Child Abuse the Well-Known Attorney Term Paper

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Promoting the understanding of cultural differences is crucial, because a large number of child abuse and neglect cases involve allegations against minorities.

As a result, in some areas a psychologist may interview the involved caregivers and children to help the courts decide whether parents have behaved abusively and to determine their children's placement. However, sometimes the psychologists' unfamiliarity with a culture leads to unfair decisions. In some Hispanic cultures, for example, parents may not be socialized to express anger directly. Sometimes a child's action may cause that repressed anger to erupt. In such instances, parents may need training in anger management and discipline, instead of a prison sentence and denied access to children.

Because of this situation, the American Psychology Association offers assessment standards for culturally varied populations:

Learn about the culture of the person being assessing. Consult with others who know the culture because there is not always literature available about specific cultural expectations and practices.

Examine discrepancies between accepted cultural practices and the behavior at hand.

Look at the continuum of cultural behaviors, determining those that relate to socioeconomic issues such as poverty and substance abuse.

Establish whether or not the alleged abusive behavior is truly harmful to others.

Determine the person's level of acculturation to U.S. culture because those with low cultural assimilation may not realize that some of their behaviors are not considered normal and acceptable.

Consider issues of reporting bias -- meaning reporting that's based mainly on the fact that a person is from a different cultural or racial background.

Use caution when using language translators -- they do not always give all the information needed to make a full diagnosis.

As with any law that is passed, it is necessary to clearly define terms so that certain persons or groups of persons are not being treated differently in terms of that law and the punishment fits the crime. In cases of child abuse, there are numerous cases, especially with severe physical, psychological or sexual violations, where an individual should receive a strict penalty. However, there are also a large number of others cases where the abuse is minimal, questionable (spanking, for example), cultural, or even misinformed. In these latter situations, it may be better to find alternate ways to help these individuals and the victims. Susan Orr concludes:

Most families will never come into contact with the child-welfare system, because most families do not abuse or neglect their children. Most who do come in contact with this system live in poverty and are headed by a single mother. Families in crisis will always defy easy solutions. No policy proscription can prevent some parents from assaulting their children. Yet, some solutions can be teased out that would lower the numbers of children harmed by the very people who are meant to protect them -- and do so without excessive public interference into the private lives of families (1).

For this reason, Orr recommends the following actions be taken:

Narrow the scope of child abuse and neglect definitions. This will allow the social services to focus on the most drastic cases. Much that is now defined as child abuse and neglect does not merit governmental interference.

Place the investigatory powers with the police. They are trained in matters of investigation. It is the nature of child protection to be accusatory. Cloaking the investigation under social services and anonymity does nothing to hide that essential fact. Once the scope of what constitutes child abuse is appropriately narrow, local police would be the best government agency to conduct investigations. If the investigation suggests a crime was committed, the case would then proceed to court for adjudication.

Re-criminalize child abuse and neglect. Having already narrowed the scope of child abuse and neglect to serious cases, what remain are cases of assault and serious neglect. That means that the standard would be the same if someone harmed a stranger's child or his/her own. Now child abusers are only guaranteed punishment if they harm someone not related to themselves. Most importantly, criminal cases require public records and due process.

Repeal mandatory reporting laws that are in effect in all the states. Mandatory reporting laws, designed to encourage those who work with children to report incidents of maltreatment, have had two negative effects. First, they encourage unnecessary reporting because professionals must report all of their suspicions under threat of prosecution. Reporting should be restricted to more concrete evidence of a crime. Second, mandatory reporting discourages fellow citizens from taking positive neighborhood action with families in trouble. Citizens tend to consider that their responsibilities have been met when they call Knocking on the door and offering help to a family, which is troubled, but not engaged in criminal behavior, may be the more appropriate alternative.

Make child and family services voluntary. Having separated criminal behavior from deficient parenting, caseworkers could do what they were trained to do and what they do best, or social work. Without the threat of child removal hanging over their heads, parents might more willingly accept services -- such as help with parenting skills.

Although much is being done to help children with the passage of Child Abuse Legislation and the increased reporting of crimes, legislative reforms are still required. As long as many inconsistencies and vagaries exist with the law, it is necessary for the judicial system to look at sentencing on a case-by-case basis.

References

Besharov, Douglas J. Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse: Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect. Washington, D.C. University of Maryland's Welfare Reform Academy, 2000.

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1974. 23 November 2006. http://laws.adoption.com/statutes/child-abuse-prevention-and-treatment-act- capta-of-1974.html.

Dershowitz, Alan. M. Contrary to Popular Opinion. New York: Pharos Books, 1992.

Murray, Bridget. Cultural insensitivity leads to unfair penalties. Monitor 30.9, October

1999 http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct99/mv2.html

Orr, Susan. Child Protection at the Crossroads: Child Abuse, Child Protection, and Recommendations for Reform. UCLA. Policy Study No. 262, 1999.

Pence, Donna M. And Wilson and Charles A. Wilson. Reporting and Investigating Child

Sexual Abuse. The Future of Children. Sexual Abuse of Children (1994)4.2.

Pitts, L. Parents May Be Ones Needing Spanking. Los Angeles Business Journal,

September 10, 2001, B2.

U.S. Catholic. Can we break free of a failed criminal-justice system? Iincarceration is not the only solution for fighting crime (1996) 61.6

Whipple, E.E.and Richey, C.A. Crossing the Line from Physical Discipline to Child Abuse: How Much Is Too Much? Child Abuse and Neglect (1997) 21, 431-444.

I. Introduction

Yet, more progress needs to be made in terms of adjudication and the legal system. Problems still exist such as false reporting and accusations, cultural misunderstandings, racial bias, unnecessary harsh sentences and overall judicial inconsistencies. The hope is with time and experience it will be possible to standardize the approach toward sentencing so individuals will receive accurate judgments of incarceration, probation, education or acquittal based on the circumstances.

II. Definition of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

III. Spanking vs. serious physical abuse

IV. Study by Baumrind showing most parents spank without ill impact on children

V. Statistical reporting of child abuse numbers

A. Numbers of reporting increased 20 times

B. Large number of "unfounded" reports

C. Inappropriate reporting places an unnecessary burden on the already overwhelmed child protective agencies

D. Better and more accurate reporting to help teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, daycare workers, police on what to/not to report.

VI. Disagreement of over/under-reporting of child abuse claims.

VII. Investigative/Tool inconsistencies

VIII. Racial/cultural misrepresentations

IX. American Psychology Association Recommendations

A. Learn about the culture of the person being assessing. Consult with others who know the culture because there is not always literature available about specific cultural expectations and practices.

B. Examine discrepancies between accepted cultural practices and the behavior at hand.

C. Look at the continuum of cultural behaviors, determining those that relate to socioeconomic issues such as poverty and substance abuse.

D. Establish whether or not the alleged abusive behavior is truly harmful to others.

E. Determine the person's level of acculturation to U.S. culture because those with low cultural assimilation may not realize that some of their behaviors are not considered normal and acceptable.

F. Consider issues of reporting bias -- meaning reporting that's based mainly on the fact that a person is from a different cultural or racial background.

X. Suggested actions to take to improve child abuse adjudication problems.

Narrow the scope of child abuse and neglect definitions. This will allow the social services to focus on the most drastic cases. Much that is now defined as child abuse and neglect does not merit governmental interference.

Place the investigatory powers with the police. They are trained in matters of investigation. It is the nature of child protection to be accusatory. Cloaking the investigation under social services and anonymity does nothing to hide that essential fact. Once the scope of what constitutes child abuse is appropriately narrow, local police would be the best government agency to conduct investigations. If the investigation suggests a…[continue]

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