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    Objectives
    • Define child abuse and child neglect.
    • Describe the legal and ethical obligation to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect.
    • Describe program practices that promote prevention and reporting.
    • Describe the role of the Family Advocacy Program.

    Learn

    Learn

    As a program leader, you help set the climate for your organization. In the context of child abuse and neglect, the staff members will look to you to set the standard on identification, reporting, and prevention of child abuse and neglect. There are perhaps no other topics where the stakes for program quality are so high. Approximately 600,000 children every year are affected by child abuse and neglect in the United States—some of them in child care programs. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to make your program a place where all children are safe, all staff are well-prepared, and all families are honored. To do so requires continuous effort and continuous improvement. This course will provide an introduction to the program practices that help promote recognition and reporting. A subsequent course will focus on the program practices that help prevent child abuse and neglect. These courses serve as an introduction. Throughout your career it will be necessary to continue updating and expanding your knowledge of these important topics through additional professional development.

    The purpose of this lesson is to:

    • Define child abuse and neglect. All staff members who work in child development programs and school-age programs read the same definitions in their coursework. This is critical for helping keep all staff on the same page and building a consistent understanding of these important topics.
    • Define your role in reporting child abuse and neglect. You are a mandated reporter, but you also supervise a team of mandated reporters who work directly with children every day. You have dual roles to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect and to ensure others are able to recognize the signs.
    • Introduce you to your partners in child abuse reporting and prevention: the Family Advocacy Program.
    • Describe the program practices that promote the identification and reporting of abuse and neglect.

    What is Child Abuse and Neglect?

    The U.S. Federal government defines child abuse and neglect as:

    Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse , or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

    Source: Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-320), § 3.

    Take a minute to reflect on that definition. What are your impressions of the federal definition? What does it mean? Let’s explore each part in more detail:

    • Any recent act or failure to act: This reminds us that abuse and neglect are two distinct concepts. A child can be harmed by overt actions like hitting or kicking, but a child can also be harmed when an adult fails to provide for the child’s well-being.
    • on the part of a parent or caretaker: Remember abuse and neglect can happen anywhere and by anyone. Abuse does not just happen at the hands of a parent or family member. Abuse and neglect can be committed by anyone who is responsible for the care of a child. This might be a teacher, coach, faith leader, or any other individual in a caregiving or supervisory role.
    • which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation
    • or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm: We don’t have to wait for tragedies to strike. If a child is in serious risk of harm, it can be considered abuse or neglect.

    This definition is the minimum federal standard. States and government departments can develop their own more specific definitions of child abuse and neglect. MILIn your workplace, you will observe and follow the Department of Defense definitions of child abuse and neglect.

    The Department of Defense (DoDD 6400.1, 2004) defines child abuse and neglect as follows:

    Child abuse and neglect includes physical injury, sexual maltreatment, emotional maltreatment, deprivation of necessities or combinations for a child by an individual responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances indicating that the child's welfare is harmed or threatened. The term encompasses both acts and omissions on the part of a responsible person. A child is a person under 18 years of age for whom a parent, guardian, foster parent, caretaker, employee of a residential facility or any staff person providing out-of-home care is legally responsible. The term child means a natural child, adopted child, stepchild, foster child or ward. The term also includes an individual of any age who is incapable for self-support because of a mental or physical incapacity and for whom treatment in a medical treatment facility is authorized.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services MILand the military Family Advocacy Program state that child abuse and neglect generally falls into one of these four categories:

    Neglect

    Neglect includes the failure to provide for a child's basic needs despite being financially able to do so. Neglect may be:

    • Physical, when an adult fails to provide necessary food, shelter, or appropriate supervision
    • Medical, when an adult fails to provide necessary medical or mental-health treatment
    • Educational, when an adult fails to educate a child or attend to special education needs
    • Emotional, when an adult fails to provide attention to a child's emotional needs, fails to provide psychological care, or permits the child to use alcohol or drugs

    Physical Abuse

    Physical abuse  is defined as non-accidental physical harm to a child by actions such as:

    • punching
    • beating
    • kicking
    • biting
    • shaking
    • throwing
    • stabbing
    • choking
    • hitting
    • burning

    Emotional Abuse

    Emotional abuse includes a pattern of behaviors that have a negative effect on the child's psychological well-being, including constant criticism, threats, and rejection. Emotional abuse may occur when a child is:

    • Ignored: An adult may not look at or respond to a child.
    • Rejected: An adult actively refuses a child by denying their needs or ridiculing them.
    • Isolated: A child is prevented from having interactions with peers, family members, or other adults.
    • Exploited or corrupted: A child is taught or encouraged to engage in illegal or inappropriate behaviors like stealing.
    • Verbally assaulted: An adult constantly belittles, shames, ridicules, or threatens a child.
    • Terrorized: An adult threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear; the child or a loved one may be placed in a dangerous situation or threatened with harm.

