What to do with parents who abuse their children?
In Florida, three year old Caylee Anthony was last reported seen in mid-June of 2008 - What to do with parents who abuse their children? introduction. Caylee’s remains were found a few miles from the home of Caylee’s grandparents. Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony is alleged with her daughter’s murder (Polonko, n. d. ). An Eleven weeks old infant, Aaron was brutally murdered by his father. The stressed father took out his anger on the crying baby giving him bruises on the brain which killed him (Polonko, n. d. ). Somewhere in the Midwest, a distressed girl complains to her mother that her father is harassing her.
The father accuses the child of lying and after the mom leaves, he ties his daughter to a tree and runs the lawn mower over the cat after he partly buries her. The child screams at the horrendous sight and promises to be good and take her words back if he lets the poor animal live (Polonko, n. d. ). Somewhere else, a little boy’s hands are tied behind his back to discipline him. The father forgets to untie his son’s hand as a result of which the little boy’s hands had to be surgically removed.
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On returning from the hospital after the treatments, the innocent child promises to behave well and in return pleads for his hands to be given back to him (Polonko, n. d. ). In Thailand, an eight year old girl is sold by her parents into sexual slavery where she is required to engage into sexual customers with at least fifteen customers a day. In Abu Dhabi, a couple was sentenced for beating their 9 year old daughter to the point that she became 80% immobile (Polonko, n. d. ). These are the stories that no one wants to hear. These are the realities that no one wants to discuss.
In the daily newspaper, our eyes are met with gruesome photographs of children who have been assaulted or battered by parents. Parents, the most often perpetrators: According to the reports of National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, more than 900,000 children became victims of abuse or neglect in the U. S in 2003. In 2006, an estimate number of 905,000 children in the United States were reported to be assaulted and neglected. According to reports, parents which include birth parents, adoptive parents and stepparents were eighty percent of the perpetrators.
Child abuse is prevalent in any social, cultural, or economic class. An approximately equal number of men and women abuse children. Although it is important to remember that children can be abused or assaulted by anyone, but most often, when a child is injured, the perpetrator is someone known to the child. Only one in five harmful acts to children are on account of strangers. The finger is in most cases pointed to the child’s primary caregivers- who are most often the child’s parents. In the year 2004 in Texas, parents were the accused perpetrators in 77 percent of the cases of child abuse or neglect.
Statistics also show that 80% of child deaths each year are the result of parental maltreatment (Administration of Children and Families, n. d. ). There are numerous reasons why children abuse their children. Abusive parents may themselves have been the subject of abuse as children. With very limited parenting skills, they may have been relying solitarily upon corporal punishment for discipline. These parents want their children to behave ideally and they get frustrated in their efforts. Stress that is associated with divorce, unemployment, or other family crises makes child abuse more likely.
Parents who have a tendency to abuse their children are even more likely to do so under stress. Actions to be taken: The nature of the problem of child abuse is severe. Child abuse damages young lives and has serious consequences which may remain as ineffaceable pain throughout the victim’s lifetime. In addition to the injuries inflicted on the children as a direct result of the abuse, they also suffer from a variety of negative problems. These include degraded self esteem, higher levels of aggression and violence, poor academic performance, alcoholism and an increased likelihood of becoming the batterers of the next generation.
Every child has the right to grow up healthy and safe. Thus, it becomes necessary to tackle the problem of child abuse. Since parents are the most likely abusers, the question most prominently addressed in the paper will be: What to do with parents who abuse their children? Generally, there two ways directed at parents who abuse and neglect their children. The first is taking criminal action against parents or prosecuting them. The other more humane approach is treatment to help victims of child abuse and their parents (Costin, 1998).
Criminal action against parents who abuse their children: In Abu Dhabi, a nine-year old girl, Nouf suffered from burns, bruises and knife cuts at the hands of her parents. Nouf’s father accused the girl of playing with her genital and told authorities that he beat the little girl to discipline her and to prevent her from doing sins. The girl’s parents were charged and sentenced behind bars for 10 years and the court demanded the parents to pay a compensation of Dh160, 000 to the girl, who according to medical report became 80% physically disable as a result of the abuse.
