Social Services and Child Welfare in New Jersey
The history of social services has its successes of children who as a result of child welfare intervention are removed from the grip of their abusers and find loving and nurturing homes. These are cases few and far between when one weighs them against those children who are moved from one foster care situation or group home to another. Then there are those who are moved into situations of greater detriment, the likes of which we know from Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams, most notably. The severity of these situations frustrates anyone who has taken an oath to protect or to serve a specific population.
For police officers and firefighters this oath is inclusive of the general population; for social workers, however, this oath narrows to children under the age of 18, those who are considered minors in the eyes of the law. Child Protective Services was implemented in the United States in the year 1875, after a young girl was found to be suffering from gross forms of abuse at the hands of her caregiver. Since that time the organization has grown with the various ebbs and flows of a structured system; however, with one alarming aspect, and that is the inability to solve problems of its wards.
In fact the better featured crimes of our lifetime involve children in one way or other. Either they are the direct sufferers of abuse or are, unfortunately, the abstract focus of abuse or loss, as will be discussed throughout the course of this paper. Two such instances of abuse that are discussed within the context of this paper to point out the overload and misinterpretation of our D.Y.F.S. system are Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams. Their stories shocked and riveted our nation as the system designed to respond to the situations of abuses indeed facilitated them in one way or other as a result of overload or by their neglect of the situation or the inability to identify the signs of abuse or, perhaps more frighteningly, all of the above.
These particular cases are well-known and were the catalyst of our time for reform in the D.Y.F.S. The child protective services organization is in dire need of revamping. The subjects previously mentioned are only two wards of their care whose abuses of misfortune have come to light. If Steinberg and Williams suffered these abuses how many more are out there? It was true that as it is now than no single event of child abuse will mark necessary changes to social work services. It is therefore in the hands of those who administrate and who govern our local states to set a protocol that will limit the caseload per social worker and implement a secondary agency that can investigate reports of child abuse/neglect in its stead.
This research paper will address the current standing of the child welfare system in its ability to meet the needs of its wards and will give an in-depth analysis of a prospective to curtail the instances of child abuse that result in child mortality. This research paper will further address the benefits of collaborating with community service organizations in Jersey City, New Jersey, that are staffed by people who are college-educated and can be qualified to address child abuse in homes and who can thereby alleviate some of the caseload presently experienced in child welfare services.
More pointedly, the paper will evaluate aspects of child removal, i.e. what substantiates abuse in the eyes of the law as it applies to child protective services, what roll does substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) play in today’s interventions by child welfare services, what elements of abuse are considered more strongly, which are discounted in what criteria are used to determine what is in the “best interest of the child,” the benefits of a collaboration between social work services and community service organizations and how they can best assist at removing the aspect of child abuse that goes unnoticed, and how it can further assist at addressing substance abuse problems in the home.
All of these issues are extremely significant because they all play a part in the issue of child abuse, especially when it leads to mortality of young children. Child abuse is horribly frightening to those that must go through it, and it is often frightening to caseworkers that deal with these children as well. Because child abuse is not only so dramatic on the child at the time but can lead to violent and inappropriate behaviors in adolescents and adults as well, it is clear that it must be stopped as soon as possible. Assuming that child abuse can be totally obliterated throughout the country, or even in the state of New Jersey, is somewhat unrealistic. However, the current paper will focus on Jersey City, New Jersey, and even though it is unrealistic to assume that child abuse will ever be completely stopped in this city, it is not unrealistic to believe that allowing social organizations to bridge some of the gap that social workers currently have between themselves and these young children will improve the quality of life for many children within this city.
There are many individuals that see child abuse cases and social work problems in the news and they automatically blame neglect or unfeeling attitudes regarding the social workers. This is, however, largely not the case. What is the case is that these social workers are so overloaded and overworked with the cases that they must deal with that they often do not find as much time as they need to take care of the children that they are sworn to watch over. Because of this, they clearly need assistance from other groups within the community, and one of the ways that they can get this assistance is through having social organizations that are willing to help them.