    Sexual Abuse

    Sexual abuse includes sexual activity toward or involving a child, and may include:

    • Fondling or groping a child's genitals
    • Making a child touch an adult's sexual organs
    • Penetration of any kind that does not have a valid medical purpose
    • Incest, rape, and sodomy
    • Exposing one's self to a child
    • Exposing children to pornographic material
    • Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
    • Masturbating in front of a child
    • Involving a child in prostitution
    • Involving a child in the production of any sexually explicit images

    Where Does Child Abuse and Neglect Occur?

    Child abuse and neglect can happen anywhere. You should be familiar with two distinct types of abuse and neglect.

    Familial abuse or neglect occurs in a child's home. The act of abuse or neglect is committed by a parent, guardian, or family member.

    Institutional abuse or neglect occurs outside the home in community or private settings. This type of abuse or neglect is also known as “out-of-home” or “extra-familial” abuse or neglect. MILThroughout the rest of this course, institutional abuse will refer to abuse or neglect which may occur in Department of Defense-sponsored facilities, programs, or activities. This course will focus on abuse or neglect which may occur in child development centers, family child care homes, sponsored field trips, and school-age care programs. Remember, though, that institutional abuse can also occur in installation homework or computer centers, mentoring or tutoring programs, sports programs, chapel programs, scouts, Morale Welfare and Recreation programs, teen centers and youth programs. This type of abuse typically involves a child and an adult in a supervisory role, like a teacher, caregiver, or volunteer.

    Who is At-Risk?

    Child abuse and neglect can happen to anyone. There is no “typical” abuser or victim. There are some situations that are associated with higher levels of risk for abuse or neglect, though. Understanding who is more at-risk for abuse and neglect can help us provide extra support to children and families who are experiencing stress. We can think of risk occurring at several levels: individual, family, and community.

    Three categories of children are more at-risk for experiencing child abuse and neglect: young children, children with disabilities, and children with challenging behavior. This means children who have a difficult time communicating, controlling their emotions, following directions, or getting along with others might be at-risk. The adults around them might get frustrated easily or not know how to help the child. We must be careful to remember this does not mean that the child causes the abuse and neglect. The child is never to blame. It also does not mean that only children in these categories are abused or neglected. Rather, we must remember to provide extra support to families whose children meet these characteristics.

    There are also some characteristics of adults who are more at-risk for committing abuse or neglect. Adults with little knowledge of child development or a history of maltreatment as a child are at increased risk for committing child abuse or neglect. It is important to remember, though, that not all adults who were abused as children go on to abuse their own children. Adults with substance abuse, mental health issues, or a harsh approach to discipline may also be at risk.

    Abuse is more likely to occur in families that are socially isolated. A family might be socially isolated for many reasons: a recent move or deployment might separate them from extended family and friends, long or unpredictable work schedules might prevent them from having social opportunities, or they might not know how to reach out to others. Child abuse and neglect is also more likely to occur in families that have experienced other forms of domestic violence, like violence against a spouse or partner. Families experiencing stress (like unemployment, birth of a new child, marital conflict, or deployment), poor parent-child relationships, and negative interactions also are more at-risk.

    Community risk factors include community violence, high levels of poverty, high levels of mobility and housing instability, high unemployment rates, and poor social connections. Community risk factors can add increased stress on families. Abuse and neglect is more likely to occur when stress is high or access to necessary resources is low.

    What is My Role in Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect?

    As a manager, you have a responsibility to understand and recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect, to report when there is suspicion, and to put measures in place that aid in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. You and all the staff in your building(s) are mandated reporters for suspicions of child abuse and neglect. This means you are legally required to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect. For more information about the legal ramifications of reporting or failing to report, you can visit the Child Information Gateway’s resources about state statutes and penalties (https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state/). You will learn about reporting procedures in subsequent lessons. For now, it is important to recognize that you have an obligation to report your suspicions of child abuse and neglect.

