What is child abuse? It is the physical or emotional abuse of a child by a parent, guardian, or other person. Reports of child abuse, including sexual abuse, beating, and murder, have climbed in the United States and some authorities believe that the number of cases is largely under reported. Child neglect is sometimes included in legal definitions of child abuse to cover instances of malnutrition, desertion, and inadequate care of a child's safety. When reported, child abuse cases are complicated by inadequate foster care services and a legal system that has trouble accommodating the suggestible nature of children, who are often developmentally unable to distinguish fact from make-believe (Hay, 1996).
In 1993, the United States Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect declared a child protection emergency. Between 1985 and 1993, there was a 50 percent increase in reported cases of child abuse. Three million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States each year. Treatment of the abuser has had only limited success and child protection agencies are overwhelmed (Lewitt, 1997).
Recently, efforts have begun to focus on the primary prevention of child abuse. Primary prevention of child abuse must be implemented on many levels before it can be successful. Prevention plans on the social level include increasing the economic self-sufficiency of families, discouraging corporal punishment and other forms of violence, making health care more accessible and affordable, expanding and improving coordination of social services, improving the identification and treatment of psychological problems, and alcohol and drug abuse, providing more affordable child care and preventing the birth of unwanted children. Prevention plans on the family level include helping parents meet their basic needs, identifying problems of substance abuse and spouse abuse, and educating parents about child behavior, discipline, safety and development. Primary... [continues]
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