Child abuse and neglect is serious issue as children are highly vulnerable and do not have means for self-defense or sufficient independence to avoid abusers (CDC, 2012). The prevalence of the problem is rather high (Nies & McEwen, 2013). The United States federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines abuse and neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016, p. 7). In Florida abuse is defined as “any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual abuse, injury, or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired” (“Proceedings relating to children,” n.d., par. 2). Neglect, according to the Florida statutes, “occurs when a child is deprived of or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment or a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired” (“Proceedings relating to children,” n.d., par. 45).
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Among measures of primary prevention, one can name public encouragement of positive parenting. In addition, state or federal agencies for child protection can sponsor educational programs for parents. Above that, public awareness campaigns may be launched to increase abuse and neglect report rates. Nurses could also give away brochures for healthy child upbringing practices. Also, they are legally obliged to report cases of potential abuse.
Secondary prevention measures may include working with high-risk groups such as teen parents, substance abuse treatment group participants. The organization of resource centers for high-risk families could also have a positive influence. Nurses may pay home visits to such families inquiring about the health and wellbeing of children and providing consultations to parents.
Tertiary prevention includes measures to address issues in families that had a history of child abuse and neglect. To amend this problem, mental health counselors could monitor parent-child relationships with high frequency. Above that, home-care nurses can offer help to children with evident mental issues related to child abuse.
Risk Factors for Abuse
Among the main risk factors are long working hours in parents, history of alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence. Unwanted pregnancy may also be a factor influencing the likelihood of abuse or neglect. Poverty can also become the reason a child is deprived of food, water, shelter, etc.
Among emotional issues indicating child abuse or neglect are sleeping problems. Imaginary or real physical condition complaints can also be a symptom. Poor self-esteem or obsessive behavior may as well tell doctors that family may practice abuse or neglect.
Fear or unwillingness to cooperate with one of the parents is a sign of child abuse. Another one is social withdrawal, lack of desire to communicate. Unexplained and frequent emotional outbursts can also signify abuse or neglect.
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Unexplained bruising, cuts, or other physical injuries are vivid signs of child abuse. Physical signs of neglect may include unhealthy skin complexion or symptoms of underfeeding. Uncared appearance may also be a sign of neglect. Unusual bleeding or bruising in the genital area may indicate sexual abuse.
Intervention, Treatment, and Reporting
Every person may report abuse or neglect of a child while retaining anonymity via a hotline. According to Chapters 39 and 415, F.S, no personal details can be disclosed to third parties. Nurses, other healthcare professionals, school personnel and other professionals working with children are legally bonded to report potential cases of abuse in Florida. The data is reported to Abuse Hotline Counselor.
Among resources to help abused or neglected children and families with a history of abuse, there is the Family Resource Center of South Florida that provides interdisciplinary counseling and mental help to the victims and their responsible persons. A family in need of assistance could also request a home-based instruction program for parents from Family Central. Children’s Home Society of Florida provides its collaborative services to a variety of children and families.
Reporting requirements are the same for state and federal levels as the same professional reports are listed in the legal documents. Types of sexual and emotional abuse are detected differently with priority given either to physical or emotional signs. Treatment may either target parents, children, or both. Resources available in Miami, Florida for different abuse types include counseling, medical assistance, physiological guidance, and other services. Signs and symptoms may change with age by developing into obsessive-compulsive disorders or chronic physical issues. The role of the nurse may change depending on the level of prevention. On the first level nurse is not professionally involved but acts rather as a citizen. On further levels, a nurse can participate professionally by offering guidance and performing the assessment. Types of abuse may require nurses to provide either physical treatment or refer patients to a trained family psychologist.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012). Child maltreatment. Web.
Nies, M. A., & McEwen, M. (2013). Community/Public Health Nursing – E-Book: Promoting the Health of Populations. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Proceedings relating to children. (n.d.). Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). The child abuse prevention and treatment act. Web.