the panel's annual report released Monday. "I don't know what else to say."
The panel reviewed 59 cases of child deaths and 91 cases in which children nearly died from suspected abuse or neglect during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016.
Panel chairman Roger Crittenden, a retired Franklin circuit court judge, said the panel believes it's increasingly urgent that the state fully fund child protective services, given the opioid epidemic sweeping Kentucky and flooding the system with more child abuse and neglect cases.
"We're actually dealing with human beings," Crittenden said. "We are dealing with real live little kids who have either been severely injured or killed. It's not just statistics."
The panel of physicians, child advocates, police, judges, prosecutors and others involved with child welfare was formed in 2012 amid growing concerns about the need for an outside review of cases where children died or were nearly killed by abuse or neglect.
Among 150 cases examined by the panel for the 2016 fiscal year:
A 2-year-old was revived at the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest from ingesting methadone, an addiction treatment drug his father used.
A 6-week-old infant died while sleeping with the mother, who tested positive for five drugs, none prescribed, including an opioid.
Another 6-week-old baby, who had been born exposed to drugs, nearly died from a head injury and broken bones after her father admitted violently shaking the crying infant.
The report also cited as a major concern the increasing number of babies who die in "unsafe sleep" circumstances, often from suffocation while sleeping with an adult impaired by drugs or alcohol.
"I think that the impaired co-sleeping is a huge issue that we've seen this year that needs to be addressed," Currie said.
The panel also recommended better funding for public health programs to help children and families as well as increased focus on effective drug treatment services, including restoring state money for family drug courts that was discontinued in 2010 after state legislators unexpectedly slashed the court budget.
Crittenden said the panel understands lawmakers are facing a tight budget and enormous pressure to fund the state's public pension system but said Kentucky can't afford to ignore the growing number of children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect, now at about 8,600.
"Maybe the legislature will come up with all the funds for it," Crittenden said. "I hope they do. They should have what they need to make the decision."
The report by Crittenden's panel follows similar findings from a legislative committee investigation that recommended more money for child protection, more social workers and better pay for such workers, who start at $33,644 a year.
Social worker caseloads are nearly double the recommended levels, high turnover hinders the department's work and staffing levels haven't kept up with the number of children coming into state care, according to the report by staff with the legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee .
The report said it would take $28 million to hire 420 more social workers to get caseloads from the current 32 per worker to the state's target of 18 per worker. National accreditation standards recommend no more than 15 cases per worker.
Adria Johnson, Kentucky's commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, the social services agency, told the legislative committee last month she didn't dispute the conclusions, saying "I don't think we disagree with any of the recommendations."
Both reports calling for better funding of child protection come as the General Assembly prepares to take up a two-year state budget in the 2018 legislative session. But they also come as the state faces increased budget pressures, with Gov. Matt Bevin directing most agencies to prepare proposals for cuts of up to 17 percent in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
Still, Crittenden said the state can't ignore the need to better fund child protection.
"It's the legislature's responsibility to prioritize the funding," Crittenden said. "It's our responsibility to tell them in our best judgment what we feel is needed for the kids in Kentucky."
Currie, chief of pediatric forensic medicine at the University of Louisville, said a continuing concern of the panel is the rising number of infant sleep deaths, often associated with a baby sleeping with a caregiver impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Of the 59 child deaths the panel examined, 23 were cases classified as Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy, in which a baby dies before age 1.
In the majority of those 23 cases, the deaths involved unsafe sleep practices — such as an adult sleeping with the baby or placing the infant to sleep on a surface such as a couch or in a crib cluttered with blankets or pillows.
In 15 of the deaths, infants were sharing a bed with an impaired caregiver and the baby died from suffocation or asphyxiation, the report said.
"Drinking and drug use — even prescribed medications that are sedating — impair a caretaker's ability to care safely for a baby, making bed sharing and other unsafe sleep even more dangerous," it said.
Experts recommend the ABC's of safe sleep for infants, alone, on the back in a crib free of blankets, stuffed toys or any items that might block an infant's airway, the report said.
Currie said such deaths are especially frustrating because they come despite increasing efforts to educate new parents about safe sleep for infants.
"It is just happening too often," Currie said. "A lot of it is illicit drug use. I don't think folks understand and appreciate how much risk is involved."
Sexual abuse survivors fear being 'deserted' after royal commission ends
Advocated say commission's closure will create 'sense of loss' and express concerns there will be insufficient support
by Melissa Davey
Survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates have spoken of their fears of being left in the lurch once the child abuse royal commission's work officially draws to a close.
On Friday the royal commissioners will deliver their final report to the governor general in Canberra, marking the end of their five-year inquiry into how abuse was able to occur in more than 4,000 Australian institutions.
Dr Judy Courtin, a lawyer who has represented dozens of survivors and their families, said that through public hearings and private sessions the commission had shown people that their stories of abuse were believed, and that they were not to blame. It would be tough for many survivors once that focus ended, she said.
“It's like having a favourite aunty who you totally trust and believe in, and they back and support you, and then suddenly they're not there,” Courtin said. “There is a risk people will just feel deserted.”
The commission had been a valuable source of support for legal professionals too, Courtin said, being an authority where submissions about abuse and failures of organisations could be referred for further investigation.
“People are losing a powerful ally in the commission,” she said.
A spokesman for the social services minister, Christian Porter, told Guardian Australia supports for survivors and their families were encompassed in redress scheme legislation introduced in October , which includes access to counselling and psychological services. The legislation was referred to a Senate inquiry by the shadow social services minister, Jenny Macklin, over concerns about the opt-in nature of the scheme for institutions, and the amount of redress available being inadequate. The inquiry is due to report in March.
