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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Texas child death story highlights prevention need

A story appearing this week in San Antoni, Texas talks about continuing concern with the effectiveness of child protection to prevent the deaths of children from abuse by caregivers, mainly parents. The importance of the story is really the piece that does not get highlighted in the headlines. It is twofold - the impact of the economic failures in the past several years and the failures to properly fund prevention services.

When we look at the economic crisis that has been prevalent in the world economies, the abuse, neglect and maltreatment of children appears to be one of the consequences. Families most directly hit by the downturn find themselves struggling to put food on the table and provide shelter. These pressures create poverty induced effects on families that can bring child protection into the household. As a society, we need to face the crisis not as a family failure but rather as a failure of society. Too often, the marginalized populations find themselves involved with CPS. Social workers must respond to what goes on in the family, but when will we as a society be willing to address the root causes?

This leads to the second issue which is the underfunding of prevention services. When social policy is driven by the most recent child protection fatality, it is response services that get the funding. Certainly good funding is needed here so that caseloads are not out of control and CPS response times are reasonable. But good social policy is also about preventing problems through things like home care nursing, teen pregnancy supports, domestic violence interventions and so on. These programs help to reduce the need for child protection and will also aid in preserving family units which is the goal of most child protection legislation.

Too often, children are involved in child protection programs because of the pressures in families that arise from larger social issues that society is not addressing.

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