Prosecution of parents in such cases is common and justified. Criminal prosecution is mostly used in cases of sexual abuse and fatalities. It is often essential Prosecution of sexual offenders to protect the victim from successive abuse. It is also argued that strict laws should be enforced in order to purge the widespread social problem of child abuse. There has been a call to outlaw corporal punishment in the home. Australian psychologists believe that smacking leads to homicide so if parents were prevented from smacking their children child homicide rates would be slashed.
Sweden banned smacking thirty years ago but after 15 years of the imposition there was not a single case of severe child abuse (Costin, 1998). Such laws are seen as effective and people who are for criminal action propose that prosecuting parents and terminating parental rights is an immediate way of ending child abuse whereas during the other approach, treatment, the child is still under the abusive parent and is at risk(Roberts,2004). Treatment is rendered ineffective if the parents do not accept that they have a problem and are reluctant to receive treatment.
Before child abuse is diagnosed, parents apprehend getting caught because of the punishment and a good amount of social stigma attached to it. On being told of clinicians’ concerns, they may express hostility because of criticism directed at their child-rearing practices (Costin, 1998). Treatment of abusive parents involves convincing them to see themselves as sick. Ironically, treating child abuse as a sickness has made it more of a problem which is difficult to cure. Not enough therapists are available to resolve the innumerable diagnosed cases.
Furthermore, most abusive parents do not have the time and money to spend on their rehabilitation. Nor do they have a temperament for long-term therapeutic treatment. Many such parents also lack pensive abilities which are required for successful psychological therapy. Also, the resources of the society which are in short supply are diverted to providing services for the rehabilitation of the abused parents (Costin, 1998). Rehabilitation, a better approach to ending child abuse Many states in the U. S have passed special criminal child abuse laws.
States are increasingly trying to deal with child abuse and neglect by taking criminal action against the parents rather than providing rehabilitative remedies in family courts. For example in the last several years, child abuse arrests for imperiling the welfare of minors in New York City, has risen by 60 per cent. Although it is relatively rare that a parent is prosecuted and brought to court for child neglect but the message that criminal conviction sends is strong and significant(National district attorneys association,2009).
Almost every civilized nation has laws enforced that require that child abuse cases be reported. The states in the U. S. demand that suspected cases are reported by whoever deals with the children and their families for example, physicians and teachers. When child abuse is proven and parents are found guilty, courts normally remove children from their home and sometimes give a jail sentence to the offending parent. Yet, after the sentence is over parents make a court appeal to regain the custody of the children and they do gain their children back.
The concluding result is generally the child’s death. Five percent of the children are killed and Thirty Five percent are seriously reinjured if the abused child is returned to his parents and restored into the family without remedial treatment directed at the parents. It becomes plain and clear that mere punishment and strictly enforced law are not good approaches to solving this social problem. Instead, there is a dire need for a more humane and multi- disciplinary approach. This should include community efforts to craft support systems for families.
Such efforts may consist of parenting education for abusive parents, and counseling and rehabilitation for the criminal parents, and of course the development of self-help groups. If Parents are convinced to see themselves as sick they may develop an agreeable attitude towards seeking help. Parents are more likely to accept themselves as sick than have a criminal label attached to them because there is less social disgrace with the former label (National district attorneys association, 2009). Instead of blaming abusive parents, an effective strategy would be to work to relieve their stress.
We saw earlier that taking legal action or prosecution would not help end child abuse; after the sentence is over the parent’s fights to take custody of the child and when that does happen they get back at their children by abusing them or even murdering them. We will now look at another reason why criminal prosecution does not work for parents who abuse their children. Sometimes, we can identify the underlying cause of child abuse. We can then work upon treating the underlying cause instead of taking criminal action which does not eliminate the underlying cause. Some child abuse cases arise out of poverty.