While not all social organizations may be willing to do this, there are many that would be happy to help these social service workers in any way possible because they understand how much pain these children can end up going through. Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams will be discussed here because their cases are so extraordinary and painful that it is important to understand what kinds of abuse and neglect can sometimes slip through the cracks. From there the paper will move on to the statement of the specific problem that will be addressed here, as well as the specific involvement had by the researcher, any problems that are foreseen in conducting the study, and a review of literature on the subject of abuse and neglect.
Not all of this literature may be specific to Jersey City, New Jersey, but it will all relate to child abuse and neglect across the country, and much of it will relate to the New Jersey area in some way. The suspected causes of this abuse and neglect, as well as what type of improvement will be seen if the problem is solved, will also be discussed, and the conclusion will then sum up everything that has been looked at in the paper for ease of understanding. Following that will be a bibliographical list of works that were cited in the paper, as well as works that were not specifically cited but were consulted as the paper was being created. First, however, it is important to look at the two specific cases of Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams.
The Case of Lisa Steinberg
In the 1980’s the child abuse case of Lisa Steinberg shocked the nation as her story of endless physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive parents Hedda Nussbaum and attorney Joel Steinberg unfolded. Hedda Nussbaum and attorney Joe Steinberg adopted Lisa as an infant. To the dismay of journalists, as well as laypersons, this child suffered horrible abuse and fear unimaginable in her short life. Also mentioned in the case of Lisa was the substance abuse of Joel Steinberg and how he prostituted this young child to adult men in exchange for drugs as Nussbaum restrained the child (Gado, 2004). As if that were not substantially horrifying, what shocked the country more was that her abuse had been reported repeatedly to child welfare services (Gado, 2004).
When officers arrived on the scene they found that Lisa was barely breathing and not responding to the efforts that they made to revive her (Gado, 2004). They did not know at the time, but found out later, that Lisa’s brain injuries and other damage at the hands of her adoptive parents were so severe that she had already slipped into a fatal coma (Gado, 2004). She was six years old at that time. Officers that responded to the call found another baby in a back room, filthy and soaked with urine, who was tied to a playpen by a rope around his waist (Gado, 2004).
The adoptive mother had also suffered much at the hands of the adoptive father, as she had broken ribs, ulcerated legs, and many other cuts and bruises (Gado, 2004). Naturally, the baby was removed from the home but this was not enough to save Lisa. As unfortunate as this incident was, it is not as uncommon as many people would like to believe. There are many children in this country and even in the state of New Jersey that suffer greatly at the hands of parents and adoptive parents, as well as other caregivers. Not that many of them die, or they would make the news more often, but there is still enough pain and suffering that none of these young children should have to go through.
This is very tragic for these individuals to have to deal with this kind of pain and it is not just something that they feel when they are young. It follows them throughout their lives and can cause them problems when they are much older. Lisa Steinberg did not survive her abuse, but had she lived it is quite likely that emotional and developmental problems would have followed her all her life because of the anguish that she suffered. The review of the literature further on in this paper will help to reinforce this observation.
The Case of Faheem Williams
Most recently publicized is the macabre incident in Newark, New Jersey, involving Faheem Williams. Williams was a young boy of seven whose mummified body was discovered by police in the home where he lived and was abuse and tortured to death. Faheem’s story ended in much the same way as young Lisa’s did, who was one year his senior, but as in Lisa’s situation there were other children in the home who somehow survived the abuse. Faheem left two brothers and Lisa left an adopted sibling she knew all too briefly. However, just as Lisa’s abuse had been recorded by child welfare services, as was Faheem’s, the stories are of particular relevance in evaluating needed changes to social work services.
These professionals whose watchful eyes are blinded by excessive caseloads in ever-increasing numbers have led haplessly to these incidents which bring great scrutiny to the reality of an increasingly desperate situation. Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams went grossly unattended and the severity of abuse, while incomprehensible to those of us made painfully and shockingly aware of their torture, went unreported, but worse, unnoticed by those professionals assigned to investigate allegations of the abuse.
