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By the 1970s most states had mandatory child abuse reporting laws. These laws aimed at identifying abused children and setting in motion legal procedures to investigate the child's situation and either to provide services for them in their own home or to remove them from their home and place them in a safer environment (Melli, 1998).
Historically, the laws and regulations of the present are the children and grandchildren of the laws that were pioneered in the 1960s and 1970s. Certainly, experience makes any process better and smoother, but essentially, the system of three to four decades ago would have been very similar to today. What would not have percolated down to teachers, principals and other team personnel yet would have been the knowledge of the new legal system and how to function in it. This uncertainty would have undoubtedly have slowed the intervention as wary professionals move cautiously, balancing the needs of their consciences and careers. Certainly, education and training had to become a part of the process.
Family Resource Coalition is an educational organization that spreads the word about laws that combat child abuse and maltreatment. Their efforts at education and information dissemination include a series of Fact Sheets. These provide introductions to different types of family support programs, addressing such issues like child abuse, school readiness, family literacy, alcohol and other drug abuse prevention, school-linked services, incarcerated parents, comprehensive collaborative services, HIV / AIDS, teen parents, and welfare reform. This educational program and others like it seek to enhance the effectiveness of the system and facilitate the team effort ("Overview of family," 1992).
As in the 1973 intervention of the state of California to stop the abuse of David Pelzer, educators play a key role in the documentation, monitoring and facilitation of intervention in today's intervention in similar cases. An online manual provided by the Child Welfare Information Gateway is intended to "designed to examine the roles that teachers, school counselors, school social workers, school nurses, special education professionals, administrators, and other school personnel have in helping maltreated children, provides the basis for the involvement of educators in combating the problem of child abuse and neglect ("Educators' role in," 2010). The guiding principles of the manual are to balance off the fundamental rights of parents to raise their children against the responsibility of society to make sure that the children are protected in the event that parents do not protect their children from harm or meet their basic needs in cases of child abuse and neglect. The intervention of the state into family life on the behalf of children must be carefully guided by State and Federal laws, professional standards of practice and the strongest philosophical basis. Children have a right to safety, permanent homes, and well-being in nurturing family environments. The educator is on the frontline and is usually a first responder in the intervention process in all aspects of identification, reporting and documentation of cases of child abuse and neglect. The manual submits the statistic that 56.5% of cases that are submitted to child protective services are submitted by educators. As the manual claims, "this highlights the important role of educators and indicates that many educators are already involved in responding to this issue, yet more can be done to address maltreatment. Several studies indicate that many educators are not entirely clear what the indicators of child abuse and neglect are or how to report suspected maltreatment (ibid). What the manual makes abundantly clear is the life saving influence of teachers such as those who intervened in and improved the life of David Pelzer, saving his very life in the process.
To recap, it is the opinion of this author that due to the similar nature of the new laws on the books of most states to the legal system now many aspects of the intervention would have gone very similarly to the present time. Experience, training and education have sped the process up considerably, although increasing caseloads may slow this down as well. In any case, without education and training of all of the team members, it is not possible to intervene and save children such as David Pelzer from certain death at the hands of psychotic abusers.
Crosson-Tower, Cynthia. (2010). Understanding child abuse and neglect. 8th ed. Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson-Prentice Hall.
Educators' role in child abuse and neglect prevention. (2010). Retrieved 30 July 2010
Melli, Marygold S. (1998). Protecting children in child abuse and neglect proceedings.
Retrieved 29 July 2010 from http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Melli/Melli.html
Overview of family support programs. (1992). Retrieved 27 July 2010 from http://www.fww.org/articles/misc/frc.htm
Pelzer, David. (1995). A Child called "it": one child's courage…[continue]
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