Child Abuse Critique

The law of the of Virginia recognizes and outlaws five distinct categories of child abuse and neglect. These forms of child abuse and neglect are characterized as, physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, mental abuse or emotional maltreatment and substance-exposed newborns. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) It is very unlikely that educators will come into contact with substance-exposed newborns. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) According to statistics released by the Virginia Department of Social Services Online Automated Data System (2007) physical neglect is far more prevalent in Virginia accounting for 54.5 percent of child abuse reports for 2007. Physical abuse rates second in reporting history representing 26.2 percent of child abuse reports in 2007. (Virginia Department of Social Services Online Automated Data System, 2007) The prevalence of physical abuse and physical neglect dictate that educators remain vigilant for the purpose of detecting and identifying signs of both physical neglect and physical abuse.
Legal definitions of child abuse and neglect however are inadequate for the purposes of recognising and circumventing child abuse and neglect. To this end educators are more appropriately guided by what is termed operational definitions. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Operational definitions are utilized by reference to indicators. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) For instance the legal definition of physical abuse is such that it causes or threatens to cause non-accidental physical injury. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) The operational definition of physical abuse indicates that conduct by a parent, guardian or any type of caregiver is such that it causes physical injury or a particular behavior. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Put another way:
Physical abuse is any act that, regardless of intent, results in a non-accidental physical injury to a child. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators)
Physical indicators may be manifested in a variety of ways. These indicators include questionable bruises and welts, or other injuries. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) These types of injuries will typically appear on the child’s face, lips, mouth, torso, back, buttocks and thighs and will be in various stages of healing and clustered. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Another indicator is the regular patterns of the injuries and the fact that they may mirror the instrument that gave way to the injury. Moreover, these injuries may disappear for a while and reappear. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Cigarette and other burns should also be an indicator of physical abuse. Likewise skull, nose and facial fractures as well as multiple or spiral twisting fractures that are in various stages of healing are questionable injuries and as such are indicators of physical child abuse. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Cuts and scrapes to the mouth and the genitalia are likewise indicators. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) There are certain tell tale signs in the child’s behavior that can reasonably indicate evidence of physical abuse. Aggression and withdrawal are chief among the signs educators can look out for. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators)
In deciding whether or not to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect the educator is required to distinguish between accidental and deliberate injury. Likewise, the educator is required to distinguish between deliberate injury and corporal punishment although the latter is banned in schools in Virginia. (Code of Virginia Section 22 1-279-1) There are however, several ways to distinguish between accidental injuries and deliberate injuries. For instance, the more injuries and more frequently they occur the less likely that it was accidental. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators)
The operational definition of physical Neglect indicates that the child is denied the necessities of life. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) Evidence of physical neglect will be obvious in an undernourished or persistently hungry child. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators) The child will also on occasion have untreated injuries and may develop a penchant for begging or stealing food to satisfy hunger. Hygiene is generally poor and the child will not be dressed in a manner that corresponds to the weather. Likewise there are specific signs that an educator can observe and link to sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators)
Once a teacher is reasonably suspicious of child abuse or neglect he or she is required by virtue of Virginia law to report those suspected incidents. (Virginia Code Section 63 2-1509A) Any report made in good faith will protect the reporting teacher from liability. (Code of Virginia Section 63 2-1512). Likewise there are specific penalties for a failure or omission to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. (Virginia Code Section 63 2-1509A) Any report made in good faith will protect the reporting teacher from liability. (Code of Virginia Section 63 2-1509D) Schools typically have a reporting mechanism and the teacher is required to follow protocol. The teacher who suspects there is child abuse will follow the internal reporting policy and the matter is then turned over to the appropriate authorities. (Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators)
Bibliography
Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators. (n.d.) Available online at: http://www.vcu.edu/vissta/training/va_teachers/topic1.html Retrieved Feb. 14, 2009.
Code of Virginia Section 22 1-279-1.
Code of Virginia Section 63 2-1509A.
Code of Virginia Section 63 2-1512.
Code of Virginia Section 63 2-1509D.
Virginia Department of Social Services Online Automated Data System (OASIS) (Oct. 2007. Cited in Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators. (n.d.) Available online at: http://www.vcu.edu/vissta/training/va_teachers/topic1.html Retrieved Feb. 14, 2009.