In the meantime, “everyone will feel a sense of loss” once the commission's work ended, said Leonie Sheedy, co-founder of the Care Leavers Australasia Network.
“We have bonded with many of the commission staff and when they exit our lives that will be hard for many people,” she said.
“We will even miss the security guard, who has been there for hearings from Melbourne to Ballarat and who greets us with a smile dressed in his lovely purple shirt. A lot of people have left the royal commission over the past two years as their work winds down and we had formed trust with many of them.”
Paul Levey, a victim of the notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale , said he felt a similar sense of loss after travelling to Rome in 2016 to watch Cardinal George Pell give evidence. After Pell was declared by his doctor to be too unwell to fly to Australia to give evidence in person, a massive campaign erupted to raise money to fly survivors to Pell to watch his testimony. Comedian singer-songwriter Tim Minchin and radio personality Meshel Laurie helped to fuel the crowdfunding.
Levey started a men's support group for survivors of child sexual abuse in Sunbury, Victoria, because available counselling services could not cope with demand.
“When we went to Rome there was a lot of support around us,” Levey said. “There was a lot of commotion … and it just exploded on us with the media and GoFundMe and everything like that. And then when we got home everyone sort of went their own way. I think that's one of the things that a lot of people don't realise about being in this situation you're in. You have a group of people who are incredibly vulnerable and who are all survivors and … you're all a support group for each other and you grow to love each other. But then [support drops away].”
The royal commission's final report will be tabled to government on 15 December. For support, visit: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/contact
6 Ways In Which Sexual Abuse Can Impact A Child, And 6 Ways In Which You Can Halp
by Hemangi Chakravarty
Paedophilia and Child Sexual Abuse are just as true and, sadly, as omnipresent as any other social evil. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 defines Paedophilia as a disorder due to which a person experiences intense and recurrent sexual urges and fantasies about pre-pubescent children. These raging feelings compel one to act on the same, and cause distress and difficulties until their gratification occurs. This is one of the main causes of child sexual abuse, in which an adult uses a child or an adolescent for the former's pleasure and sexual gratification.
Child Sexual Abuse is an issue that has been found to be deeply rooted in societal history, and it mars even the early history of the nation (Deb,2002; Iravani, 2011). Around 18-50% of the nation's children have experienced it in some form (Deb and Walsh, 2012).
While half of the perpetrators were found to be family members, someone from the family knew in 80% of the cases (Iravani, 2011). Nevertheless, Andy Beckett reports that the first responses of most people range between paranoia and denial.
It is certainly devastating to even imagine our beloved friends, siblings, relatives and children to have ever undergone such an experience. However, we just cannot let a child be harmed by any further delay in acknowledging the problem.
Even if cases of male child sex abuse aren't really brought to light, this doesn't negate the occurrence of the event in any way. Researchers have often reported finding little or no difference in the actual occurrence of Child Sexual Abuse between either gender, all over the world. According to some, boys were subjected to such abuse more often (John Jay College, 2004; Parkinson et al., 2010).
Further evidence suggests that male victims are more likely than female victims to have experienced same-sex molestation, greater violence. and physical harm during the abuse, and are more likely to have been victimized by multiple perpetrators (Steever, Follette, & Naugle, 2001). 13 to 61% of children who come out of the closet as homosexual, transsexual, or queer also face such social evils as a part of hate-motivated violence.
As you must have figured out by now, Child Sexual Abuse has a nightmarish effect on the rest of the survivor's life. Some of those effects are:-
1) Such experiences have a strong probability of leading to anxiety-related disorders, low self-esteem, and self-destructive behaviours like alcohol abuse.
2) The survivors may continue to be fearful of anyone who looks similar to their abuser, and thus face difficulties in social relationships.
3) They may also face difficulties in forming adult relationships, particularly if physical intimacy is involved in it.
4) The survivors of child sexual abuse tend to have dysfunctional or developmentally inappropriate shaping of their own sexuality, as well as their idea of intercourse. In fact, they might even grow mistrustful of adults and withdraw into their own shells.
5) Furthermore, these survivors would naturally feel anger towards their perpetrator. It's also very likely for them to lose trust in the adults who were unable to protect them. However, they would feel powerless and stigmatized because their personal space and body is violated repeatedly against their will.
6) Lastly, it is unfortunate that they often have 13.7 times greater likelihood of falling prey to re-victimization, suicidal ideation and attempts to end their own lives.
Isn't it important to respond in the right way to every form and incidence of Child Sexual Abuse? Here are a few tips for the same:-
1) Look out for symptoms: If the child has suddenly become cranky, shows signs of regression, seems extremely afraid of someone or a certain type of people, has trouble sleeping and seems to have withdrawn etc, something might be troubling them.
2) Be open to what your child is trying to tell you: It is usually very difficult for a child to define the issue of their abuse. However, any experience of this kind will harm them immeasurably. If your child is trying to express any matter or experience that is even hinting at sexual abuse, it is best to listen to it with an open mind.
3) A child will not always spell it out for you: Many children are unable to talk about such experiences out of shame, fear, or just not knowing how to “talk” about it. They may be unbelievably young in some cases. However, they might describe their plight by drawing, enactment, storytelling and playing.
4) Help the child understand it is not their fault: Usually, the molesters make the child feel like the molestation is their fault and the world will hate the child for it. Help the child understand they are not at fault and will be loved nonetheless. Also, help them feel more protected. Distancing them from the molester is crucial.
5) The molester must be punished: It doesn't matter whether the molester was a stranger or a dear one. They deserve punishment for harming the child, whatever excuse they may have. The process may be liberating for you in some cases and hurtful in others, but a heinous crime committed by a dear one is just as heinous, if not more so.