Faheem’s natural mother had to serve a jail sentence and she asked her cousin, Sherry Murphy, to take care of her children while she was gone (Send, 2004). During the time that the cousin was taking care of the three children, Faheem was badly starved and punched in the stomach while he was wrestling with another boy (Send, 2004). Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and therefore they wrapped his remains in garbage bags and hid him in a closet (Send, 2004). The two other children they placed in the basement behind a locked door and they were only found by Sherry Murphy’s boyfriend at a later date when he was looking for something else (Send, 2004). The two other children, then four and seven, were badly starved but still alive and they did physically recover from the incident (Send, 2004).
The boy told others that he had another brother named Faheem that he had not seen for quite some time (Send, 2004). This begin the investigation that eventually led to the discovery of Faheem’s remains. Sherry Murphy, the caregiver, pleaded innocent to charges of homicide (Send, 2004). Even though Faheem’s mother was in jail on a charge of child endangerment, she was not the one who had killed her son and Sherry Murphy was eventually found to be the one at fault (Send, 2004). When Faheem’s mother had gotten out of jail the other individuals had moved and she was not able to even locate her children, or this abuse and death could have possibly been prevented.
Tragically, this occurred in 2003, and the child abuse investigations of this particular family had been ongoing since 1992. However, no one had felt the need to remove these children from the home or had not realized the severity of the abuse that was taking place there, and this was a partial reason for Faheem Williams’s death. This is painful for many that work in this area of children’s services, because they feel that there was more that they could have done, and the surrounding community also held this opinion.
Statement of the Problem
The specific problem statement/research question for this paper is as follows: how can community services ease the case overload of child welfare services to meet the stability needs of children in Jersey City, New Jersey, who suffer abuse and neglect in the home. Jersey City, New Jersey, has an increasing problem of child neglect, as well as physical and emotional abuse in the residence. These problems are snowballing out of control, resulting in child mortality and emotional/developmental trauma which is causal to violent criminal activity and substance abuse in adolescent years as children act out in ways that are destructive to themselves and others due to an inability to cope and an absence of self-esteem.
What this paper will analyze is how community service organizations in Jersey City, New Jersey can bridge the gaps in child welfare services which leave children in abusive or neglectful circumstances either due to system overload or an inability to discern certain behavioral identifiers such as lack of interest in school, and depression. These are only two of the many symptoms that, if identified early, can give researchers and others the ability to intervene and supply and guidance, reassurance, and stability to a child’s life. Such interventions can also possibly prevent more eminent problems in the future such as criminal activity in these children as adolescents and in adulthood that lead to incarceration, substance abuse, drug-related arrests, disproportionate rates of teenage pregnancy in African-American and Latino-American girls, and the continued cycle of abuse and neglect that will inevitably be reenacted on the next generation of children.
It is crucial that the problems that these individuals are faced with when they are abused as children are addressed early. Not only so that cases like Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams are avoided, but also so that the abuse and neglect does not continue to another generation. This is, of course, a generalization. Not all individuals that are abused as children abuse their children when they get older. The same is true of those who are treated well as children, as they sometimes do abuse their children when they get older and become parents themselves. However, abuse and neglect generally follow a pattern and those that are abused as children were more likely to abuse their children as well when they become parents.
This is unfortunate and painful for many of these children and also for the parents because they know what they are doing is wrong but are not aware of how to stop it. These individuals need help, and this is another role that social services and community organizations can play. However, the main focus here is on getting children that are abused and neglected out of their homes and into care where they will be treated well and learn what it is to treat others well at the same time. These children can then hopefully avoid many of the problems that they would otherwise face in adolescence and adulthood such as substance abuse, prostitution, violence, jail time, and many other painful issues that are concerns for those that want to help these children.
However, it is becoming clear that social services or child welfare services cannot do this alone. It is not that these individuals are not trying, and it is not a lack of compassion on the part of those that work for any type of child welfare services in New Jersey. Instead, it is simply an overwhelming load of cases that is so excessive that the workers cannot always keep up with what it is they should be doing. New Jersey is not the only place that has this problem.
