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Friday, July 29, 2005

Child Abuse Hurts Everybody

The most important relationship for all beings is that with their parents. Through this relationship, a child is expected to receive love, support, and learn important values and lessons about life. Unfortunately, an alarming number of parents do not understand the importance of the parent-child relationship. They are often too young or unprepared for such responsibility. Their inability to commit to good parenting techniques causes serious detriment to the lives and well being of their children. Irresponsible parents practice multiple forms of abuse and neglect, including abandonment, physical and emotional abuse and /or neglect. In addition, teenage parents are not able to sufficiently care for their children, poverty, drugs and broken homes plague the surroundings of such families.

The indirect results of child abuse, neglect, abandonment, and maltreatment include such phenomena as increased school dropout rates, drug use and teenage pregnancy. It is true that some children survive neglect with only a few scrapes and the trauma of growing up in a less than perfect environment. However, an ever increasing number of neglected and abused children are responding to their traumatic childhoods by resorting to violent behavior. Ultimately, we all suffer the from the effects of poor parenting ,thus, neglect and abuse are everyone's problem. I believe that we, as a society, must fulfill the obligations that irresponsible parents cannot. We can promote the importance of good parenting by supporting nationwide programs to educate parents. Through educational programs, we can uphold and instill a value system that has been lost, and re-emphasize the importance of good parenting.

Teenage pregnancy is a source of irresponsible parenting and often is the result of irresponsible parents not teaching proper education or values. Since 1991, the teenage birthrate has declined by 20 percent, however, the US still holds the record for the highest rate of teen pregnancies in developed countries at nearly half a million according to “Why the Number of Teen Mothers is Falling” by David Packard Kent printed in The Christian Science Monitor on August 15, 2000. Irresponsible parenting has manifested itself in so many other ways than I have the opportunity to explain. School-drop-out rates, low-test scores, crime, drug use, school shootings and nearly every social dysfunction has its roots in the home, we must transform America's future in changing this tainted background.

Preventing irresponsible parenting is all of America's responsibility because of the important roles parents play in their child's life. As reported by Sechrist in the August edition of The Journal of School Health, children "remain trapped in circumstances which rob them of the safety, security, and love which is their birth right." When parents maltreat their child they in turn give up their rights as parents, and society must step in to protect the child's rights, prevent crime, instill desirable values and secure the child's future. Better yet, legislation meant to protect children, can prevent the neglect and abuse negatively affecting a child's life. Child maltreatment and abandonment are crimes; thus, prevention could save lives and prevent crimes from occurring.

Child abandonment normally occurs when "women are pushed to the brink, with seemingly no exit option, and therefore abandoning their baby is their exit option," says Gordana Rabrenovic, a professor of sociology at Northeastern University. In a related article appearing in the Los Angeles Times (January 28, 2000) titled, "A Warm Safe Place for Unwanted Babies" written by Edith Stanley; John Tyson Jr.,a Mobile County Alabama district attorney, states that "prevention is a far better alternative than prosecution (of mothers who abandon their babies)." It is important here to not judge these women abandoning their babies as depraved low-lives, but rather look to the fact that their babies' lives will be saved. Prevention programs would help to increase the value society places on good parenting. In The Christian Science Monitor (May 2000), Wood also recognizes this value stating "…society becomes less tolerant of violence against children." He continues, "that cultural shift has made preventing child maltreatment a top priority for lawmakers nationwide…". Sechrist recognizes in his article that "child deaths, permanent neurological injuries, and disabling emotional trauma are experienced by children every day because we, as a nation, do not make the prevention of child maltreatment a priority." He continues, "the consequences of abuse are so serious and so enduring for many survivors that children suffering maltreatment deserve our attention".