6) Consult a therapist: Such experiences are certainly traumatizing for the child, even if they seem to be too small to understand it. It is mandatory to take the help of a counsellor to help the child deal with the trauma in a healthy manner.
We may thus conclude that child sexual abuse is a menace that can ruin the lives of children. Nevertheless, you can safeguard as well as help yours by taking the right steps.
Reports of children being groomed on the internet have increased five fold in four years
Total reported cases across England and Wales have leapt from 182 in 2012 to 1005 in 2016
by Russell Myers
Experts have warned parents to prepare their children for the dangers of social media on new smart phones and computers this Christmas as a Mirror investigation reveals an explosion in online grooming cases.
Reports of children being groomed by perverts online has jumped five fold in just four years.
The youngest person arrested for grooming was just 13 years old, with the oldest person arrested for grooming was 83.
Total reported cases across England and Wales have leapt from 182 in 2012 to 1005 in 2016.
A look at the figures show Cleveland's reported cases went from just one in 2012 to 168 in 2016 and Leicestershire's reported cases of grooming have quadrupled from 2014 to 2016.
North Yorkshire's reports of grooming have gone up nearly three times in two years, from 42 to 120, while Derbyshire Police revealed reported cases of grooming have trebled in three years from 42 to 126 from 2013 to 2016.
But while more cases than ever are being reported, convictions have fallen.
The investigations that resulted in charges, cases have dropped from 151 in 2014 and 163 in 2015 to just 67 in 2016.
Figures from UK police forces show reported cases of grooming have even doubled in the last two years as the problem continues to rise.
There is also large North/South divide between figures, with many more cases being reported every year in the north of England than anywhere else. Police say an explanation for this could be the north having much larger police forces on the whole.
But despite the growing trend, it can be revealed that the number of people charged for grooming has decreased since 2013.
The Mirror asked all 43 police forces in England and Wales how many of reported cases of sexual offences involving the Internet and grooming were reported in the last five years.
The figures show reported cases of grooming with have doubled in the last two years.
We also asked how many people were charged with sexual offences involving the internet and grooming, with a year by year breakdown.
Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child via a computer or mobile phone, in order to lower the child's inhibitions with the object of sexual abuse.
It also regularly lures minors into child-trafficking situations, illicit businesses such as child prostitution, or the production of child pornography.
Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of e-safety organisation Internet Matters, said: “Online grooming is one of parents' worst fears.
"Despite growing up in a digital age, it is important we remember that children are vulnerable and parents must understand there's steps they can take to help keep their children safe online such as ensuring privacy settings are switched on when using social media.
"This Christmas, no doubt parents will be receiving new tech gifts from Santa, so we recommend that parents take an active role in making sure their devices such as smartphones and tablets have all the necessary age-appropriate filters and controls so they are set up safe."
Visit internetmatters.org for more information on how to set up safe this Christmas.
Protecting our children: Transitioning from foster care
by Mary Grzebieniak
There is good news and bad news about child abuse in Lawrence County.
The good news is that increased reporting requirements have resulted in the removal of more children than ever from situations of abuse and neglect. Since December 2015, the number of abused and neglected children on the caseload has increased 40 percent, according to Lisa Matteo, a supervisor at Lawrence County Children and Youth Services.
"The laws are better," said Frank Merlino, deputy CYS director. "Now there is mandated reporting of child abuse for so many more people: clergy, teachers, coaches, doctors, attorneys, guardians ad litem, everyone who has contact with a child."
The bad news is that it has created an increased demand for foster homes, and these are in short supply.
At Lawrence County CYS, there are 18 children either in foster care or placed with relatives because their parents cannot take care of them.
The law requires CYS to make every effort to prevent foster care from becoming a permanent arrangement. Matteo said that in 1997, the "Safe Families Act," passed under former President Bill Clinton's administration, aims to make sure children don't linger in foster care.
"After 15 months in foster care we are required to make permanent arrangements," she said. This means that the child must either have a permanency plan with the parents, placement with a relative, or adoption.
"If the families at 12 months are not meeting the goals and plans," she said, "and the child cannot be safely returned to them, we are required to move forward with a concurrent plan.
"While the primary goal is to have children go home," Matteo said, noting that 85 percent go home, "adoption is an option when this is not possible. And though it is difficult to find adoptive parents for older children, it is not impossible."
CYS works with several statewide adoption agencies to try and place children. Sometimes the foster parents decide to adopt their foster child. Sometimes they cannot adopt but agree to keep the child over the long term.
CYS Supervisor Marcia Earl noted that Pennsylvania is unique in its intense approach to find homes for older kids. She said they provide staff to help place children all over the state.
Still, there are some who never go home or get adopted. The creates the problem of what to do with these young people as they near 21 when they will age out of the system. These children must make future plans without parents to guide them.
Those in foster care may leave the system at age 18 if they want.
But Matteo pointed out that it is a rare 18-year-old who is ready to step out on their own. "You have to be really resilient and driven." Sometimes the students may leave foster care and then find themselves unable to support themselves, Matteo said. Pennsylvania now allows them to do "resumption of care," in other words, they may re-enter the foster care system and be placed again in a foster home.
For those who stay, the local agency does what it can to prepare them for life.
"We start at age 14 to work with kids on skills they have and don't have," she said. At 16 they are formally enrolled in "independent living," a program to everyday life skills. This includes subjects such as car maintenance, job interviews and using a checking account, among other skills. If necessary, they are shown how to navigate the welfare system and obtain mental health services, how to make medical appointments, and use the city bus system.
