Free «Health Policy: Child Abuse» Essay Sample

Executive Summary

The paper mainly addresses the problem of child abuse with the main focus on the aspect of reporting cases of abuses to the relevant authorities for investigation. The paper looks into current policy reforms that have been put in place to handle the issue of reporting child abuse cases and then develop different policy options that are suitable for solving the stated problem. The literature review provides full background information on the societal effect of child abuse and comprehensive data on the effect of child abuse over the years. In the context of developing relevant policy options, three distinct policy options have been developed as alternatives to the already established policies. The latter are mainly subjected to the aspect of reporting cases of abuse and aim at removing various hurdles that reporters are subjected to while investigating actual or suspected case of abuse. The main macroeconomic factors that have been identified as the main stimulants of the policy reforms include poverty and unemployment rate. The political process necessary for the enactment of the policy options have been identified as an establishment of public petition program, legislative amendments, and lobbying for legislative support to garner votes to pass the policy.

Problem

The problem being addressed in this circumstance is mainly about the issue of child abuse that has for many years affected social, cultural, and psychological aspects of the society while virtually remaining unaddressed. There are several legislative policies both local and federal that have been enacted over time in order to help in curbing this vice. However, the main concern that has often been overlooked is the issue of child abuse reporting. Reporting cases of child abuse is one aspect that requires strong legislative laws if the society is standing any possibility of eradicating child abuse within the society. The concern mainly arises out of the huge number of child abuse cases that often remains unreported or when reported are often screened out on a certain basis that does not have the support of the law. For example, if a reporter of child abuse fails to provide sufficient information such as his identity and the alleged victim’s identity or the identity of the family, then the submitted report often fails to undergo any further investigations. In some cases, it is tough to report a case of a parent abusing his or her child since it will be difficult to substantiate and differentiate between whether the parent was just disciplining the kid or physically abusing the child. Furthermore, it is estimated that in 2010, only an approximate number of 3.3 million of suspected cases of child abuse cases were reported out of a total of 5.9 million children in the whole United States (Wang & Holton, 2007). A good legislative law together with various government interventions should, therefore, be enacted to address this great concern about reporting child abuse and neglecting cases.

Background or Literature Review

In broader context, child abuse can be described as a situation whereby a guardian or a parent causes emotional, physical, and any other injury to a child through failing to act or through acting (Wang & Holton, 2007). Child abuse is a societal problem that has been occurring at an alarming rate in the past few decades. According to the data from The United States of Health and Human Services (2003), there were approximately 87,900 substantiated cases of child abuse in the United States, where approximately 10% of the cases were sexual abuse ones. In most cases, the perpetrators of child abuse such as sexual abusers are juveniles. In the majority of the adult perpetrators of this type of child abuse, the offenders are often reported to be males in their middle age (Fieldman & Crespi, 2002). According to McDaniel (2001), approximately 78% of those engaged in child abuse are people known or close to the victimized child. This fact makes it difficult in the majority of the cases for the child to disclose or report their abuse.

In another aspect, the protection of children against being abused and neglected has often been viewed as the responsibility of the community (AHA, n.d.). Several people in the community want to help families and children but are often unsure how to involve themselves due to the lack of legislative laws that establish fundamental steps that an individual can take in order to get involve. The aspect has led to most states establishing the use of mandated reporters who have been bestowed the powers to report on cases of child abuse that occur within the society. However, several reasons have often led to difficulty in reporting cases of child abuse within certain community. According to Bolen (2003), approximately 38% cases of child abuse remain unreported or are often screened out if reported because of the lack of any law basis. Apart from the lack of common law that cuts across in various states many other reasons for the unreported cases include fear of an individual getting involved in the matter or fear of worsening the situation. Others include causing a negative relationship with the given family perpetrating the vice and the mere belief that the report can be made by someone else.

