Child Abuse: Battling Neglect and Seeking Understanding

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Updated: Sep 14, 2023
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“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul,” (Pelzer). A child should never have to question, “Does my mommy or daddy love me?” or “Why was I not good enough?” Those are the questions that ran through the back of my mind for many years. Though I never quite understood why I had these fears of being alone and abandonment. My biological parents brought me home from the hospital when I was only a couple days old, only to leave me on the floor crying, hungry, and abandoned.

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Until my “heroes” came walking through the door to “save the day”. Though I was only a week old, at the most, I was experiencing severe, or supervisory, child neglect. “Supervisory neglect occurs when a person responsible for a child either fails to supervise that child to keep him or her from harm or fails to have someone responsible and able to care for the child to do so,” (Welch). My biological father was alcoholic and mentally ill, and my biological mother was physically and mentally ill as well. My parents were deemed unfit because they were unable to care for themselves, and therefore, they were unable to take care of a child. I was legally adopted when I was five years old but had lived with my adoptive family since being rescued. I was brought into this world and I believe that there isn’t a child born without a purpose or that is “an accident.” Both Pelzer and Welch in these books describe in detail about children who are neglected and give examples of what neglect looks like and how it can be defined. Also, in Pelzer’s book “A Child Called It”, he writes about the neglected and physically abused child from his own perspective and shares his traumatic stories growing up. Some argue that we should hold social workers accountable for ongoing child abuse. However, this argument may never win over certain readers because we should be addressing the lack of power in foster home placements. Despite this, times are changing.

If we are going to blame social workers for ongoing child abuse, then first, we need to understand what child abuse and neglect are. Child abuse and neglect are defined by Federal and State laws. At the State level, child abuse and neglect could be defined in both civil and criminal statutes. At the Federal level, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child 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, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm,” ( There are different types of abuse: sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Child neglect is defined as “an omission in care by a person responsible for the child’s care,” (Mallon). There are six different kinds of neglect that affect children and their families: physical neglect, deprivation of needs, medical neglect, supervisory neglect, environmental neglect, educational neglect, and emotional neglect.

There are often many questions such as, “Should I report this?” or “Well it seemed like neglect”, or people may be “not sure that they have the full story”. However, that does not mean it should not be reported. If there is any doubt in your mind, report it! It is mandated by law. Questions such as “How do I report child abuse or neglect and where?” are common as well. There is a national hotline or you can search for local hotlines, nonprofit organizations, child protective services in your area, or last but not least, just call 911. There are also questions about when to report. The answer is every single time there is reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected. Anyone can report. Failure to report is a misdemeanor and any false reporting(s) to DHS or local law enforcement can lead to fines up to $5,000. Both Mallon and the Child Welfare website are great information sources for those who need to start learning about child abuse or neglect, when to report, how to report, and where you can report it.

“In Oklahoma, 138,080 children were alleged to be victims of abuse and neglect in 2014, and 14,172 children were confirmed to be victims. It is generally accepted that this number does not represent the actual incidence of abuse and neglect due to the fact that not all instances are reported (unfortunately).” ( Not all children will openly approach a trusted adult, such as a family member, friend, or teacher to tell them directly that they are being abused or neglected. It’s important to remember how difficult it can be for children to discuss such abuse, especially as they often fear it will get them or their family into trouble. It is crucial to handle this type of trust and disclosure with sensitivity. Oftentimes, children are too young to articulate their abuse, making it all the more important to notice signs of abuse and neglect and report them immediately. “There are six known risk factors for child abuse that play a role in why these allegations originate in the homes: the parent’s CPS history as a child, domestic violence history, mental health history, sexual abuse history, substance abuse history, and criminal history.” (Duffy). Both and Duffy’s article provide information on fines and charges for not reporting. This information is particularly relevant to Duffy’s article, as knowing the risk factors may help identify signs of abuse or neglect, even in children who may not show physical but emotional signs. Possessing this knowledge from Duffy and the website could help someone avoid fines or charges if they are involved in the child’s life and fail to report.

Not everyone is educated on what it takes to become a social worker, or what social work is. What does it mean to be a social worker? A social worker is defined as “an academic discipline and profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups, and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being of children, and to put these children’s best interests at the forefront. They may help parents find resources they need so that the children can remain in the home or return to the home. Often, this isn’t feasible; therefore they play a role in finding other placement options” ( Becoming a social worker requires much more than just schooling. This job can be emotionally challenging, requiring a particular type of person with a big heart. Social workers need to feel a “calling” for their work and be firm, but also maintain an open mind. They have to navigate policies and procedures along with the unique situations each family presents, all whilst having a heart for children in need of safety. “There are five types of Oklahoma social work licensure: certifications, associate’s degree, and four licenses; which require a master’s degree.” ( These websites provide valuable insights into what it takes to become a social worker, the personal qualities needed, and the everyday challenges faced by these professionals. The work can affect one’s mental state due to the difficult situations they have to handle on a daily basis.

Now that there is an understanding of what child abuse and neglect are, how to report it, and what life is like for social workers, it’s important to consider the lack of power and placements for these children. “Currently, there are roughly 96,000 children in state custody in Oklahoma, ready for foster care or up for adoption” ( Oklahoma has many outreach programs and churches, but there is a lack of placement and foster or adoptive parents in the area. The need is vast. Foster homes are temporary homes for these children and should provide the love and support they need more than ever. Becoming a foster parent isn’t easy by any means. “Decision making in child abuse and neglect cases is a difficult and complex process. Deciding whether to remove a child from their home, whether to return an abused child to their home, and whether to permanently sever a child’s legal ties to their parents – these are all monumental decisions.” (Solnit).