"We are asking foster parents to be more active to teach skills," Matteo added, for example doing laundry, driving and cooking and meal planning. She said that in group homes, efforts are also being made to equip the youth with necessary skills.
"We don't want to let kids loose on the community who don't know how to use a microwave," she said.
These days, CYS also helps foster children to enter college or trade school if that is their goal. There are $2,500 per semester state "education training grants" available for foster children who attend college or trade school. Officials help them fill out the FAFSA form for college which specifically asks if they are foster children. "We don't want to see kids 18 or 19 years old take out loans," Matteo said.
Anyone who suspects child abuse can call (800) 932-0313, a number which goes to Harrisburg and which will notify local officials within an hour. Or they can call the local CYS number. Or go online at keepkidssafe.pa.gov . Those reporting abuse do not have to leave their names.
Ex-Phoenix officer charged with murdering daughter in Goodyear
by Melissa Blasius
GOODYEAR, AZ - The Arizona Department of Child Safety says they received three reports of alleged neglect or abuse before a former Phoenix police officer's daughter died in his and his wife's care.
That former police officer and his wife have been indicted for murder in the death of their seven-year-old daughter.
According to court records, Germayne and Lisa Cunningham each face one count of first-degree murder and ten counts of child abuse. Germayne's 7-year-old daughter, Sanaa Cunningham, died in February. The indictment also alleges the couple forced the girl to sleep outside, confined her to a patio with trash, put her in restraints, and failed to provide medical care.
DCS says they were called to the home on March 4, 2016, for a report of alleged neglect, and on October 27, 2016 for a report of alleged sexual abuse. Both reports showed no evidence of wrong-doing, according to DCS.
A report filed on December 21, 2016 for alleged neglect and physical abuse was still being investigated for substantiation when the fatality was reported.
DCS released the following statement to ABC15: "An autopsy completed by the Maricopa Office of the Medical Examiner on October 12, 2017 found the cause of death to be complications of sepsis in the setting of acute bronchitis with bronchiolitis and early bronchopneumonia, right foot abscess, multiple skin ulcerations, and unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder."
After Sanaa's death, $8,000 was raised on GoFundMe to assist the family.
Germayne worked as an officer for the Phoenix Police Department from 2005 until September 2017, when he resigned.
Germayne and Lisa Cunningham are scheduled to appear in court on January 2 to face charges.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety has a Child Abuse Hotline available . Call 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-530-1831).
Phoenix child abuse death of Ame Deal helps lead to reform across Arizona
by Melissa Blasius
PHOENIX - A horrific case of child abuse in the Valley, which resulted in murder, led to improved reporting and investigation of abuse and neglect across the state, according to two key officials involved in the reforms.
Ame Deal was only 10-years-old when she was stuffed into a plastic footlocker on a hot summer night in 2011 and suffocated. Now, two of her relatives are on death row, and three others are also in prison.
"I was faced with this immensely sad revelation that the best moment of Ame Deal's life was the moment of her death," said Arizona Department of Child Safety Director Greg McKay.
McKay was the chief investigator in the murder case six years ago.
"Her death was not in vain in helping to serve as a catalyst for change," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Montgomery headed a task force to reform Arizona's child welfare system after Deal's death.
Montgomery and McKay listed several accomplishments, after DCS became a separate, stand-alone agency from the Department of Economic Security.
This included making shorter hold times to reduce dropped calls on the child-abuse hotline, whittling down the backlog of abuse reports, and reducing case loads for child welfare workers.
"I'm noting milestones that result in real change, but this is not a victory lap," said Montgomery.
Their news conference came just days after a former Phoenix police detective was indicted for murder; accused in the abuse death of his 7-year-old daughter, Sanaa Cunningham .
"My commitment to their memories is to be transparent, and to continuously improve systems," said McKay.
Both men say they want to see additional improvements, including a national database to track substantiated cases of child abuse across state lines.
Deal's family was suspected of abusing her in two states before moving to Phoenix.
Child abuse: This is what Philadelphia is doing to fight it
The Commissioner of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services, Cynthia Figueroa, talked with AL DIA News about the city's challenges and achievements battling child abuse and neglect
by Edwin Lopez
There are 345,394 people under 18 living in Philadelphia; that is 22.2% of the population, according to the US Census Bureau.
In an ideal world, no child should see their rights violated (especially their physical integrity) but the reality is that ensuring that no one becomes a victim of child abuse is a titanic task, almost impossible to achieve in a city with rates of poverty and violence among the highest in the country. Although those aren't necessarily the only factors that explain this problem.
In Philadelphia, things like the abuse of children or the neglect of their right to be cared for happen a lot; so much that with almost 10,000 cases, the city has the fourth largest child welfare system across the nation.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation (including sexual abuse as determined under section 111), or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
The law is also clear in pointing out that every person under 18 is susceptible to being a victim of this type of circumstances.
What the data says
According to Pennsylvania's most recent Annual Child Protective Services Report (link is external) , issued by the State Department of Human Services, Philadelphia - with 5,367 reports - is the county that contributed the most to the number of alleged abuses last year throughout the Commonwealth, that had 44,359 complaints, 4,597 substantiated reports.
Of those 5,367 reports received and investigated during 2016, the city's Department of Human Services (DHS) established that 847 constituted substantiated cases of child abuse and / or neglect, given the evidence collected. The gender of victims was female in 59.3% of the events.
The majority of reported complaints at the state level also account for the most common type of abuses children suffer are sexual abuse (47.5%) and physical abuse or bodily injury (29.6%), serious physical neglect (8.3%), reasonable likelihood of bodily injury (7.5%) and abuse engaging in a per se act -any act that constitutes itself an abuse, even without evidence of physical harm- (4%).