    You also have a responsibility to create an environment in which program staff members feel safe to make reports. To do so, you must first ensure that staff members are aware of the definitions and behavioral indicators of abuse and neglect. The Child Abuse Reporting course that all staff members complete is a good start, but you must work with the Training and Curriculum Specialists to ensure that staff members understand and apply what they have learned. To do so, you should communicate regularly with the Training and Curriculum Specialists about staff members’ training needs and any concerns in the program. It is essential that you and the Training and Curriculum Specialists present a shared message about the importance of identification, reporting, and prevention of child abuse and neglect. You should review training materials and protocols together and make sure you all understand the materials and procedures related to child abuse and neglect.

    How Can I Build Partnerships around Reporting and Preventing Abuse and Neglect?

    On military installations, you may work closely with staff of your installation’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP) to create a climate that promotes identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. You can download the attachment at the bottom of the Learn section to read more about the role of FAP. Watch this video to learn more about FAP’s scope and mission.

    Scope and Mission of Family Advocacy Programs

    Learn about the scope and mission of FAP

    You are a mandated reporter, and so are all installation law enforcement personnel, physicians, nurses, social workers, school personnel, Family Advocacy Program and Children, Youth and School personnel, psychologists, and other medical personnel. In some services and on some installations, all service members are mandated reporters.

    Clearly, there are many other professionals who share your mission to protect children from harm. You can build relationships with these other professionals and share resources. Reach out to your local FAP office. Learn about how they can support your work with children and families.

    Clearly, there are many other professionals who share your mission to protect children from harm. In your community, law enforcement personnel, physicians, nurses, social workers, school personnel, and medical personnel are usually mandated reporters. You can build relationships with these other professionals and share resources. Learn about how they can support your work with children and families.

    How Do I Build an Institutional Climate that Promotes Identification and Reporting?

    Program Practices

    Work closely with FAP or CPS to develop your standard operating procedures related to child abuse reporting and prevention (you will learn more about this in subsequent lessons). Your standard operating procedure may include in-depth information about the following practices:

    • Establish and maintain a relationship with CPS, FAP, and law enforcement. Reach out to these important members of your community before a problem occurs. Learn about and discuss the ways you can help one another.
    • Develop procedures for maintaining confidentiality for all parties. Develop procedures for who has a “need to know”, filing information about reports separate from a child’s regular file, etc.
    • Specify procedures for record keeping and record destruction.
    • Communicate procedures for preventing and reporting child abuse and neglect to all staff and volunteers during orientation and regular in-service training.
    • Include written policies about child abuse and neglect in the staff handbook.
    • Include information about mandated reporting in the parent handbook.
    • Schedule a regular review of the protocols, standard operating procedures, and staff trainings. Invite CPS or FAP staff to help conduct trainings.

    Strengthening Families

    Relationships are the foundation of everything we do in child development and school-age programs. Relationships between children and staff are often at the core of our work. It is important to remember, though, that we serve families, as well. The high quality programming we offer children and families can actually go a long way toward building an institutional and community climate that protects children from child abuse and neglect. Much of the remaining coursework on reporting and preventing child abuse and neglect will focus on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework (Center for The Study of Social Policy, 2013). This is an important framework for you to understand and to communicate about in your work with staff.

    The Center for the Study of Social Policy has developed the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to prevent child abuse and neglect. There is a resource in the Apply section for you to download and read to learn more about the Protective Factors Framework. In the next few lessons you will also be encouraged to work with Training and Curriculum Specialists to self-assess your program practices in terms of the Protective Factors Framework. Here is a brief overview of the five protective factors that help prevent child abuse and neglect in families. When these five factors are strong, families are better equipped with the skills and supports they need to protect their child from abuse and neglect.

    Strengthening Families Protective Factors (Figure 1)

    1. Parental Resilience

      Families are able to manage stress and bounce back from challenges.

    2. Knowledge of Child Development and Parenting

      Adults know what to expect as children grow and are able to meet their child's needs at each stage of development.

    3. Social Connections

      Families know there are people who care about them and who they can call on for help.

    4. Concrete Supports in Times of Need

      Families can get the help they need when crises strike: food and shelter, medical and mental health services, social, legal, and educational resources.

    5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children

      Social and emotional development promotes healthy relationships with others. Children with strong relationships, who can regulate their own behavior, express their emotions, and relate to others are at lower risk of maltreatment.