The decision to place children in foster care is challenging, and often prompts difficult questions among foster parents, caseworkers, and judges. Solnit notes, “Placement should occur on a voluntary basis or by court order, but when a child is placed, parents relinquish part of their autonomy and do not have the right to regain their child without the state’s permission”. Many foster parents face obstacles in preparing their homes and families for the children they bring into their household. The preparatory process is both costly and time-consuming, often with insufficient time for these parents to adequately prepare. Just as it takes a special heart for social workers to perform their duties, becoming a foster parent requires a special heart as well. Despite the high need for foster parents, there are sadly not enough, but resources like the Forever Family website and Solnit’s book provide invaluable information to aid in understanding and addressing the shortage of foster homes and placements. They serve as useful references for anyone considering becoming a foster parent or looking to adopt. Knowledge of these resources could potentially increase the number of foster parents and placement options, thus decreasing the number of children in need.

The controversial question has previously been asked: should social workers be held accountable for ongoing child abuse? The answer is no. In the past, we may have pointed the finger at factors such as the lack of power and foster homes, limited placement options, or the outdated system used by the Department of Human Services. However, substantive changes have occurred over the past year. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but Child Protective Services (CPS) is upgrading its digital and technological strategy, offering better pay for employees, resulting in a decreasing need for caseworkers in the Tulsa metro area. Hence, we are beginning to see a decline in the issues of previous years. “Caseworkers are now handling between 14-15 children per case, compared to the 20-30+ of yesteryears. The decrease in numbers means that caseworkers are receiving more training time and one-on-one interaction time, allowing them to travel from case to case more frequently and perform more visits as needed.

We have gone from 1-2 visits per month for 20-30 minutes to 1-2 visits per week for about 40-50 minutes per child.” (Baccus) According to Baccus, there are more resources as well that they are able to offer to parents so that these families can be reunited with their children, which is CPS’s ultimate goal. Reunification! When a parent (or parents) get the child(ren) taken away typically CPS tries to place the child(ren) in the care of a trustworthy family member or friend of the family, someone that the child(ren) know and are comfortable with. This is called kinship. This is to avoid having to place children in foster care homes. However, it is a process, and not everyone can pass it or wants to even take on that responsibility, very less likely but it does happen. Or it could be that they do not simply have that option period. In that case, the child(ren) would be placed without kinship. Which this process is much more difficult and delays so much because there is more that goes into it and is a long process that has to be done by the courts at this point. Also, Baccus states that there is always new training material and more frequent meetings/follow-ups too. Which is going to help in the long run to better assist the children in our state to better protect them. The teams that are built for the Tulsa Metro area versus a different area may be eye-opening in numbers, this is the hope that we are wanting to see for improvement to continue. Children are the future and we have to protect them first above all else. (Baccus).

In conclusion, it is easy to place blame on anyone but ourselves. And as the saying goes there are always two sides to every story. Situations like child abuse and neglect are serious business. It should not be treading lightly, nor is it an act or a game to get back at someone. There are many changes in this evolving world. One person may see a mother at a grocery store yelling at her children to get back in her view or she is gonna whoop ‘em., to that mom that is just the norm; however, to someone else who doesn’t know them from Adam, may think oh those poor pitiful children they are being so mistreated. Yes, we need to take child abuse and neglect serious, but we need to be very certain there is something wrong going on and report those things. You can always report anonymously, but don’t report something that deep down you feel is wrong. Children are naturally creative, loving, and trusting, it is our job to make sure they continue to think and feel that way. Do we need to create this safe haven for them if we are unable to provide that than who will? Small minded people blame others, while average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness. What do you see it as? Do you continue to put the blame off on someone else? Or do you take a stance in it to do something about the problems we are facing in this world? Don’t let child abuse and neglect go unknown. Report it! If we are not going to be here to provide a safe and loving atmosphere for children then who will? Children are not wild animals; they won’t survive in the wild; therefore, it is our job to be their protectors from predators.

Works Cited

  1. Baccus, Matt. Department Of Human Services And Child Abuse. Edmonson Building 444 S. Houston Tulsa, Ok, 2019.
  2. Definitions Of Child Abuse And Neglect – Child Welfare Information Gateway. Childwelfare.Gov, 2019, Accessed 9 April 2019
  3. Duffy JY, et al. “Child Maltreatment and Risk Patterns among Participants in a Child Abuse Prevention Program.” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 44, 2015, pp. 184–93 Accessed 13 April 2019
  4. Forever Family. Forever Family, 2019,
  5. Accessed 8 April 2019.
  6. Mallon, Gerald P, and Peg McCartt Hess. Child Welfare for the Twenty-First Century : A Handbook of Practices, Policies, and Programs. 2d ed., Columbia University Press, 2014.
  7. Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline – Oklahoma State Department Of Health. Ok.Gov, 2019, Accessed 10 April 2019
  8. Pelzer, David J. A Child Called It : One Child’s Courage to Survive. Health Communications, 1995.
  9. Solnit, Albert J, et al. When Home Is No Haven: Child Placement Issues. Yale University Press, 1992.
  10. Treatment, Center. Chapter 6—Legal Responsibilities And Recourse. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2019, Accessed 8 April 2019
  11. Welch, Ginger. The Neglected Child : How to Recognize, Respond, and Prevent. Gryphon House, 2013.
  12. Writers, Staff. Become A Social Worker | Socialworklicensure.Org. Socialworklicensure.Org, 2019, Accessed 8 Apr 2019.
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Child Abuse: Battling Neglect and Seeking Understanding. (2020, Aug 14). Retrieved from