Policy Options

Certain policy options can be put forward for legislation to help in handling the given concern. In the current environment, it is only the obligation of the mandatory reports that has been established within different states in order to report on cases of child abuse within their status. The mandatory, as based on the state law, includes only people who are involved in the medical field, child care, and other law enforcement spheres. The law should be strengthened to involve all members of the society such as employees of various institutions and volunteers who have received any given information that give them a reason to believe that certain child has been or is being abused in order to have the right to make a report regardless of his/her status as a mandtory reporter. The predicted outcome of this alternative is that there would be a broad spectrum in which cases that would otherwise remain unseen by the mandatory reporters can then be reported to relevant authorities for actions. Furthermore, each will have full responsibility under an established law to report abuse cases within their vicinity without fear of discrimination from the perpetrators as they will be protected by the laws. The main advantage of this policy option is that much time will be saved in reporting cases since the reporter would not undergo much scrutiny while making a report on any abuse case. On the other hand, the option has the disadvantage of being misused by anonymous people who reports non-existent cases, thereby subjecting authorities to futile investigations.

Secondly, a volunteer and employee must be required by the law to act if she or he suspects that a given child is a victim of neglect or abuse. Furthermore, the volunteer or employee should not be required to provide proof of abuse when reporting. He or she must report all the suspected or actual child abuse. In current environment, allegations of child abuse are mainly reported to hotlines that have been designated for the task. The available staff often asks questions and makes the determination on the next step of action and identifies if the reporter has provided sufficient information that makes the case to fall within their jurisdiction. In most cases, the aspect of proof is required from the reporter, and he or she should be able to provide the victim’s identity or the identity of his/her family and the age of the abused child. In case the reporter is unable to provide this information as a proof of abuse, the report is likely to be screened out, and the abuse case will not be handled or investigated. The predicted outcome for this alternative is that each and every individual will feel free to report any observed case of abuse without having to look for the required information concerning the victim’s family and personal life. Various investigative aspects will be left to the relevant authorities. The main advantage of this policy option is that every individual within the greater society will have absolute chance and freedom of reporting any observable case of abuse at any given point without actually having to be familiar with the victim. However, the main disadvantage of the option is that many volunteers or employees might develop fear of reporting such cases, especially when the victim is a member of their family.

The final policy should be on reporting cases after the victim has become an adult. Various child welfare organizations should establish departments that handle cases of adults that were abused when being young followed by investigations to ensure those who perpetrated the act but were never investigated are investigated, and appropriate action was taken against them. The context of current environment gives leeway in terms of abuse cases not to be reported for victims who are now adults unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrator is likely to put other children at risk of abuse or neglect. The predicted outcome for the given policy is that perpetrators are mostly parents or victim’s close relatives who suppress their children or victims from reporting cases in the hope that once the abused children become adults, the cases would be no longer valid and they will walk free in the society without having to face full justice based on their past crimes. The society has many people who could not come up during their childhood period to report cases of abuse they underwent from either their parents or close relatives, and this policy would give them a favorable platform to come up and air their cases. The main benefit of this option is the provision of fair justice to past perpetrators of child abuse within the society. On the other hand, the main demerit for this option is that there are people who might use it for witch hunting by calling authorities and naming people they might not be in good relationships with as perpetrators.

Recommendation

Child abuse is a social problem that has extreme effects on its victims. However, certain recommendations can be forwarded to aid in addressing the problem. Some of these recommendations include the following issues.

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Reducing the Risk Factors in a Given Community with Child Abuse

There are certain risk factors that are often related to communities where the families live. For example, those families that are prone to poverty are often faced with a high level of stress that can undermine the aspect of healthy parenting. Therefore, it is highly recommended that appropriate response should be made to address the economic well-being of a given community so as to influence individual impact necessary for reducing maltreatment incidents.

Public Education on Child Abuse

The key to tackling the issue of child abuse consists in ensuring sufficient reporting to relevant authorities of families that need interventions. The residents from certain communities and available professionals are often the main conduits of abuse information, and they must be educated on how to identify and report on a child that is suspected of being abused.

Increase the Number of Line Officers Awareness towards Identifying Suspicions Injury

Most of the incidents of child abuse end up undetected within the community due to the lack of first respondents identifying conditions, injuries, and suspicious behaviors. The police or relevant authorities involved should, therefore, include the possible assistance of caretakers in trying to explain certain injuries that have been inflicted on a child since this child may be under the influence of fear from the perpetrators in order not to disclose the source of his or her injury. The aspect will ensure the police or given authority obtains firsthand evidence sufficient to initiate investigating into such abuse issue.