The numbers – although they seem less relevant when they're compared to the total population of children in the city – hide a dark picture: In issues like this, there are always underreported cases that never get attention.
In addition, when compared to the rate of events reported at the state level, the city is located very close to the regional average and exceeds it in substantiated cases.
According to the same report, the rate of complaints made in Philadelphia in 2016 was 15.5 per 1,000 children, while in Pennsylvania that rate was 16.3.
Regarding the rate of cases of proven abuse or neglect, the city had 2.5 per 1,000 children while the State had 1.7.
Not too good, not too bad
But if at the regional level Philadelphia is leading this problem, the city doesn't do better nationally. When the life or well-being of a child is in serious danger, the system takes them and relocates them in a safe environment, out of the reach of where their rights were violated, which in most cases is their own home.
According to the latest evaluation of the Improvement Outcomes for Children, a major reform to the child welfare system, this year the city has served about 6,000 children in "out-of-home care” modality (temporary homes) at a rate of 16.4 per 1,000 children, much higher than the national rate, which is 5.5.
These figures can be read in two ways: the optimistic perspective, which focuses on attentions: the number of children protected or placed in temporary homes while the DHS investigates and finds a permanent solution for the threat.
And the other not-too-optimistic perspective, which realizes that while measures are being taken to improve the quality of services along with the quick response of the authorities and the agencies, both child abuse and neglect are still the main causes of violations of children's rights.
An optimistic look
Cynthia Figueroa, Commissioner of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services (DHS) – the entity in charge of addressing these issues –, prefers to look at it the first way.
"One of the things that we are very proud of in Philadelphia is that, of that number of 6,000 kids who are in placement, more than half of those kids are living in what we called kinship care: a family member, a relative or somebody who is known to that child."
Figueroa is very aware of the challenges that this problem represents, although she points out that the increase of reports is an effect of the reforms that the legal framework suffered as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the former football coach of the Pennsylvania State University convicted for child sexual abuse.
“There were 24 changes to the Child Protective Services Law, and it increased the kind of issues that were considered abuse. It increased the length of time that you can report abuse and also who could be the reporter,” she says.
“What we saw from 2005 to 2017 was a huge increase of referrals into the child welfare system,” Figueroa adds.
The DHS Commissioner talks about to the cultural effect that CAPTA has had by creating a sense of responsibility in more people. This effect has contributed to a rate-increase of 46% in attentions into the child protective services since 2012.
Since Figueroa took her position as head of the DHS, she has led the efforts of the city to improve both prevention and attention services for victims of child abuse.
One of those efforts is the implementation of the Improving Outcomes for Children (link is external) (IOC), a strategy that sets the operational standard for the 10 local community-based organizations or CUA's (Community Umbrella Agencies) that serve families and children in conditions of vulnerability.
Just a couple of months ago, the DHS published the "Community Umbrella Agencies' Scorecard” (link is external) , an evaluation of the services offered to children victims of child abuse and neglect. In five categories - superior, proficient, competent, unsatisfactory and critical - only three agencies met the basic expectations of DHS by showing competent performance, while the remaining eight were unsatisfactory.
Although the results are far from being good, Figueroa focuses on the positive aspect of the evaluation: it is the first time something like this has been done in Philadelphia and with it the city established a baseline from where it will measure all progress.
“We are already starting to see gains so I am very confident that in next year's report we're gonna see progress,” said the official.
The IOC evaluation made it possible to identify those areas where each CUA needs to concentrate in order to improve their services. Some of those areas are understanding the IOC as the single guide for the care of children, as well as to develop a more articulated work with families, parents and communities with the purpose of reducing the rate of children placed in temporary homes.
Among the achievements that Philadelphia has made through the implementation of the IOC since 2013, the DHS points out that 46% of victims live in kinship with a family member, while 56% live within five miles of their homes, and 2,021 children have found a new permanent home.
Another success is that the city decreased the caseload for every case manager: from 13 families in 2016 to 11 this year. The goal is to reach 10 families (or cases) for each manager. According to Figueroa, these achievements have a direct impact on the quality of service provided by DHS and CUA.
"Success for our office is that we ensure that only the families who actually need our intervention are the families that come to our attention, and that when children and families come to our attention (…) we provide the best quality service,” she said.
With the CUA's Scorecard, there is no other option than improvement. The city's Administration plans to invest over $93 million next year to keep protecting kids from child abuse. In the future, the CUA's that obtain higher rates in the scorecard will be able to access these resources.
In summary, these figures show that child abuse is a serious problem in Philadelphia, but also that thanks to the work and reforms carried out by the DHS, this problem is increasingly visible, a fundamental step forward to keep fighting and -perhaps- defeating the problem.
Spotting the warning signs of child sexual abuse
by Brandon Richard
MT. VERNON -- Recent cases of child sexual assault in southern Illinois highlight the importance of parents and guardians recognizing the signs of abuse.
Research shows one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.
"It's a huge problem," said Ladonna Richards, the executive director of the Amy Center in Mt. Vernon.
The Amy Center works with children and their families when there's an allegation of sexual abuse or severe physical abuse.
Richards said more than 200 new cases are opened each year in the seven-county region her office covers.
Each case is an emotional roller coaster for the families involved, especially for children who've been victimized.
Richards said the vast majority of the time, children are abused by someone they know, trust and love.
"(It's) probably closer to 95 percent," said Richards.
Children who've been sexually abused often show no physical signs, but their behavior can be very telling, according to the organization Prevent Child Abuse Illinois .