Not that long ago, there was a case in Florida of a girl named Rilya Wilson. She had been missing for some time before workers for the department of children and families in that state realized that she was gone and so far she has never been found. The odds of her being found alive get smaller and smaller every day and there were large shakeups at the department of children and families when this took place because many of the workers were blamed. It turned out that the worker that was supposed to be checking on the family quite frequently had not checked on them in months and the worker was fired, as well as her immediate supervisor.
However, despite the fact that it was clearly wrong for the worker not to do her job, the excessive caseloads that social services and other community services carry throughout the country are now being noticed and reforms are taking place. This is why it is the perfect time for Jersey City, New Jersey to mesh their social services/welfare department with other service organizations in the community that are willing to help these children and protect them from the harm that they may be facing.
When this is done there will be many children that will live much longer and happier lives and will no longer suffer so much pain and degradation at the hands of parents, adoptive parents, and other caregivers. This will help these children, and the generations of children that come after them, by working to break the cycle of abuse and neglect that seems to be so prevalent, not just in Jersey City, New Jersey, but across the country as well.
The researcher has been employed at an organization that is designed to meet the needs of the community at large. This organization has a forty-year work history in the Jersey City community and struggles to close the gaps in services. Observations in the researcher’s treatment facilities have revealed trends and certain behaviors exhibited by people who ultimately lose their children to social services because of drug abuse or incarceration.
Horizon Health Center is working on a preemptive program. The program focuses on counseling for people exhibiting those traits so that they are able to not just compartmentalize certain realities of their lives but also so that they will allow themselves to heal and will not pass those influences on to their children. Hopefully, this will allow them to raise their children in an environment that is healthy. Removing children from homes where they are being treated inappropriately, abused, and neglected, is extremely important and it is something that should be done as soon as possible.
The researchers strongly believes that individuals that are placed in foster care or other types of care after abuse will recover if they are treated well and shown the lack of pain and suffering that they have come to expect as being normal behavior. Once these children realize that not everyone is out to treat them cruelly and not every mistake that they make will result in beatings or other pain, they will be much more likely to open up and become what is considered normal by society’s standards. This does not happen for all children, as some of them have simply been through too much abuse and neglect to ever feel right again.
However, when children are removed from an abusive home as early as possible and are treated well after that the odds of them improving and doing well in the future are much more likely. It is important here, as well, to briefly address the idea of the preemptive program that is being created by Horizon Health Center. This program is designed to help individuals to avoid passing these abusive and neglectful traits on to their children. Naturally, this will involve individuals that have been abused or neglected as children, or have been mistreated in some way, and therefore may pass these ideas and beliefs about parenting and child raising along when they become parents.
Helping these individuals is just as significant as helping children who are already abused and neglected, as helping those that may abused their children in the future to avoid this type of behavior will result in a generation of happier and healthier children in Jersey City, New Jersey, and this will mean that their will be less children that will be abused and have to be removed from homes. This is an important first step toward eventually eliminating child abuse in Jersey City, New Jersey and across the country as well.
Anticipated Problems in Conducting the Study
With any study that is conducted there is always the potential for problems. Conducting studies such as these are often somewhat difficult because many individuals are reluctant to talk about child abuse and other types of pain. This is similar to individuals that have been raped or otherwise mistreated and somehow have convinced themselves that it was their fault. A child who is abused is never at fault. Even if a child acts out or acts inappropriately towards a parent, abuse is not the answer. It is important for individuals to remember that punishing a child for something done wrong and abusing a child is not the same thing.
There are some that believe that spanking a child is abuse, for example. This depends largely on what the child is hit with, how hard, where, and how many times. In general, this researcher does not believe spanking or other forms a physical punishment to be child abuse when they are done in moderation as a punishment and not as some type of everyday thing for minor infractions. The severity of the punishment should fit the severity of the offense, but should never, ever, escalate to anything that could be considered abusive.
Parents that leave marks and bruises on their children, or parents that break ribs or require emergency treatment for their children because of something that they have deliberately done, are abusing their children and must be stopped. Getting individuals that are abusive and have been found out to talk about this issue is often very difficult and getting individuals that have been abused as children to talk about this issue is often also very difficult. Conducting studies of this type requires a great deal of training and a very time-consuming interview process. However, looking at the review of the literature and basic statistics that come from the New Jersey area is a much more acceptable way of reviewing this type of issue and conducting a study on it.
