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Child Abuse and Neglect

What is Child Abuse?

When a perpetrator intentionally harms a minor physically, psychologically, sexually, or by acts of neglect, the crime is known as child abuse.

Child abuse includes:

• physical abuse
• sexual abuse
• emotional abuse
• neglect (which is the failure to provide a minimum standard of care for a child’s physical and emotional needs.)

Child abuse is seldom a single event. Rather, it occurs with regularity, often increasing in violence. It crosses all boundaries of income, race, ethnicity, and religious faith. A child abuser is usually closely related to the child, such as a parent, step-parent or other caregiver.

In homes where child abuse occurs, fear, instability and confusion replace the love, comfort and nurturing that children need. Abused children live in constant fear of physical harm from a person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence.

The Impact of Child Abuse

Victims of child abuse may feel that they are bad and deserve the abuse.  They usually have poor self-esteem.   In addition to physical injuries that may be the result of abuse, child victims may develop eating disorders or sleep disturbances, including nightmares.  They may develop speech disorders or developmental lags in their motor skills.  Many child victims demonstrate some form of self-destructive behavior.  They may develop physical illness such as asthma, ulcers, allergies, or recurring headaches.  Also, they often experience irrational and persistent fears or hatreds and demonstrate either passive or aggressive behavioral extremes.

Trauma in children can take years to manifest; therefore, it is important that victims of child abuse receive counseling as soon as possible after the abuse is disclosed.

Disabilities and Abuse

Q: How many children in the US are in foster care?

A: In the United States, there are more than half a million children in foster care.

Q: How many children in foster care have a disability?

A: About 1/3.  It is also important to know that more children in the foster care system have disabilities than in the general population. It is estimated that 10-13% of the general population of children has disabilities while 20-60% of children in foster care do.

Q: Should I be worried about my foster child with a disability and abuse?

A: Yes. Children in foster care with disabilities are up to 3 times more likely to have been abused as children without disabilities. Children with mental health and intellectual disabilities are even more at risk, almost 5 times more likely to be victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse.

Q: What do children with disabilities in foster care need?

A: Children in foster care need the same things that all young people need: shelter, nutrition, and love.  But children in foster care also have some extra needs:

  1. Support
  2. Education
  3. Help with transition to adulthood
  4. Help through the systems they exist in (like health care, getting information, court, education, the mental health system and the disability system).

Q: What else should I know?

A: If you have a foster child, the likelihood that they have experienced abuse is VERY high. It is also important to know that abuse can happen within the foster care system. This abuse can occur by foster families, youth workers or other agency staff. If you are a foster family, this might be hard to hear, but it is important to understand.

Content Credit: Kid’s Matter Inc.