A child victim can experience the following:
A sudden change in behavior or personality
Depression or anxiety
Withdrawing from family and friends
Showing a sudden fear of certain people, places or activities
Problems at school
Acting out sexually, showing sexual knowledge beyond what it normal for their age
Self-destructive behaviors like drinking alcohol, drug use, eating disorders or cutting
Richards said if a child comes forward to report sexual abuse, it's important for adults to believe them, no matter who they accuse of doing it.
"It's not your job to make judgment calls. It's not your job to make a decision. It's your job to protect children," said Richards.
Experts say if parents sense something wrong with their child, they should trust their instincts.
They also advise parents to talk with their children about sexual abuse, and what to do if someone touches them inappropriately.
To report child sexual abuse, call your local law enforcement agency or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE.
You can make a report to DCFS without leaving your name, but should provide the child's name, address, date of birth, parent or guardian names, information about siblings, and phone number.
Majority of child sex abuse cases carried out by those under 18, Hong Kong organisation says
Concerns raised as 40 per cent of suspected abuse cases in private places happened in schools
by Elizabeth Cheung
More than half of offenders in suspected child sex abuse cases handled by a non-government organisation in the past year were under 18 years of age, and some were younger than nine.
The End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation, which identified 66 out of 231 reports received by its phone hotline from July last year to June this year as suspected child sexual abuse cases, called for better sex education at home and in schools to establish appropriate attitudes towards sex.
According to the foundation's statistics, among the suspected child sexual abuse cases, 53 per cent of offenders were aged under 18, and 55 per cent of those were between seven and nine years old.
Some 54 per cent of victims were children aged four to nine.
A heated discussion on sexual abuse in Hong Kong was sparked recently after athlete Vera Lui Lai-yiu claimed she was sexually assaulted by her coach 10 years ago.
Michelle Tam Chi-yun, the foundation's executive director, said children might not clearly know what was appropriate behaviour even if they just intended to play with others.
“Children might not know their behaviour was offensive. They might not be aware they have crossed the line,” Tam said.
Among the 76 per cent of suspected abuse cases which involved physical contact, more than 60 per cent involved touching victims' private parts.
Annie Ho Nim-chee, a clinical psychologist and board member of the foundation, voiced concern that 40 per cent of suspected cases that happened in private places were in schools.
The foundation said sex education could begin at kindergarten age. “For example, parents or domestic helpers could verbally teach young children to clean their private parts by themselves,” Tam said.
Meanwhile, a separate survey commissioned by the foundation revealed close to 70 per cent of 508 local parents interviewed hoped to gain access to any sexual conviction records of those hired to care for their children. The checks currently allow employers to see if job applicants had been involved in sexual offences.
The foundation said it hoped that apart from opening up records access to parents, such checks should be made compulsory and extended to staff who had already been employed.
Police probe possible Montana link in case of missing Skelton boys
by Ann Zaniewski
Police are investigating whether human remains found in Montana are of three Morenci, Mich. boys who disappeared seven years ago.
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton were in their father John Skelton's care when they went missing over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010 . They were 9, 7 and 5 at the time.
A crew that was cleaning a property in Missoula, Mont. in September discovered a box containing human bones and teeth, according to a search warrant application posted on ABC Fox Montana's website . The remains were examined and found to belong to three children who were around the same age as the Skelton boys.
Michigan State Police First Lt. Michael Shaw said the agency has been in contact with Missoula authorities, who are aware of the Skelton case.
“We are taking it seriously, but right now it's too early,” he said.
A press released issued by the Michigan State Police late Thursday said nothing has previously been reported to authorities that would link the Skelton boys to Montana. It's also unclear whether the remains are from siblings.
"Further forensic testing has been requested by police in Montana that may provide more answers," the release said. "Until this testing is completed and additional investigation by law enforcement in Montana occurs, it cannot be determined if these remains belong to the missing Skelton brothers."
Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh did not return messages seeking comment.
Kathye Herrera of Morenci, a friend of Tanya Zuvers, the boys' mother, learned about the possible break in the case Thursday from a news report. She said a million questions are running through her head.
"Answers. We've been praying for answers," she said. "If that could give the family piece of mind, it may not be the answer we want, but it would just enable the family to have some closure."
Zuvers could not immediately be reached for comment.
The boys' father, John Skelton, is serving a 10- to 15-year sentence after pleading no contest in 2011 to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in connection with his sons' disappearance.
Skelton previously insisted he didn't know where they boys were and that they had been with members of an underground sanctuary group. Police previously said they believed he killed the boys.
Filed in Montana's Fourth Judicial District, the application for the search warrant says the cleaning crew discovered the box with remains inside of a shed on Sept. 27. The crew was hired to clean the property after the tenant had been evicted the previous week.
The bones and teeth were of modern age and belonged to children who were 5 to 8 years old, 6 to 10 years old and 2 to 4 years old when they died, an anthropology professor at the University of Montana determined.
Authorities plan to test the remains for DNA to see if the children are related and if the results match any missing persons cases.
The report also said Missoula police have identified a person who they want to interview in connection with the discovery of the remains.
The Skelton boys' disappearance has been investigated not only by Michigan State Police but also by the Morenci Police Department and the FBI. MSP became the lead investigative agency in 2013.
Anyone with tips or information about the case can fill out an online Michigan State Police suspicious activity report or call 517-636-0689.
Key recommendations from the royal commission into child sexual abuse
by the Sydney Morning Herald
The five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its final report on Friday.
The report runs over 17 volumes and includes 189 new recommendations.
In total, the commissioners have made 409 recommendations, aimed at keeping children safe.
Here are their some of their key recommendations:
Introduce new laws
Religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school counsellors should be brought into line with police, doctors and nurses who are all obliged by law to report sexual abuse.
