Child abuse and other violent crimes are pervasive in the state and in the nation and these crimes affect all segments of society. The statistics and societal implications are such that one must look at areas where there has been failure.
Individuals are often transformed into measurable characteristics, which are used for public policies. If numbers change, society can be considered “improved.” However, there are tensions that exist between a child’s right to protection and a parent’s right to discipline. Child abuse often becomes a blame game with Child Protective Services, law enforcement, mandated reporters, medical staff, educators, social workers and parents. Furthermore, there are divergences with ideas of a romantic concern for the helpless, social Darwinism, the advocacy “crusaders,” or the criticism of the “irresponsible poor,” and the “ignorant immigrants.”
The tension between liberal thought that child abuse is at epidemic proportions with a need for greater government intervention, and the conservative thought that government invades homes under the guise of prevention abuse is just one of the problems. There can be no cure for child abuse when public issues confront passionately held ideological beliefs. Attempts to reduce child maltreatment can contradict with American culture, which values privacy and individualism. Bureaucracies expose private activities and use a model in which medical, legal, and social services all get involved. Cultural values are also expressed by current policies and social structures that send children away from the home to daycare or school at an early age, that create an economy that requires both parents to work, that fail to provide medical care to the young, that fail to protect teenagers from early pregnancy, that fail to educate young parents on parenting, finances, and life skills, and that create a society that does not value teachers or day care providers (evidenced by low salaries). The message through our current structure says children are not valued.
There are fundamental problems in the child welfare system such as:
The child population in Arizona is 1,707,221. In FY 2008, CPS did 29,572 investigations, which is a 17.3% investigation rate. The average response time for all investigations is 70 hours, with an average of 29 investigations per worker.
Reports of abuse are often uninvestigated or under investigated.
Children are wrongly removed from their homes or worse, not removed when necessary.
Children in foster care may be separated from siblings and other family members, have multiple home placements, lack stable school placements, lack appropriate and timely medical care, lack timely and appropriate permanency placement, and lack stable case management.
Child welfare systems are at best, underfunded, understaffed, and beset by serious system-wide problems.
Failing to provide adequate medical, dental, educational or mental health services.
Over medicating children for behavioral control in institutional settings.
In almost 50% of confirmed child abuse cases, no services are provided to the family to prevent re-abuse. Additionally, 40-50% of all children who die from abuse and neglect had previous referrals to agencies mandated by law to protect them.
Law enforcement and Child Protective Services have inefficient systems for investigation due to case load size and other obligations.
Domestic violence investigations often fail to recognize child maltreatment that occurs in 70% of DV cases.
Family/domestic courts often fail to recognize legitimate allegations of child abuse in child custody cases.
The child welfare system can be overwhelming, particularly since traumatic events have occurred in an individual’s life. Often non-offending caregivers have no guidance through a maze of the legal system and social service agencies.
Approximately 40% of all divorces are divorces with children.
There is a professional and general public lack of knowledge and understanding of the larger legal, socioeconomic, developmental, and medical dimensions of child maltreatment.
There are often gaps in services, which undermine the vital continuum of prevention, intervention, and treatment services for abused and neglected children.
While there was a 34 percent increase in the number of reports received by Arizona’s Child Abuse Hot Line, there was a 3.6 percent increase in the number of uninvestigated reports of abuse or neglect from 1996 to 1997.
It is estimated that child abuse and neglect cost society $103.8 billion.
In Arizona alone, $322,184,769 was spent for child welfare services in 2008. However that same year, Arizona spent a mere $72,200 on child abuse and neglect prevention programs.