By Lexie S.
Child abuse is a large problem in the U.S. with about six children dying each day (National Exchange Club Foundation, 3). These children are dying because the Department of Human Services (DHS) needs to do a better job and create a better system. The DHS takes much too long to get children out of the home or place where the abuse occurs. It can take up to nine days just to get a response saying whether the report of child abuse was accepted. Another problem is lenient punishment for mandatory reporters. Failing to report potential abuse is only a simple misdemeanor. It is also a simple misdemeanor if someone files false claims of child abuse. Both of the preceding crimes should result in stronger punishment. The largest problem facing the DHS is lack of funding. This lack of funding is the main reason given by the DHS as to why they donít get help to the children who need it.
Child abuse is something we need to try to prevent. It causes at least 2,000 children to die each year (National Exchange Club Foundation, 3). Though there isnít one certain thing that causes people to abuse, there are some suspected factors that are usually grouped into four categories. These categories are; intergenerational transmission of violence, social stress, social isolation combined with low community involvement, and family structure. Intergenerational transmission of violence is when kids learn the violent behavior of child abuse from their parents and then grow up and abuse their own children. About 30% of the time this does occur (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 2). Social stress most often occurs within families living in poverty and/or families in negative social situations. Social isolation and low community involvement is when guardians become deprived of support systems because they donít have many friends and not much interaction with people outside of their homes all together. Family structures have a lot to do with children being abused. Common negative family structures, which lead to abuse, are; single parent families, one dominating parent, or when someone in the family has a disability. While abuse does not always occur, the family is at greater risk for child abuse to happen with each of these types of family structure.
Mandatory reporters are required by law to report child abuse. Doctors, nurses, dentists, mental health professionals, social workers, day care workers, teachers, and law enforcement personnel are required in every state to report suspected child abuse. Also, in about eighteen states, anyone who suspects abuse is legally bound to report. Noticing possible child abuse is very important since the child could be seriously injured or killed. But child abuse can be hard to notice. Signs of child abuse that are more easily observed are bruises, welts, burns (cigarette burns, rope burns, etc.), fractures, abrasions, bite marks, loss of hair, speech problems, slow development or growth, ulcers, asthma, severe allergies, hunger, bad hygiene, inappropriate clothing, abandonment, a repeated injury, shunning from peers, bad self-esteem, suicidal attempts, and lack of trust. (Mandatory Reporters Handbook, 1).
The DHS takes too long to just get the child abuse report accepted. Mandatory reporters have to report the suspected child abuse within twenty- four hours and make a written report within forty-eight hours after that. Within twenty-four hours you will be notified that your report has been received. Within five more working days you will be sent the notice of intake decision, which says whether or not your report was accepted or rejected. At this point, it could take months for the DHS representative to check on the accepted report. The time line depends on how many other cases the DHS has at the time. The child could have been injured severely or even killed at that point. The DHS needs to become involved as soon as they can when child abuse is reported.
Failing to report child abuse or wrongly reporting are serious things; however, these are only simple misdemeanors to the DHS. The DHS should try to make the consequences more serious. Many people do not report child abuse because they do not know enough about it or donít want to do the paper work and go through the process. But, what these people donít understand is that many children die from this. If the signs of child abuse are present and mandatory reporters fail to tell the DHS then the consequences should be more harsh. Also, if someone repetitively misreports cases of child abuse they should be more harshly treated because theyíre wasting the DHSís time. The DHS needs to prove that this is more serious and that many deaths and injuries could be prevented. The DHS also needs to make the process of reporting abuse simpler for mandatory reporters.
The DHS is understaffed and underpaid. But, there are many solutions to this problem thereby preventing many cases of child abuse from the beginning. The solution is to fundraise and advertise making the problem more known. If every person in the US gave a couple of dollars, think about how much the DHS could achieve. Many people would be willing to help if they knew more about the DHS and the overwhelming responsibility they have to stop child abuse. People can help with the funding so that more staff is hired and staff is better paid. We can all help the DHS, they just need to publicize the funding problem.
The DHS is trying to help prevent harm to children all over the U.S. They just need to improve their system so that they get children out of an abusive situation more quickly, they create stronger consequences if you fail to report or wrongly report the abuse, and the DHS needs to obtain more funding. We cannot let this problem get any worse. This problem is exponential given that people who are abused are more likely to grow up and negatively affect our society. (TherapistFinder.net Mental Health Journal, 4)