Child Abuse Preventative and Treatment Act White Paper

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12.09.2022
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CAPTA is a federal program for the United States of America aimed at ensuring the well-being of children as they frequently become the victims of violence. Social institutions are the first instance that interacts with the family and the child abused. However, the prevention and solution of the problem of violence against children are impossible without close cooperation with the systems of courts and public health, law enforcement agencies, and psychiatric organizations. All states should adhere to the principles of CAPTA, which provide a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safety of children. However, there is also a goal to consider solutions that, at the level of federal law, will be more effective in protecting such children. Some improvements in the child welfare system of West Virginia are particularly important.

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Child Abuse Preventative and Treatment Act White Paper

Introduction

Child abuse is a global problem with significant life-long consequences mainly related to mental, emotional, and physical health. The Child Abuse Preventative and Treatment Act (CAPTA) protects the rights of the child and is designed to prevent and detect violence as well as assist children physically and psychologically in its aftermath. In addition, it requires the states to comply with all its regulations. However, to a greater degree, the strategies of the Act in relation to the protection of children do not envisage the interaction of various instances that should be involved in solving the problems associated with this issue. Therefore, some actions should be considered to achieve the best results in the welfare of children. Suggestions to solve the problem will enable the states to better adopt the CAPTA policy and do everything possible to protect children from violence. Recommendations can be made on the example of West Virginia, which despite the effectiveness of the strategy for children’s well-being, still requires consideration of some actions that can improve its results.

CAPTA Policy

CAPTA is one of the key legislations that supports the rights of the states to act on behalf of children when their parents are unable or unwilling to be responsible for their well-being. Its primary purpose is to ensure that the states are well-financed in order to be able to deal with the issue of violence against children by implementing programs and other relevant activities (US Department of Health and Human Services). These activities should entail prevention services that would stop the violence against children before it occurs, evaluation and subsequent investigation of the situation if abuse or neglect are proven, and provision of physical and psychological treatment. Therefore, CAPTA presupposes the proper financing of the states by the federal government to enable them to address the issue in the most effective ways (US Department of Health and Human Services). For the most part, the responsibility is placed on social organizations for the protection and well-being of children. However, other institutions that are relevant to this issue should also participate in ensuring these processes. In addition, CAPTA is considering an approach to planning and coordinating the adoption and reception of such children. To achieve it, it is important to determine what the process of placing the children with the adoptive families involves and which families will be able to offer the best conditions to them.

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Role of Courts

District courts are also closely related to the well-being of children. Their powers have expanded with the adoption of the law on assisting children and facilitating the adoption process in 1980. Cases involving violence and neglect of children require a trial where the court is crucial in making the final decision. In general, the legal system is intertwined with the work of public institutions to ensure the well-being of children, requiring them to provide adequate services to the child and their family and all the needed information when considering each individual case (Ellett, & Steib, 2005). However, their relationships are most often characterized by the presence of tension due to a high degree of control by the courts, long periods of consideration of cases, and the inadequate analysis of information (Ellett, & Steib, 2005). As a result, social workers have less time to work directly with children and families. In addition, some cases show that often, children return to a bad environment. Thus, such situation suggests that the principles of CAPTA cannot be properly implemented without the effective cooperation of courts with organizations for the prevention and treatment of child abuse.

The Scale of Problems and Consequences

The problem of child abuse and neglect has a wide scope and drastic consequences. For 2008, there were 772,000 children in the United States who were recognized as victims and 71% of cases were associated with neglect (US Department of Health and Human Services). It is important to note that abused children often have various health problems. Most of the victims are infants and a child who has experienced abuse, violence, or neglect at the age of less than 3 years old may have developmental delays (Herman, 2007; Stahmer et.al. 2008). The consequences for older children experiencing physical abuse are associated with poor general or psychological health depending on the type of injury, its severity, frequency, duration, and relationship with the offender (Annerback, Svedin, & Dahlstrom, 2018). Such results are connected to a lack of interaction between child welfare services, which to some extent contradicts the policy of CAPTA that requires a comprehensive approach involving many public or private organizations. Therefore, the degree of effectiveness with regard to the cooperation of child protection agencies — for example, with police officers, organizations responsible for psychological health or other systems, is crucial for achieving the maximum success in ensuring the safety and well-being of children (Herman, 2007; Webb, & Harden, 2003). For this reason, the states should develop union strategies between all data stakeholders.