There are still some difficulties with conducting this type of study because only so much information is published regarding the Jersey City, New Jersey area. However, where a review of literature is concerned some of it can be expanded to look at the New Jersey area in general, and some of it can be expanded further to look at the entire United States. While not all of this information will generalize back to Jersey City, New Jersey, it does give readers an idea of what exactly is going on in the country and whether the problems that are faced in Jersey City, New Jersey are realistic in terms of what is being seen across the rest of the country.
This is important to look at an order to help determine whether Jersey City, New Jersey has a specific problem with child abuse or whether the child abuse cases that are seen in that area are comparative with what is seen throughout the rest of the country. The researcher believes that Jersey City, New Jersey has more of a problem with child abuse and neglect then some other areas of the country, but is not convinced that Jersey City is worse than many other areas where children are mistreated. Many think of poverty and racial issues when abuse is discussed, but this is also not the case, as many that are abusive are Caucasian and not living on welfare.
Review of the Literature
Reviewing literature on this issue is extremely important because there are so many children across the country that are mistreated and abused every year. Even in New Jersey, and specifically in the city of Jersey City, there are children that are killed at the hands of caregivers and other children that are abused and mistreated to the point that their adolescent and adult lives are painful and violent. This can also cause harm to others because these individuals lash out at the families that they create when they grow up and they often commit crimes or are involved in drug use.
The only way to correct this is to catch these children at an early age and remove them from the abusive homes that they find themselves in. Definitions of child abuse can vary based on state statutes and other understandings (Shull, 1999). In other words, not all states have the same idea of what constitutes child abuse and neglect. Because of this, intervening in families is often difficult and social service individuals can quite easily wish to do something that they are not able to do when it comes to protecting children. Historical context is also important because the definitions and opinions of child abuse have also changed somewhat throughout the years.
For example, in Lancaster PA a mother was criminally charged because her 13-year-old daughter was locked in a closet without food or water, with a bucket for a bathroom, and naked, for 17 hours (Olsen, 1996). Many would believe that this is child abuse, but the mother was acquitted of all charges (Olsen, 1996). The community was outraged and the police chief, who did not agree with the verdict, indicated that the verdict in this case was misguided and should not have anything to do with fulfilling the obligation that others have to protect children from abuse and neglect (Olsen, 1996).
In another story, one coming from Oregon, a mother repeatedly punished her daughter very strangely, such as requiring her to eat hot peppers if she told a lie (Taylor & Hoover, 1996). She also chained her 13-year-old daughter for two days to a tree and then took her long ponytail and cut it off with a hunting knife (Taylor & Hoover, 1996). She was prosecuted but only because she had slapped her daughter while she was tying her to the tree (Taylor & Hoover, 1996). Apparently the slap was abusive but tying the child to the tree was not.
As can be seen just from these two examples from different states, child abuse and neglect is often looked at very differently. They come from different ends of the country but both of them talk about psychological or emotional child abuse as well as the physical pain these children endured. In other words, what the mother’s did to their children was mean but it was not physically dangerous, and the slap that the one mother gave her daughter was the only reason that she was prosecuted for her crime.
Instead, it was cruel in a way that deals more with psychological feelings and emotions (Shull, 1999). Child abuse of all types should naturally be unacceptable and extreme cases of starvation, broken ribs, and even death are not the only types of crimes that should be published. It has been estimated that, in 1993, 532,200 children in the country suffered abuse (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). Three out of every 1000 children suffered harm that was severe (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). Physical or sexual abuse was a concern, but emotional abuse actually rose at a much more rapid rate.
Determining what emotional abuse really means is very difficult because it does not leave the same types of marks and scars that physical abuse does (O’hagan, 1993). Definitions can vary from state to state and not everyone completely shares the opinions of what is abusive when it comes to children. Social workers often have to investigate so many cases of physical abuse that investigating cases of emotional or psychological abuse sometimes get placed on the back burner or get shuffled around when it comes to who will be dealing with it (O’hagan, 1993).