There are three distinct policy alternatives that have been mentiioned as critical ones towards addressing this concern of reporting child abuse. However, out of all these three alternatives, the policy option that requires a volunteer and employee to be forced by law to act if she or he suspects that a given child is a victim of neglect or abuse and further not be required to provide proof of abuse when reporting, still stands out as the best alternative to the given problem. Such option probably stands out from the rest due to its potential to allow more cases of child abuse to be reported to relevant authorities for investigations without any hurdles involved. Furthermore, the policy establishes fundamental law that makes it a mandatory obligation for every member of the society to be responsible for reporting actual or suspected cases of child abuse within their vicinity which further forms the main criteria for making the decision on the best alternative. The main benefit of this policy is that it carries goodwill of the majority of the members of society who have felt helpless for a long time when it came to reporting child abuse cases. However, the main cost is possibly within the criteria that would be used to identify that a person has knowingly failed to report a child abuse case, which might make certain quarters oppose the policy.

Macroeconomic Factors

There are certain macroeconomic factors that are likely to stimulate the policy reforms on child abuse. Some of these factors include the following.

Poverty

As a social problem, poverty has been widely considered as the main cause of child abuse and neglect. Various policymakers and researchers have often found out that the majority of children who live in families having limited economic resources are often at greater risk of being abused than the children from higher socioeconomic class. According to the data by NIS-3, a comprehensive study was conducted to compare families that had an annual income of below $15000 to those families whose income were above $30000. The study revealed that child abuse is over 14 times more common in terms of likelyhood to happen in poor families. Furthermore, the girls living in poverty are likely to undergo sexual abuse at earlier stages than their male counterparts. Therefore, an increase in the level of poverty mostly leads to more cases of child maltreatment which is likely to stimulate policy reforms of curbing the increasing vice.

Unemployment

According to various studies conducted, a huge rise in the rate of unemployment in a country is often dangerous to mental and physical health of children. The latter suffer frequently from physical consequences of abuse including death and injury, especially from the direction of their unemployed parents or guardians. Therefore, a rise in the level of unemployment is likely to lead to increased incidents of child abuse, which is likely to stimulate various policy reforms.

Political Process

A civil group demonstration was conducted in 2000 within different states in order to urge various legislators to establish laws that govern reporting of abuse cases. In 2002, there was a great attempt by the legislator of Alaska State to introduce various laws about the aspect of reporting child abuse cases. One of the attempted legislation (Ala. Code § 26-14-8) was to give powers to various departments in order not to release the identity of reporters unless under court orders in case where there is suspicion of a false report. However, the state established a standard legislation of Alaska Stat. §§ 47.17.020; 47.17.023 that indicates that child abuse report must be made when a reporter has enough cause to believe or suspect that a particular child has injury because of the abuse. These two legislative attempts provide a good background for arguing out the given proposal as it lays a foundation for an already established law. The main stakeholders for this policy are the members of the public who has the majority of the power regarding their democratic voices, an aspect best prepared for through creating public awareness. The main lesson to be derived from this initiative in establishing legislation on reporting cases is that the aspect of achieving success in eliminating child abuse in society lies mainly in the number of cases that are reported, investigated, and prosecuted. Furthermore, the only means of achieving the process is to establish laws that give freedom to people in reporting the cases. For the policy to be enacted, a three-step design is necessary. The steps include: public petition, legislative amendment, and legislative vote for it to be passed in the house.

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Public Petition

The step will majorly involve collecting signatures from the public to petition the house into enacting the policy. The main strategy is to involve the past and current victims of abuse into creating awareness for public participation.

Legislative Amendment

The step will involve subjecting the policies to the other legislators for scrutiny and further amendments in areas that need to be changed. The main strategy to be used in this step is lobbying effectively other legislators in order to pay attention to the drafted policy.

Legislative Vote

For the policy to be passed and enacted, it has to undergo a vote on the floor of the legislative assembly. The main strategy is, therefore, to lobby more members from both sides of the house for voting in support of the policy.

Evaluation

The main outcome objective was to address the aspect of reporting cases of child abuse, while the process involves establishing a policy framework that would enable this concern to be part of the corresponding law. The main way of evaluating these aspects in the proposal includes data analysis and comparison of the objective progress and its process. The main goals to be accomplished include creating a policy framework for the problem, legislative lobbying from a legislator, and legislative vote. These three goals are likely to be achieved in an estimated time of one year.

 

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