Open the confessional
Specifically, religious ministers should be forced to report information confided in them during a confession.
Introduce new criminal offences
Each state and territory government should create new criminal offences for failing to protect children from sexual abuse, and failing to report child sexual abuse in an institution.
The "failure to report" offence should apply if the person fails to report to police where they know, suspect, or should have suspected that an adult associated with the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child.
The "failure to protect" offence should apply if an adult knows that there is a substantial risk that another adult associated with the institution will commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 17.
Make celibacy voluntary
The Australian Catholic Church should request permission from the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy.
Remove religious ministers convicted of sexual abuse
Any person in religious ministry who is the subject of a complaint of child sexual abuse which is substantiated or who is convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse should be permanently removed from the ministry
Schools should be liable
Schools could be sued for sexual abuse committed by their staff regardless of whether the school was negligent.
Introduce psychological testing
Candidates for religious ministry should undergo external psychological testing, including psycho-sexual assessment, for the purposes of determining their suitability to undertake work involving children.
Create a national office for child safety
The federal government should establish a national office for child safety that would be part of the Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet. It's first job should be developing a national framework to prevent child sexual abuse, and it should become a statutory body within 18 months.
Introduce child safe standards
All institutions should implement a list of child safe standards identified by the royal commission, to be enforced by federal, state and territory governments.
Introduce national registers
Each religious organisation should consider establishing a national register which records information to assist affiliated institutions identify and respond to any risks to children that may be posed by people in religious or pastoral ministry.
Establish a legal service for victims
The federal government should establish and fund a legal advice and referral service for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
Children must be kept out of adult prisons
Youth detention centres should consider using technology, such as CCTV and body-worn cameras, to film child/staff interactions. And children must be kept out of adult prisons.
Government should respond in six months
The federal government should respond to the royal commission's recommendations within six months. It should report on the implementation of the recommendations within 12 months. And in 10 years, there should be a review to examine whether the measures have been effective.
Create a national memorial
A national memorial should be commissioned by the federal government for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. Victims and survivors should be consulted on the memorial design and it should be located in Canberra.
If you are troubled by this report or experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au
Australia reckons with the national tradegy of child sexual abuse
by Matthew Bell
“A national tragedy.”
That's how the Australian prime minister characterized the findings, released Friday, of a five-year investigation into child sexual abuse.
Malcolm Turnbull on Friday extended his gratitude to thousands of survivors who were brave enough to tell their stories. “It's been very tough, often harrowing work," he said, "but above all I want to thank and honor the courage of the survivors and their families who've told, often for the first time, the dreadful stories of abuse that they received from people who actually owed them love and protection."
The investigation involved 8,000 testimonies of child sexual abuse going back decades and occurring in all sorts of Australian institutions, including schools, foster homes, sports clubs, the military and churches.
“Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused,” the report said. (Read the final document here.) "We will never know the true number. It is not a case of a few 'rotten apples'. Society's major institutions have seriously failed."
Speaking to the BBC, Leonie Sheedy from the survivors' support organization, Care Leavers Australia Network, said the release of the inquiry's final report today was momentous.
“The country now knows that children in Australia's orphanages, children's homes, missions and foster care were sexually used by the churches, charities and the state government. And they know they can no longer hide this horrible history,” Sheedy said.
“We deserve justice. We deserve redress for all forms of abuse and neglect,” Sheedy continued.
The commission outlined extensive recommendations aimed at building a new national strategy in Australia to prevent child abuse, calling for the creation of a new government office for child safety. It said that the failure to protect children from abuse inside an institution needs to be a criminal offense.
The findings are particularly damning for the Catholic Church in Australia. Between 1950 and 2010, the commission alleges that 7 percent of Catholic priests in the country abused children. More than 4,400 people claimed to have been victims of the Catholic Church between 1980 and 2015.
The commission recommends that the church take some dramatic steps. It suggests getting rid of its celibacy requirement for priests, for example, because while the requirement was “not a direct cause of child sexual abuse,” it had contributed to the problem, “especially when combined with other risk factors.”
The report also said Catholic clergy should ask the Vatican to amend rules that prevent disclosure of allegations of child sexual abuse to authorities when those allegations were presented during private confessions.
The Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, pushed back against those recommendations. He said the seal of secrecy for confessions, “can't be broken.”
“The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication,” Hart said. But he added that he would encourage anyone who divulged crimes of child sexual abuse to admit those crimes outside of the confessional booth.
Hart said he did not want celibacy laws for clergy to change. But he reiterated the Catholic leadership's “unconditional apology for this suffering and the commitment to ensuring justice for those affected.”
Social workers lack tools to identify potential chronic child neglect, study suggests
by Science Daily
Neglect accounts for more than 75 percent of all child protection cases in the United States, yet, despite this alarming frequency, child welfare workers lack effective assessment tools for identifying the associated risk and protective factors of chronic neglect, according to Patricia Logan-Greene, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.
Logan-Greene is the author of a newly published study with Annette Semanchin Jones, also an assistant professor of social work at UB, which suggests that the ineffective assessments are often the result of using instruments that are not specifically designed to include elements predicting chronic neglect.
Generally speaking, neglect refers to a lack of adequate care, including failure to meet basic needs like food and housing, lack of supervision, missing essential medical care and educational neglect. Chronic neglect refers to repeated incidents of neglect, often across several developmental stages.
The effects of chronic neglect can impact early brain development, cognitive development and emotional regulation, but even within child protection agencies, social workers might rate neglect cases as lower risk when compared to what they consider more serious offenses.
The authors say that many child protection agencies, in the absence of properly targeted assessments, turn to standardized assessments that do not address the potential accumulation of harm due to chronic neglect.