It is often contextual and subjective, as opposed to physical abuse, which is much more obvious (O’hagan, 1993). Social workers have a lot of discretion when it comes to this but there are many social workers that also have been instructed not to try to remove children that have been suffering psychological and emotional abuse, even if it is severe, because this type of abuse is extremely hard to prove (O’hagan, 1993). In other words, even if the social worker took a case to court it would be quite likely that the individual accused of the abuse would be acquitted because there was no specific proof of what was said or done. Some parents believe that they are perfectly acceptable in treating their child any way they like as long as they do not hit them and this is a misguided opinion that has taken place across the country (Shull, 1999).
Many victims of abuse do not understand exactly what it is that they need to do to try to get away from this abuse and many children are also do not realize that they are being abused because they are too young to completely understand what it is that is taking place (Shull, 1999). This is tragic and painful because these children clearly need to have some guidance, but they are not receiving it because they are not able to speak up to indicate that they are being abused. Some of these children are not seen in the community very often and when this is the case it is much harder for individuals that might notice abuse to detect it, simply because the children are not seen enough to realize what is happening to them (Shull, 1999).
This is less of a problem with children that are school age, as they are more likely to be noticed by peers and by teachers (Shull, 1999). In New Jersey, however, there is a statute set aside to define what abuse means when it comes to children (Shull, 1999). It is very rare, as it appears to be the only state statute that actually attempts to place a definition on child abuse that can be utilized by social workers and others. For interest of understanding what it has to say, the statute is reproduced here.
Abuse of a child shall consist in any of the following acts: (a)
[abandonment];(b) [dangerous or otherwise illegal child labor]; (c)
employing or permitting a child to be employed [in a morally corrupting or exploitative occupation]; (d) the habitual use by the parent…. In the hearing of such child, of profane, indecent or obscene language; (e)
[allowing the child to be witness to the parent’s actions that might threaten the child’s moral development or “debauch” the child]; (f)
[permitting others to do the same]; (g) using excessive physical restraint on the child under circumstances which do not indicate that the child’s behavior is harmful to himself, others or property; or (h) [social isolation of a child by a child welfare institution]….
Cruelty to a child shall consist in any of the following acts: (a)
inflicting unnecessarily severe corporal punishment …; (b) inflicting upon a child unnecessary suffering or pain, either mental or physical; (c)
habitually tormenting, vexing or afflicting a child; … (e) or exposing a child to unnecessary hardship, fatigue or mental or physical strains that may tend to injure the health or physical or moral well-being of such child (N.J. STAT, 1993).
As can be seen, it is very difficult to define what child abuse actually is. New Jersey is trying, however, by statutes such as the one listed above (Shull, 1999). Being the only one of its type, it is difficult to compare this statute with other states. Missouri, for example, also has a statute regarding emotional abuse but it is ill-defined and difficult to understand (Shull, 1999). There are also states that have strict definitions, and some of them that have loose definitions, of what injury means, but these are also not as specific as the New Jersey statute (Shull, 1999).
This statute applies to Jersey City and to all other areas in the state of New Jersey. This is important and significant because this statute helps social workers and other social organizations that wish to help with child abuse and neglect have strict and specific guidelines with which they can attempt to have parents and other caregivers prosecuted (Shull, 1999). The idea of doing this should not be underestimated because it gives individuals much clearer guidelines than they have in many other states when it comes to abuse and neglect cases. It will be difficult, in the future, to adjust statutes and opinions to include emotional abuse more strongly (Shull, 1999).
What is considered emotionally abusive by one individual may not be considered so by another and pinning down the language in a statute is becoming increasingly difficult (Shull, 1999). However, it is important that social workers and any others that wish to involve themselves in social organizations and attempt to work with child welfare departments to protect children understand what abuse really means and work within the guidelines of the statutes to help children that are abused to escape from these types of households.
Based on the analysis of the problem, the researcher believes that the problem stems from social disease in the community of Jersey City. Previous crime waves have seen an upsurge in the number of substance addicts and have repelled common courtesy. If individuals can reconnect these adolescents to a community service and allow them to see the good that remains there, as well as inspire them to work with a community towards more constructive ends, it is possible that social services can be assisted in closing the gaps and healing the lives of these individuals by giving them the strong social ties that they have lacked.
