Child Abuse and Neglect: The School's Response

Article excerpt

CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT: THE SCHOOL'S RESPONSE CONNIE BURROWS HORTON AND TRACY K. CRUISE GUILFORD PREss, NEW YORK, NY 2001 $30.00 ISBN: 1-57230-673-4

Every year in the United States children of all ages are exposed to maltreatment that may include neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or abuse that may be physical, sexual, emotional in nature. Horton and Cruise detail these various forms of child maltreatment, their respective indicators, and the complex issues surrounding the reporting and prevention of abuse and neglect by school personnel.

This well-researched text has much information within its eight concise chapters. Beginning with an overview of neglect and abuse, including definitions, prevalence, risk factors, and indicators of each, it moves into the reporting of suspected maltreatment and making referrals. The last three chapters detail creating intervention programs, working with parents, developing in-service programs, and how educators, especially mental health workers, can learn to counteract the stressors associated with working with maltreated children. Administrators and teachers located in those districts where school-- based mental health services are limited may find chapters 1 through 3, 6, and 7 most useful.

What are the differences between emotional abuse and emotional neglect? Is exposure to domestic violence considered abuse? How under reported are the various forms of abuse? Through brief case studies and much data, the authors tackle these questions and others in chapter 1. Additionally, they discuss the risk factors for child maltreatment, bringing to light how the characteristics of the children, abusers' histories, poverty, and single-parent homes influence the prevalence of abuse and neglect.

Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the identification and reporting of suspected child maltreatment. Information in these three chapters may cause readers to reflect upon their own experiences. Were they always aware of the indicators of abuse or neglect? Were there times that they did not report suspected child abuse or neglect? When situations did arise, how did they respond to the child? How did others respond?

When maltreatment is suspected, educators are legally bound to report it. What is well documented in this text is that they do not always do so. According to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (1998), "fears may have a more subtle influence, as school professionals simply do not allow themselves to detect or suspect abuse. They may do this by not looking closely enough, not asking questions, or taking the 'I see nothing' approach" (p. 64). While mandated to report, educators may not as they (a) fear hostile caregivers, (b) believe they have inadequate information, (c) sense that their administrators will interfere with the reporting, (d) distrust child protective services, or (e) are concerned that they will make the situation even worse for the child. The authors suggest that administrators can counteract these fears by developing a collaborative relationship with the local child protective services, provide needed information and support through in-services, and detail well-defined procedures that focus on the children's safety and welfare.

When educators act on suspicions or students' disclosures, they often interview children before calling child protective services. The authors describe how such interviews should take place, including the need to provide the child with a private, comfortable setting, the use of appropriate questions, and conveying to the child what he or she can expect next. They suggest that educators not use multiple interviews as an attempt to determine if child protective services should be contacted. According to Horton and Cruise, ....school professionals are reminded that they need not, and must not, try to function in the role of child abuse investigator" (p. 47).

Chapters 4 through 6 examine the multifaceted roles of school psychologists when referring or working with abused or neglected children. …