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Social Services and Child Welfare in New Jersey
The history of social services has its successes of children who as a result of child welfare intervention are removed from the grip of their abusers and find loving and nurturing homes. These are cases few and far between when one weighs them against those children who are moved from one foster care situation or group home to another. Then there are those who are moved into situations of greater detriment, the likes of which we know from Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams, most notably. The severity of these situations frustrates anyone who has taken an oath to protect or to serve a specific population.
For police officers and firefighters this oath is inclusive of the general population; for social workers, however, this oath narrows to children under the age of 18, those who are considered minors in the eyes of the law. Child Protective Services was implemented in the United States in the year 1875, after a young girl was found to be suffering from gross forms of abuse at the hands of her caregiver. Since that time the organization has grown with the various ebbs and flows of a structured system; however, with one alarming aspect, and that is the inability to solve problems of its wards.
In fact the better featured crimes of our lifetime involve children in one way or other. Either they are the direct sufferers of abuse or are, unfortunately, the abstract focus of abuse or loss, as will be discussed throughout the course of this paper. Two such instances of abuse that are discussed within the context of this paper to point out the overload and misinterpretation of our D.Y.F.S. system are Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams. Their stories shocked and riveted our nation as the system designed to respond to the situations of abuses indeed facilitated them in one way or other as a result of overload or by their neglect of the situation or the inability to identify the signs of abuse or, perhaps more frighteningly, all of the above.
These particular cases are well-known and were the catalyst of our time for reform in the D.Y.F.S. The child protective services organization is in dire need of revamping. The subjects previously mentioned are only two wards of their care whose abuses of misfortune have come to light. If Steinberg and Williams suffered these abuses how many more are out there? It was true that as it is now than no single event of child abuse will mark necessary changes to social work services. It is therefore in the hands of those who administrate and who govern our local states to set a protocol that will limit the caseload per social worker and implement a secondary agency that can investigate reports of child abuse/neglect in its stead.
This research paper will address the current standing of the child welfare system in its ability to meet the needs of its wards and will give an in-depth analysis of a prospective to curtail the instances of child abuse that result in child mortality. This research paper will further address the benefits of collaborating with community service organizations in Jersey City, New Jersey, that are staffed by people who are college-educated and can be qualified to address child abuse in homes and who can thereby alleviate some of the caseload presently experienced in child welfare services.
More pointedly, the paper will evaluate aspects of child removal, i.e. what substantiates abuse in the eyes of the law as it applies to child protective services, what roll does substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) play in today's interventions by child welfare services, what elements of abuse are considered more strongly, which are discounted in what criteria are used to determine what is in the "best interest of the child," the benefits of a collaboration between social work services and community service organizations and how they can best assist at removing the aspect of child abuse that goes unnoticed, and how it can further assist at addressing substance abuse problems in the home.
All of these issues are extremely significant because they all play a part in the issue of child abuse, especially when it leads to mortality of young children. Child abuse is horribly frightening to those that must go through it, and it is often frightening to caseworkers that deal with these children as well. Because child abuse is not only so dramatic on the child at the time but can lead to violent and inappropriate behaviors in adolescents and adults as well, it is clear that it must be stopped as soon as possible. Assuming that child abuse can be totally obliterated throughout the country, or even in the state of New Jersey, is somewhat unrealistic. However, the current paper will focus on Jersey City, New Jersey, and even though it is unrealistic to assume that child abuse will ever be completely stopped in this city, it is not unrealistic to believe that allowing social organizations to bridge some of the gap that social workers currently have between themselves and these young children will improve the quality of life for many children within this city.
There are many individuals that see child abuse cases and social work problems in the news and they automatically blame neglect or unfeeling attitudes regarding the social workers. This is, however, largely not the case. What is the case is that these social workers are so overloaded and overworked with the cases that they must deal with that they often do not find as much time as they need to take care of the children that they are sworn to watch over. Because of this, they clearly need assistance from other groups within the community, and one of the ways that they can get this assistance is through having social organizations that are willing to help them.
While not all social organizations may be willing to do this, there are many that would be happy to help these social service workers in any way possible because they understand how much pain these children can end up going through. Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams will be discussed here because their cases are so extraordinary and painful that it is important to understand what kinds of abuse and neglect can sometimes slip through the cracks. From there the paper will move on to the statement of the specific problem that will be addressed here, as well as the specific involvement had by the researcher, any problems that are foreseen in conducting the study, and a review of literature on the subject of abuse and neglect.
Not all of this literature may be specific to Jersey City, New Jersey, but it will all relate to child abuse and neglect across the country, and much of it will relate to the New Jersey area in some way. The suspected causes of this abuse and neglect, as well as what type of improvement will be seen if the problem is solved, will also be discussed, and the conclusion will then sum up everything that has been looked at in the paper for ease of understanding. Following that will be a bibliographical list of works that were cited in the paper, as well as works that were not specifically cited but were consulted as the paper was being created. First, however, it is important to look at the two specific cases of Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams.
The Case of Lisa Steinberg
In the 1980's the child abuse case of Lisa Steinberg shocked the nation as her story of endless physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive parents Hedda Nussbaum and attorney Joel Steinberg unfolded. Hedda Nussbaum and attorney Joe Steinberg adopted Lisa as an infant. To the dismay of journalists, as well as laypersons, this child suffered horrible abuse and fear unimaginable in her short life. Also mentioned in the case of Lisa was the substance abuse of Joel Steinberg and how he prostituted this young child to adult men in exchange for drugs as Nussbaum restrained the child (Gado, 2004). As if that were not substantially horrifying, what shocked the country more was that her abuse had been reported repeatedly to child welfare services (Gado, 2004).
When officers arrived on the scene they found that Lisa was barely breathing and not responding to the efforts that they made to revive her (Gado, 2004). They did not know at the time, but found out later, that Lisa's brain injuries and other damage at the hands of her adoptive parents were so severe that she had already slipped into a fatal coma (Gado, 2004). She was six years old at that time. Officers that responded to the call found another baby in a back room, filthy and soaked with urine, who was tied to a playpen by a rope around his waist (Gado, 2004).
The adoptive mother had also suffered much at the hands of the…[continue]
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