Solutions

To achieve success in the child protection system, each state must mainly adopt the CAPTA guidelines. In addition, as mentioned earlier, it is necessary to ensure close relations between institutions for the prevention of violence against children, law enforcement agencies, healthcare establishments, organizations responsible for mental health, the courts, and other services. Therefore, the first decision that will improve the situation is to widely inform the public about the high rates of child abuse and neglect and the lack of effectiveness of child protection systems (Legal Requisites for Social Workers in Child Abuse and Neglect Situations, 1992). In addition, considerable attention should be paid to the issues of sexual violence. It will require the states to develop an integrated prevention approach that will prevent interpersonal violence (Letourneau et.al., 2014). Also, public services should provide good prospects for attracting professional candidates who could become exemplary social workers (Legal Requisites for Social Workers in Child Abuse and Neglect Situations, 1992). , Such cooperation will provide proper care for children and their families and accordingly, it will lead to good results.

Child protection services should cooperate with police organizations to identify cases of child abuse. Police involvement is often the first source of coverage when child abuse is observed in the family (Stanley, 2010). Therefore, a well-developed interaction between these systems is important for the timely transmission of information and the coordination of future actions. However, in order to avoid overloading children’s social services, a national guide must be developed for the police that will give a clear definition of which incidents require notifications (Stanley, 2010). In addition, it is well known that in families where the partners are divorced or in the process of separation, children can be used as manipulation, control, or intimidation tool, eventually becoming a victim of violence (Hayes, 2017). In such cases, more effective methods of protecting children and their abused parents will also include the cooperation of child protection agencies and the police.

Those children who have been mistreated or neglected should be provided with access to the necessary facilities and services. Firstly, at an early stage, intervention of the health and psychiatric services is required, which will allow the timely identification of children whose health, development, or mental state are threatened (Herman, 2007; Mccrae, & Brown, 2017). Accordingly, social institutions responsible for the safety of children should regularly and effectively interact with these organizations. Secondly, good practice in resolving these issues is the intervention of public workers at home (Moss et.al., 2011). It can allow establishing a connection between parents and their children that will help by avoiding or removing the likelihood of a threat to a child. Finally, since children have the right to a legal representative if necessary, governmental organizations should provide them with a lawyer. In accordance with the updated CAPTA law, it may be a guardian ad litem (GAL) (Duquette, & Darwall, 2012). Their role is to clearly present the situation and the needs of the child in court, on the basis of which the best recommendations will be made regarding the interests and fate of the child (Duquette, & Darwall, 2012). Thus, all the considered decisions will contribute to more effective results in the prevention and treatment of child abuse.

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Guidelines for West Virginia

The model for managing the safety of children and their families in West Virginia is based on various government guidelines, including CAPTA. The work on the problem of child abuse in the state is provided by social services, child protection systems, parents, and the courts, whose role is often defined as decisive (West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources et.al., 2016). Funding for institutions occurs through federal grants, and their success is explained by their understanding of the importance of interaction between all institutions that may affect the results. However, despite the effective policies, the problem of inadequate provision of services for children with disabilities, including mental illnesses, still exists in West Virginia (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015). In accordance with the 1988 Law on Assistance for Children with Disabilities, the states should identify health problems and provide services to such children as they might already be the victims of abuse (US Department of Health and Human Services). Therefore, the recommended solution to this issue may be the inclusion of procedures for assessing the mental health and development of children by social services. For the determination of abnormalities, standardized screening is considered a fast and economical method (Mccrae, & Brown, 2017). This will enable the states to meet the needs of children in accordance with federal policy.

In addition, in the state of West Virginia, social workers of child protection agencies have connections with the courts when working with a specific family. Their task is to ensure the availability and validity of all information related to the case (West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources et.al., 2016). Therefore, as a recommendation to improve court processes and their results, the state should provide a representative in the form of a lawyer to each child affected by the abuse. It will allow investigating separate cases more effectively and reaching the right decision regarding children’s fate. The help of lawyers will allow a better consideration of all possible alternatives, taking into account the circumstances regarding the care provided to children. Furthermore, it will protect their rights and well-being, especially in those cases where they might be returned to unsatisfactory conditions, whether they are created by biological parents or foster families. In addition, it will facilitate the work of social security staff, giving them the opportunity to pay more attention to such children and their families. These recommendations can improve the overall child welfare system in West Virginia and make the cooperation between various systems more effective.

Conclusion

In conclusion, CAPTA is the law that protects the rights of children. Various governmental organizations and systems are directly related to the well-being of children and therefore, they should regularly interact with each other. In this subtext, courts are often the key authority that has the greatest influence on the fate of children in foster care. However, due to the ineffective cooperation of all institutions in the prevention of violence against children, the results of their work are not fully satisfactory. Therefore, the states should consider the aforementioned decisions. Regarding West Virginia, along with their successful policies for the protection of children in the state, some recommendations should be considered to enhance the results and improve the problem under consideration.

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