Health Initiative in Prevention of Child Maltreatment
This essay is about a health initiative that can be applied to help children experiencing or who experienced maltreatment and abuse. The focus is on child sexual abuse. Concerning health initiatives in maltreatment of children, this essay discusses the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) initiative and the Healthy Families America (HFA). SCAN is all about networking with various stakeholders to identify and rehabilitate all victims of maltreatment while HFA is about reaching out into the homesteads to identify cases inhabited with agoraphobia due to abuse related stigma.
Background and Introduction
This section provides information about history of maltreatment and emerging concepts when it comes to children and their families in a general perspective. Statistics have also been compiled to aid understanding of the threat of child maltreatment. Although health and research institutions report a decline in child maltreatment activities for the period 1990-2010, children still have no peace. Despite a CPS report showing that sexual violence among children has gone down by 62%, neglect reduced by 10% and physical abuse by 56% in 1990 through 2010, children have no way they can cry out their maltreatments to get assistance, hence the figures could be higher. According to The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2011), child maltreatment is defined as an act of commission or omission by a caregiver or parents towards a child resulting into real or potential harm or threat. In Public health, child maltreatment is a serious problem with serious negative impacts. In fact, children who are victims of abuse and maltreatment often have injuries physically and psychologically. Physically, they may suffer from cuts, serious wounds, burns, bruises or broken bones (Gilbert, Parton, Skivenes, 2011). Psychologically, injuries among the children could lead to stress that eventually affect the emotional development of children by disrupting the activities of the brain.
Arguing with facts, in 2011 alone, the US and its child protective services (CPS) recorded an approximate 3.7 million referrals of children living under maltreatment or neglect 680,000 of whom were children subjected to maltreatment (Leventhal Martin and Gaither, 2012). More than 79% of the children in consolidated US at that time were living as victims of neglect while 18% were being subjected to physical abuse, 9% to sexual abuse while 10% were accorded other forms of maltreatment that were recorded as drug/alcohol addiction by parents, abuse threats and lack of supervision. However, other sources other than CPS feel the statistics are underestimated. For instance, a report by Theodore, et al (2005) showed that about 15% of all the children in the US experience some type of abuse in their lifetime.
Effects of maltreatment in children
The main effects include health challenges say drug abuse, obesity, emotional trauma and risky behaviours e.g. prostitution. Scientifically, stress has been found to affect the development and growth of the immune and nervous systems (Finkelhor, 2009). Based on this understanding, children surviving child maltreatment or neglect are prone to serious problems of health when they become adults. The main problems that the affected children are likely to experience later in life as a result of neglect and abuse include drug abuse, depression, smoking, eating disorders such as obesity, risky sexual behaviours, suffer from chronic diseases, addiction to alcohol and drunkenness, thinking suicide among other public health risks (Finkelhor et al, 2005). These issues could eventually be a big burden to the government now that it is reported that new cases of child abuse in the US cost about $124 billion annually and the cost is still rising. Besides, in 2011 alone, more than 1750 children died of maltreatment in the US 71% of whom had experienced neglect and 48% physical abuse or a combination.
Development of health initiatives in maltreatment
Analysis in this part of the essay is about numerous efforts taking by state and civil society to contain attempts of maltreatment and rehabilitating the affected children (people). As a result, a number of health initiatives have been started in the US to take child abuse. These initiatives have focussed in one or more of the following kinds of abuses among children. The first according to US Department of Health and human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2012) is physical abuse where the aim of the interventions is on reducing or eliminating the use of physical force against a child such as kicking, shaking, hitting or burning. The second one is an aim to do away with child sexual abuse with more than three quarters of initiatives aiming here. Initiatives target child-fondling, exposure to sexual orientations, pornography, rape or defilement. Emotional abuse initiatives in child health mainly focus on reclaiming a child’s self-efficacy through rehabilitation programs. Children are extracted from emotional impacts such as name-calling, rejection, shame, threats and withholding love. Other initiatives focus on neglect. Neglect refers to the failure by a parent to meet the basic needs of the child i.e. housing, food, clothing, medical care and education (Helfer and Kempe, 1976). One program, an initiative in child maltreatment is the suspected child abuse and neglectsa program shortened as SCAN initiative.
The SCAN and HFA program initiative
The SCAN program focuses on rehabilitation of victims of past sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment. HFA concentrates on going out to reach for children fearing to get out after maltreatment by visiting homesteads.The SCAN program was started in 1999 with an aim to support children suspected to have been victims of maltreatment and abuse (especially sexual abuse) by providing mainly an access to complete healthcare (Durham, 2011).
The initiator of the program observed a lot of child molestation in schools and increased numbers of children being diagnosed of sexual abuse before making a proposal to the ministry of public health. The initiative works in close contact with children, adolescents and their members of family in order to identify causes of abuse and prevent them before they spread. The initiative actually works by networking with police forensics, CIDs, child protective services, education stakeholders, NGOs and the accident and emergency services among other partners (Bahamas Ministry of Health, 2011). Other than handling current problems, the initiative was meant to impart support, care and skills so that future abuses to children and adolescents already abused would be non-existent.
Among others, SCAN has managed to develop, pilot and evaluate protocols for management of children earlier abused. About 70% of children subjected to various types of abuses have been effectively rehabilitated and can fit into the society without fear of victimization. The SCAN initiative has also been able to arrange for prompt legal, psychological and medical services for children and their families after suspected abuse. There is much effort that has been directed towards the coordination of the society to help children abused as a strategy to rehabilitate abused children. Community programs in education are many, an aspect developed by the SCAN program (Fang et al, 2012). The community is taught on the importance of respecting children and the penalties for culprits so that at least, children can be free of abuse.
However, SCAN does not perform exceptionally well when it comes to society sensitization. For this reason, another model of home visiting was developed by the US department of health to reinforce child protection and elimination of abuse (Prevent child abuse America, 2013). The initiative was named Healthy Families America established in 1992 to provide a rapid response system to the US advisory board on child abuse and neglect. Through this program, a group of specialists visit families occasionally not just to collect data but sensitize people at a personal and family level because many crimes occur in the family. On average, 75000 families are visited and served annually with the program in more than 40 states in the US.
Analytically, child maltreatment initiatives are a wise thought in managing child abuse. However, there is need for sustainable abuse prevention programs that can support the Healthy families America initiative. Managing child abuse, Gil (1970), will be the best weapon to prevent public health issues in the future such as alcoholism, mental sickness etc. causing public security and health problems.
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Gilbert, N., Parton, N., & Skivenes, M. (Eds.). (2011). Child protection systems: International trends and orientations. Oxford University Press.
Helfer, R. E., & Kempe, C. H. (Eds.). (1976). Child abuse and neglect: The family and the community. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company.
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Theodore, A.D., Chang, J.J., Runyan, D.K., Hunter, W.M, Bangdewala SI, Agans R. (2005). Epidemiologic features of the physical and sexual maltreatment of children in the Carolinas. Paediatrics 2005; 115:e331-e337.
U.S. Department of Health and human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2012). Child Maltreatment 2011. [Online] Available at <http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment> [Accessed 29 Mar. 14]