A high and strong correlation exists between poverty and child abuse and neglect. In a case which concerned a mother and her six children who were supported by aids and welfare benefits, the child welfare departments straight away took custody of the mother’s children when her youngest child, Christopher dies from an unidentified cause. The authorities took custody filing a petition that each child was neglected. The petition claimed that the defendant’s apartment was filthy with roaches roaming around and that the children occasionally came to school without having eaten breakfast (Costin, 1998).
Now instead of taking action by terminating parental rights of the mother and accusing her of neglect, a better approach would have been to relieve the threat to children which was stemming from their impoverished living conditions. It is both pointless and unfair to impose criminal punishment without addressing the offenders’ deprivation (Child abuse prevention network, 2006). In some cases, the father is sentenced to jail for keeping his children in an unhygienic environment such as a room full of bad odor and urine and feces lying in a bucket in a corner.
The poor father who cannot afford a toilet is charged and put behind bars. In such cases, children are better off living in filthy conditions than living without a father supporting them. When dealing with cases of child abuse in indigenous families, an ethical approach would be to address the issue of poverty. Lawbreakers should not be excused because they are poor but proper treatment strategic treatment which involves alleviating poverty should be given to such families rather than springing to action and resorting to prosecution(Costin, 1998).
Similarly, if a child is neglected or abused by a parent who is alcoholic or addicted to drugs than proper treatment should be provided to parents such as referring them to rehabilitation programs and making sure they are present in sessions that follow. Parents sometimes resort to lashing their children if their stress and anger gets out of control. Instead of taking criminal action, a better methodology would be to encourage them to recognize their problem and to register themselves with life skills clinics which have programs for stress, anger and anxiety management (Child abuse prevention network, 2006).
Parents who use corporal punishment as a means of disciplining their children should also be treated. They should be educated about better parenting techniques and encouraged to use non-violent methods of disciplining (Amer, 1978). Abusive parents are reluctant to seek help but they do want it. Their only trepidation is that they will be pressed with criminal charges and they will no longer have custody of their children. They need to be informed that help is available and that there will be no consequences they need to fear.
The goal of family protection programs is to knit the family together and children are mostly permitted to remain with their parents or in some cases there is a temporary removal of children from homes. We can conclude from this that family protection programs are more sensitive to the feelings of parents and do not hurt families during the process of treatment. Punishment in contrast is harsher and insensitive to the family system (Costin, 1998). Community supports are offered to parents in various forms. There are hotlines on which staffers lend a sympathetic ear for parents who want to talk about what they are going through.
This service is provided 24-7 and responses such as sending out a police car or ambulance is also provided. Then, there are emergency shelters which offer children refuge when parents want to take a break. Then, there are homemakers who go into homes and help parents better manage their duties of household and childcare (Child abuse prevention network, 2006). The most successful are self-help groups. The best known of the self-help groups is Parents Anonymous. It is a group run by parents and abusive parents gather and talk about their positions with other parents who have similar problems.
It develops a friendly atmosphere where parents accept and assist each other. Therapy can also be recommended to parent where psychotherapists can help parents explore ways of finding happiness; satisfying the needs of their children together with their personal needs (Muehlenberg, 2009). Another reason as to why treatment of parents is a better strategy in ending child abuse than punishment is that it benefits the society. There will be few criminal prosecutions if the society looks at the abusive parents are patients who are sick and want treatment.
The reports of child abuse will then be reported to the welfare department and this will mean that the police department have adequate resources to deal with other society concerns (Costin, 1998). Conclusion: It was not until the 19th century that laws were introduces granting children the same legal status as household animals. These laws were made to protect child cruelty and neglect. All the states in the United States have enforced laws that demand the reporting of suspected child abuse. Statistics reveal that Parents are seen as the most prominent perpetrators of child abuse.
Should parents be punished for abusing children or should rehabilitation services be provided for their treatment in order to restore the family system? For cases where child abuse is mild or where children are neglected, remedial treatment for parents through programs would prove effective. For severe abuse cases, a good approach would be to allow state intervention which involves prosecution of the parent followed by corrective treatment of parents. For court intervention without treatment is incomplete and treatment is incomplete without court intervention. Both complement each other in an attempt to restore the family system.