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Child abuse can be defined as any act committed by a parent or caregiver, no matter whether it is an action or a failure to act that causes injury, death, emotional trauma, or risk of harm towards a child (Childhelp, n.d.). Under current laws, a caregiver does not need to have the intent to injure a child, for an act to be considered abuse (Palusci, 2017). Child abuse affects children in all educational, socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, and religious levels, with more than 3 million reports filed involving more than 6 million children each year in the United States (Childhelp, n.d.). Children may suffer from a single form of abuse or a combination of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

According to Childhelp (n.d.), child abuse comes in several forms, including; “maltreatment, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse” (para. 2). Physical abuse consists of any non-accidental injury that is caused to a child by a parent or caregiver (Childhelp, n.d.). Physical abuse can come in the form of hitting, kicking, shoving, biting, hair pulling, whipping, or other action that may cause an injury onto a child. Sexual abuse results when an adult or older child uses a child for sexual purposes, which can include the involvement of a child in a sex act or any act that creates gratification (Childhelp, n.d.). Emotional abuse is any harm resulting in a negative impact on a child’s mental or social development as a result of treatment received from a parent or caregiver (Childhelp, n.d.). When a parent or caregiver fails to provide a child with adequate affection, supervision, protection, or provide for a child’s health and safety, they are placing a child in a neglectful environment (Palusci, 2017).

Under many state laws, each citizen is a mandated reporter; therefore, any individual who suspects that a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect must report the abuse to the proper authorities (Ho, Gross & Bettencourt, 2017). Although the reporting of suspected child abuse is the responsibility of all citizens, there are many states whose laws require individuals who practice certain occupations to do so. According to information provided to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 48 states have mandatory reporting laws that require specified individuals to report child abuse and neglect (2019). These individuals are usually those who frequently have contact with children due to their occupation or profession. These professionals are those staff members in any medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency and are under a legal obligation to report any form of alleged abuse or neglect to the proper authorities (HHS, 2019). While mandatory reporting laws differ from state to state when it comes to child abuse; however, it is important to remember many state laws include neglect as a form of abuse.

Mandated reporting laws can come with both positive and negative consequences. I believe that one drawback to mandated reporting is that it creates a sense of over-reporting. Thus, the number of inaccurate statements increases, wasting resources that are targeted to help remove children from abusive or neglectful situations, placing them in nurturing environments. Through the creation of false reports, individuals are faced with inaccurate accusations, which can negatively impact them for an extended length of time. From a positive standpoint, with an increased number of reports made, there are several substantiated cases confirmed, which removes those children from harmful environments and places them in loving homes. Those who are mandated to report abuse or neglect, are doing just that, they are anonymously reporting suspected abuse not investigating it. Therefore, they are not forced to face those of which they suspected to be abusers.

Several challenges may be faced when interviewing victims of child abuse and neglect. When interviewing minor children, consent is required to be signed by the parent or guardian before the interview process. In many cases, the alleged offender is the parent or guardian, which can make it challenging to obtain written consent to speak to the child. When interviewing victims of abuse, they may feel fearful or intimidated by the abuser; thus, they may be less likely to report the events accurately. The most important aspect is to make the victim feel comfortable. The more comfortable they feel the more likely they are to accurately report the events.

References

Childhelp, (n.d.). The issue of child abuse. Retrieved from http://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse/

United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (2019). What is child abuse and neglect?: Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Child Welfare and Information Gateway. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/whati…

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