A study reported in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2000, volume 9) in an article by Renae Duncan entitled “Childhood Maltreatment and College Dropout Rates: Implications for Child Abuse Researchers” of 210 freshmen, followed through 4 years of college, 60% of non child abuse victims graduated, 50% of sexual abuse victims graduated and 35% of those experiencing more than one kind of abuse graduated. Child maltreatment should be America's responsibility because of the lasting impact on the lives of children. Rather than looking for who to blame, we must all take responsibility create laws and programs that prevent abuse and abandonment.

The existence of abuse and neglect prevention programs and legislature help to publicize the importance of good parenting. These programs, which help to raise the importance and significance of child rearing in American culture, offer: information, education, counseling and support for children and parents in need. In junior high and high schools, educators teach about the importance of contraception, and the wide variety of birth control options available. Our generation's attitude about sex and teen pregnancy must change; a stigma around unsafe sex and teen pregnancy has already begun to form, and dialogue on issues that were not spoken of in the past has started. According to Kent’s article in the Christian Science Monitor (August 2000), teens appreciate being able to talk openly about sex, and the communication helps them in their choice to be responsible. Similarly, an important aspect of all the legislature and support programs aimed at preventing child maltreatment revolves around human interaction, be it counseling, education or general support.

As explained above, child abandonment occurs when women feel they have no other options. However, a woman who has access to counseling may have a better understanding of her reality and options, and not feel the need to abandon her baby. "If you provide [mothers] an alternative to abandoning the baby, they will do it," says Gordana Rabrenovic in Teicher's January 2000, Christian Science Monitor article. In Mobile, Alabama; the legislature allows mothers to safely abandon their babies. In addition to safe abandonment programs, counseling programs provide mothers with support and information. "One young mother even reclaimed her baby after getting counseling… [and] that underscores the goal not only of saving the babies, but also of helping the mothers tap into support services," says Teicher. This can also help skeptics to understand that the laws which legalize safe abandonment do not encourage this behavior, they will always be accompanied by counseling centers where mothers can learn of all of their options and make the best decision for the lives of their children. Safe abandonment laws are offering a "last ditch" option for mothers who may be incapable of more responsible behavior. These are the parents who would abandon their babies even with no safe abandonment laws in place. Because of the safe abandonment laws, their babies have a much better chance at life.

Child abuse can be prevented through education and support from schools. According to Sechrist in the August 2000 edition of the Journal of School Health, child abuse victims do not know where to turn, they feel shame, they feel trapped and they are unaware that anyone cares about what happens to them. Introducing support systems or curriculum into the school day could provide these children with what they would feel is a safe ground to speak up about something on. Programs offering prevention by way of instilling values, providing education, counseling or support are needed to help the children of this country do for them what they can't do for themselves.

Experimental programs have begun to shape and produce results, decreasing rates of teenage pregnancy and child abandonment. As already noted, the rate of teenage births was down 20 percent from past years and experts link the trend to more frank teachings in schools and young people knowing how to be responsible. While the numbers are still not acceptable, the steps are in the right direction. The experimental programs and laws for the safe abandonment of newborns have been successful in the cities that have set up the counseling services. According Teicher’s article in the Christian Science Monitor (January 2000), in Mobile, Alabama; since the safe abandonment "program started in November 1998, no dead infants have been found, and three newborns have been brought in by their mothers for adoption. By contrast… there were 19 infant deaths in the area in the previous 1- 1/2 years." With the country's focus on developing and strengthening existing programs which help heal the scars of abuse or prevent child maltreatment, teenage pregnancy or irresponsible parenting from happening, we can make a difference.

People's views differ greatly amidst topics of teen sex, abortion and child abandonment but I hope we can all contend that the welfare of children should be our priority. Instead of accessing blame or deciding who is right, let us focus on changing the futures of our children. A handful of states and various programs have started to find ways to protect children from abuse and abandonment even if their parents are too depraved or inexperienced to do so. It is necessary for society that we follow their lead. We must not fail abused, neglected, and abandoned children though their parents might. Through these responsible actions, we will create a safer nation for all families.