This social disease is not something that only belongs to Jersey City, New Jersey. The researcher does not mean to imply that only this particular community has some type of problem that must be adjusted. Unfortunately, this problem is one that plagues almost all communities across the country and therefore should be addressed. It is hoped that studies such as this that address one specific area of the country will be looked at by others in other parts of the country and perhaps some of the information collected here can be utilized to help other communities throughout the United States with the child abuse and neglect problems that they may be facing.
It is also possible that the idea of fusing the welfare system, or the child protective services system, with other social organizations that are designed to help, will catch on so well in Jersey City, New Jersey that it will be generalized out to other areas of the country that wish to try this same system and determine if it works for them. If it does it would mean that young children across the country could be made safer based on more individuals that are trained and willing to help protect these individuals. Young children really cannot protect themselves from this type of abuse and they rely on parents and other caregivers to take care of them and keep them safe.
Children left on their own cannot survive long and many of these children deal with starvation, fear, filth, disease, and countless other problems at the hands of abusive and neglectful parents and caregivers. Whether the cause of this is a lack of caring by the parents is difficult to say. One is left to wonder that, if the parents do not care about the child, why they simply do not give the child up for adoption to individuals that would be able to raise the child in a safe and protective environment.
Perhaps these parents do not realize the pain that they are causing to their children, perhaps they do not want to be ‘found out,’ or perhaps they know no other way, since they were often abused themselves. Whatever the reason, the children must be removed from homes like these, and they must be helped to understand that parents that care for their children do not treat them that way, so that they will not treat their children that way when they grow up and have families of their own.
Improvement if the Problem is Solved
Community organizations can assist social services by reconnecting these troubled youths to the community. If they are able to recognize well-intentioned people as a helping hand and a force in the community, they can take on a positive role in the community as well. That will assist social services in a great capacity. In social services, children remain as wards of the state until they are 18 years old or until they run away and remain on the streets where they inevitably fall into drug dealing, substance abuse, or survival sex workers such as prostitutes.
This is a huge problem, and this is truly the issue at hand. These adolescents do not have a foundation in the community and therefore this is just one more thing for them to try to survive. If the problem of the gap between social services and these adolescents can be solved then the situation will improve for all of these young individuals and for those that come after them as well. The researcher’s organization will benefit in many ways, but the most important benefit will be the feeling of peace and comfort that the workers in the organization will receive in knowing that they have helped save many of these children from abuse and have quite likely saved many lives as well.
Improving the lives of these children is the most important issue that is considered here. All of these children deserve the same comfort and happiness that other children receive out of their childhood and if they cannot get it from the caregivers that they have now they should be removed from the home and placed in a home where they will receive everything that they need. Often, it is difficult for social services to find all of these children and this is why having other social organizations work with them would help so many more children and improve more lives at a much more rapid rate.
Naturally, there are some logistical problems with having other services work with the child welfare department, but these can likely be overcome through good communication and a clear understanding of the objective at hand. All of those who truly wish to help children to be safe and have happy home lives will be willing to work with others to reach this end, since the goal of all of those that work with children is to see that they are safe and happy, and that they learn what they need to be responsible adults in the future.
As can be seen from the above discussion, the cases of Lisa Steinberg and Faheem Williams, and the literature review, there is a great deal that still needs to be done with child protection and welfare in Jersey City, in the state of New Jersey, and across the country. This is something that will not happen overnight and it is not something that one person or organization can accomplish. It is for this reason that all individuals that wish to help children have safe and happy lives must work together to insure that this is the case.
Individuals who believe that children are being abused or neglected should report these incidents to their local authorities so that these children can be protected. When child welfare departments agree to work with other social organizations that have been trained to deal with abuse and neglect there will be many more individuals available that can take these kind of calls and help these children before tragedy strikes. Even though many children survive their abusers, and some go on to lead very happy and productive lives, there are children that die at the hands of their caregivers and there are children whose adolescent and adult lives are affected very strongly by the way they were treated when they were young.