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Management Child Abuse: Identification & Reporting Course Guide.

    To support the professional development of the direct care staff members or family child care providers you oversee, you can access their corresponding Course Guides:

    • Infant & Toddler Child Abuse: Identification & Reporting Course Guide
    • Preschool Child Abuse: Identification & Reporting Course Guide
    • School-Age Child Abuse: Identification & Reporting Course Guide
    • Family Child Care Child Abuse: Identification & Reporting Course Guide

    Explore

    Explore

    This lesson has mentioned your legal and ethical obligation to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect. In this activity, you will explore the professional ethics that guide all of our work including our work around child abuse and neglect.

    Follow the link from the National Association for the Education of Young Children at: https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/Supplement%20PS2011.pdf to find the Code of Ethical Conduct Supplement for Early Childhood Program Administrators. Next, download and print the National After-School Association Code of Ethics, found below. Read it carefully and reflect on your commitments to children, families, colleagues, and the communities.

    Then download the Ethical Dilemmas activity. Read the scenarios and use either of the Codes of Ethical Conduct to reflect upon the questions. Given the nature of ethical dilemmas, there are no suggested responses. Reflect on your own responses.

    Apply

    Apply

    Before helping staff members identify and report child abuse and neglect, you must fully understand what it is. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a fact sheet with a definition and types of child abuse and neglect. Download and print the Fact Sheet as a resource for your program’s professional library.

    You can also download and print a two-page description of the Protective Factors Framework approach to learn more about that important model for your work.

    Glossary

    TermDescription
    Child AbuseAny recent act or failure to act that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm
    Emotional AbuseA pattern of behavior by adults that seriously interferes with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development
    Familial AbuseAbuse or neglect that is perpetrated by the child’s parent, guardian, or family member
    Imminent riskThere is substantial evidence that a child is in immediate danger
    Institutional AbuseAbuse or neglect that occurs by someone outside the home who is responsible for the care or supervision of the child (a teacher, caregiver, coach, priest, etc.)
    Legally requiredLaws concerning mandated reporting vary by state. Mandated reporters can face penalties (jail time and/or fine) for knowingly failing to report suspicions of abuse or neglect. There are also penalties for knowingly making a false report
    Mandated ReporterIndividuals who, in their professional capacities, are required to report suspicions of child maltreatment. All child and youth program staff are mandated reporters
    NeglectFailure by a caregiver to provide needed age-appropriate care despite being financially able to do so or offered financial or other means to do so (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2007)
    Physical AbuseNon-accidental trauma or injury
    Protective FactorsConditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or society that mitigate or eliminate risk and increase the health and well-being of children and families
    Risk FactorsConditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or society that are associated with increased risk of abuse or neglect
    Sexual AbuseThe involvement of a child in any sexual touching, depiction, or activity

    Demonstrate

    Demonstrate
    Assessment

    Q1

    Read the following statements from staff members. Which of the following do you think could be evidence of child abuse or neglect? Choose the best answer.

    Q2

    Which of the following is not an example of child sexual abuse?

    Q3

    After the annual child abuse training, Gabby comes to you visibly upset. She confides in you that the training was very emotional because she was abused as a child. True or false: You should move Gabby to a job without contact with children because she is very likely to commit abuse.

    Q4

    Which of the following is an example of institutional abuse? Choose the best answer.

    Q5

    You overhear the following comments from staff. Which one could be evidence of child neglect?

    References & Resources

    Center for the Study of Social Policy (2020). Strengthening Families: A Protective Factors Framework. https://cssp.org/our-work/projects/protective-factors-framework/

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Violence Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect Factsheet. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/preventingcan.pdf

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012). Penalties for failure to report and false reporting of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.

    Harper Browne, C. (2014). The Strengthening Families Approach and Protective Factors Framework: Branching out and reaching deeper. Washington, D.C.: Center for the Study of Social Policy. https://cssp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Branching-Out-and-Reaching-Deeper.pdf

    Military Family Advocacy Programs. http://www.militaryonesource.mil/phases-military-leadership?content_id=266712

    Seibel, N. L., Britt, D., Gillespie, L. G., & Parlakian, R. (2006). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: Zero to Three: Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012). Child Maltreatment 2011.

    Zero to Three: Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. (2006). The Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/91-the-prevalence-of-child-abuse-and-neglect