"Most of these tools weren't developed with chronic neglect in mind at all, but even the standardized assessments, according to the results, weren't consistently implemented," says Logan-Greene. "We know from previous research, for example, that having in place good support systems protects against neglect, yet 99 percent of families with chronic neglect are categorized as having good support.
"That can't possibly be true." "There's a real opportunity here for states to look at implementation practices and train case workers to ensure effective implementation," says Semanchin Jones.
The authors identified critical predictors of chronic neglect, such as hazardous housing, mismanaged finances and alcohol abuse, which Logan-Greene says can help determine which families need help the most.
The primary caregiver in families with chronic neglect was also more likely to have a history of domestic violence, drug use and mental health problems.
Knowledge of these factors also makes it more likely to either develop new, more effective tools or to modify current ones that focus on chronic neglect.
"One of the implications here is that we could potentially add to or adjust standardized assessments so we could use them for chronic neglect," says Semanchin Jones. "There are many ways neglect impacts on the well-being of these children, so if we know that, we can then intervene for families that might go on to develop chronic neglect."
The findings, which add critical new insights to the understudied area of chronic child neglect, appear in the journal Child & Family Social Work.
In addition to the prevalence of neglect, Logan-Greene mentions the ironic "neglect of neglect" in research, as noted decades ago by the child welfare scholar Leroy Pelton.
And while Pelton's words still have an element of truth today, Logan-Greene and Semanchin Jones are among those researchers contributing to a growing body of literature on chronic neglect.
The challenges begin at a basic level.
Although evidence points to the seriousness of neglect, there is no federal definition of the term. Different states have different standards and because some child welfare systems exist as county-administered agencies, the definition of neglect can vary even within a particular state.
"Most of the time child neglect is considered among the least damaging forms of maltreatment compared to physical and sexual abuse, but we do have research that neglect and chronic neglect, especially, are significantly detrimental to children even when they're not physically harmed," says Logan-Greene.
For their study, Logan-Greene and Semanchin Jones conceptualized chronic neglect as five or more reports investigated by child protection agencies over a five-year period.
The research was prospective with the authors looking at roughly 2,000 cases from the time of a first neglect report and then followed the families into the future to determine if that neglect became chronic.
"We compared those who never had another report to others, and we also compared them using the agency's risk assessment tools to determine if that tool effectively predicted chronic neglect," says Semanchin Jones.
One out of Two Children face Child Sexual Abuse: The Growing Problem of Child Sexual Abuse in India.
by NewsGram Staff
One out of two children in India face child sexual abuse.
The perpetrators of sexual abuse among children are often close to them and trusted by the family.
The children from economically backward families are often trafficked and abused.
Information, awareness and communication are important tools for handling sexual abuse among children.
Child sexual abuse and child trafficking are rapidly festering problems in India, as a recent survey by World Vision India reveals that out of 45,844 children interviewed, almost half of them have been subjected to sexual abuse. The alarming statistics which indicate the unsafe circumstances faced by children also pose a glaring question: how do we know when a child has been abused?
Child sexual abuse is one of the least addressed issues in India, because of the taboo and the social stigma associated with it. Most children who have been abused refuse to disclose their discomfort out of shame and fear of punishment, as in most cases, the perpetrators of the child sexual abuse are persons who are explicitly trusted by the family. According to a survey conducted by the Government of India in 2007, the sexual abuse of children occurs mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, when they are unable to articulate their pain, as they lack the basic training to discriminate between affection and abuse.
The problem of child sexual abuse in India among children is further intensified by the issue of child trafficking, as many economically backward families with multiple children often engage their children in labour, in an effort to earn their daily subsistence. The children employed in illegal labour are often trafficked away from their homes and even outside the country, where they become victims of child sexual abuse. The education system in India, which is often inaccessible to the children of the underdeveloped sections of the society, also become victims of child trafficking, as they lack the awareness and the information which might protect them from child sexual abuse.
How to combat child sexual abuse
The main weapons in the battle against sexual abuse among children are communication and awareness. Once children learn to identify potential sexual predators, necessary steps may be adopted to ensure their safety and security. The development of a ‘safe space' for children, where they may confide in adults without the fear of judgement or persecution might encourage them to disclose their concerns, which might help in the identification of potential threats which may hamper their well being.
“Despite one in every two children being a victim of child sexual abuse, there continues to be a huge silence. The magnitude of sexual violence against children is unknown,” states Cherian Thomas, the Director of World Vision India, claiming that one out of four families do not lodge complaints regarding cases of child sexual abuse. The unwillingness to engage in conversations regarding the growing menace of sexual abuse and trafficking among children also pose a major problem while combating with issues that threaten the safety of children. “I feel it is time that we all come under one banner and umbrella to focus our work around child protection,” said Cherian, encouraging parent-child conversation regarding sexual violence, as a measure to combat the prevalence of such crimes.
Bill introduced to add bus drivers to list required to report child sexual abuse
COLON, Mich. — Back in April, seven young girls told police that a 15-year-old boy was molesting them on the school bus in Colon.
The girls say they also told the bus driver what was happening, but the driver never reported the sexual abuse.
Failure to report charges were authorized against the driver and then dropped.
Under Michigan law, school bus drivers aren't required to report child sexual abuse. State Rep. Aaron Miller of Sturgis wants that to change.
"If we can save an incident like this in the future, even if it's one or two incidents, I would call that worth it," Rep. Miller said.
Rep. Miller has introduced a bill reworking the Michigan-mandated reporting law to add school bus drivers to a list that already includes jobs such as teachers, doctors, pastors and family members.