This places a burden on these children and also places a further burden on society in the form of rehabilitation programs and juvenile correction centers, as well as adult jails. This is a high cost to society and a high cost to these children as well and it is something that can be avoided through care and consideration when it comes to finding these children at an early age and removing them from homes where they are being mistreated, abused, or neglected. This is sometimes easier said than done, but it is not impossible to help a much larger number of children than are being helped through the current system.
There is also the consideration of future research, since there is more that needs to be studied when it comes to this issue. While the issue of what is going on with child abuse in the country today, and the issue of what has been happening in Jersey City specifically, has been looked at here, there is much more that could be examined. Statistics and information from all 50 states would be important, as would looking at rates of abuse in small towns as opposed to large cities, to see if the population affects this issue. Money, racial issues, cultural issues, and countless other concerns can also affect the problem of child abuse, and until they are all examined there will not be a completely clear picture of what is happening and what needs to be done to correct it so that these children can be kept safe.
Having community organizations such as the Horizon Health Center that want to help is also an important step. It is quite likely that many of these child welfare workers were not aware that they could get any help elsewhere, or that anyone else had any kind of a desire to help them out, and therefore were just doing the best that they could on their own. This was commendable, but they really should have asked for help long ago, when they realized that they could not investigate everything that they needed to and that they were neglecting some of their duties.
Children are the future of this country, and since they often cannot protect themselves, adults must protect them and keep them safe from harm. When adults, such as parents and other caregivers, fail in this task, it becomes the responsibility of all right-thinking adults in the community to step in and ensure that these children are not mistreated, that they have enough to eat, and that they are given love and encouragement.
This is often difficult, and many people do not want to get involved in the lives of others to that degree, but the raising of children is an important and valuable responsibility that should not be taken lightly. If those that have the children are not taking care of them, social services should employ all of the trained help that it can find to ensure the safety of these children and make sure that they are never mistreated like that again.
Gado, M. (2004). A child not breathing: the killing of Lisa Steinberg. Court TV’s Crime Library. Retrieved 26 November, 2004, from http://www.crime library.com/notorious_murders/family/lisa_steinberg/1.html
N.J. STAT. ANN. [sections] 9:6-1 (West 1993 & Supp. 1998).
O’hagan, K. (1993). Emotional and psychological abuse of children.
Olsen, A.O. (17 June, 1996). Verdict in Abuse Case Threatens Safety of Children. Lancaster New Era: A14.
Sedlak, A.J. & Broadhurst, D.D. (1996). U.S. DEP’T OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVS., THIRD NATIONAL INCIDENCE STUDY OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT 2-15.
Send them an angel (2004). Retrieved 18 November, 2004, from http://www. angelizdsplace.com/child21.htm
Shull, J.R. (1999). Emotional and psychological child abuse: notes on discourse, history, and change. Stanford Law Review.
Taylor, K. & Hoover, E. (22 September, 1996). Emotional Abuse is Hardest to Fight. Portland Oregonian: A1.
Child abuse in New Jersey. CBS News. Retrieved April 3, 2003, from http://www .cbsnews.com
Human Services Research Institute. Retrieved April 5, 2004, from http://www. hsri.org.
Johnson-Reid, M. (February 1, 2002). After a child abuse report: early adolescence in the welfare system.
Jones, R.L., & Kaufman, L. (April 15, 2003). New Jersey shows fairness of child welfare system. New York Times.
Morris, P., Bloom, D., Kemple, J., & Hendra, R. (May 1, 2003). The effects of a time limited welfare program on children.
National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency — NJ Funding Addiction Agency moves to help propel states reform of D.Y.F.S. Retrieved April 5, 2004, from http://www.NCADD-nj.com
North American Resource Center for Child Welfare.
Office of Community Services. Retrieved April 5, 2004, from http://ACF.HHS .GOV/PROGRAMS/OCS.
Peoria, P.J., Whittaker, K., Maluccio, A.N., Barth, R.P., & Plotnick, R.D. The Child Welfare Challenge.
What’s wrong with D.Y.F.S. Retrieved April 3, 2004, from http://www.NJ.com
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