Child abuse is a term that generally refers to the mistreatment of a child by a parent or any other adult. Section 69 of the Family Services Act states "a Person having a child in his charge shall not ill treat, neglect, abandon, or expose him in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or to injure his physical or metal health."
Child abuse can be arranged in four main categories, they are physical abuse, with indicators such as unexplained injuries and behavioural problems, emotional abuse, resulting in things such as slow development and low self esteem, mental abuse, with similar consequences and sexual abuse still with similar but more dynamic results as the others and also perhaps unusual amounts reference to sexual situations. Child neglect is continued failure to provide for a child’s needs. (Currie and Cameron 1990) say that "Child neglect is more about what a parent fails to do rather than what a parent does."
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Some examples of neglect include leaving a child unattended in a car, or leaving them alone at home. Since the child can be injured in these circumstances it is often included as child abuse.
This pie graph has percentages of the different kinds of abuse reported between the years 1990 and 2000, with physical abuse being the most prominent.
Abuse is often one of the hardest crimes to detect in today’s society but the laws have changed making it a little easier to expose the offenders.
In the year 2000 over 115,471 cases were reported. Not all of these were genuine abuse cases…these also include suspected abuse. The authorities do not become aware of abuse unless it is reported, which is why it is necessary for citizens to report even suspected abuse. Changes to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act have now made mandatory for teachers, health care professionals, child care workers and others to report actual and suspected abuse of people under the age of 17. If they choose to disobey this law they could face a fine of up to 22000 dollars.
Although 115,471 cases a year is rather extreme there are actually many more cases that are unreported. The child may be too scared to tell anyone that they are being hurt, or if they are young they could be oblivious to the fact that they are being treated incorrectly and therefore no report will be made. Over the past 11 years the numbers of reported abuse cases have been doubled.
It is difficult to tell if the increase in statistics is due to the world becoming a more violent place and adults having more difficulty with children, or the more likely solution, that the community has a greater awareness and are obligated to report it now.
It is far better for more cases to be reported then for fewer to be, as there is then no justice for the children.
Parents owe a duty of care to their children. It is a parent’s responsibility to supply the necessaries for their children.
Things such as clothes, food, shelter and required medical attention are all necessaries to a child’s well being. If a parent neglects their duties the state has the power to remove children from their parents’ custody and place them in temporary foster care.
If it is proven that the parent cannot supply adequate support then permanent foster care is usually the consequence.
Under the Child Protection Bill it explains that a child is in need of protection if he is suffering harm, or is at unacceptable risk of suffering harm and does not have a parent willing and able to protect them from harm.
It is proven that the family is the most violent institution in the world, in families there are often cases from different aspects of abuse.
This is an excerpt from the well know children’s film ‘Matilda’. (play)
I have chosen this particular segment because I believe it clearly demonstrates emotional abuse within the family unit.
Using this as a hypothetical situation if Ms Honey suspects that Matilda’s parents are inflicting any form of abuse on her, she should report it to authorities such as The Queensland Department of Families, Youth and Community Care, or simply the Police.
Once the police or the department receive the report it is investigated. If abuse has seemed to occur the matter is referred to a SCAN team and the child is assessed.
SCAN is a suspected child abuse and neglect team of professionals who discuss suspected child abuse and neglect cases. If the SCAN team comes to the conclusion that the child is at risk and cannot be protected in the family unit, an application for a Care and Protection Order is made to the Magistrates Court.
The departments must be certain that the child is being abuse before they intrude into the families lives. If no abuse has occurred families are more than likely to become extremely angry.
The whole family can undergo severe emotional trauma and may fall apart due to the authorities’ lack of care.
There are not many more changes that can be made to these laws otherwise we will end up having surveillance cameras watching all household’s daily activities which is a complete invasion of privacy.
Children are receiving adequate support and counselling when abuse is detected, there are also counselling sessions available for adults who were abused as children.
Child abuse will continue into the future, it cannot be predicted and it can not always be prevented. Never the less all the departments and agencies related to abuse are trying their hardest to create a peaceful and caring society. This may be impossible, but we can all hope for the best.
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