Child abuse is a growing problem in the United States. Three million cases of child abuse were reported in 2009. One of those cases was my niece Leah. Leah endured mental and physical abuse for the first three years of her life. Leah now lives in a safe place with my parents. Although, Leah sees a child therapist once a week because of the damage her mother did to her, she is thriving in her new home. Spankings, name-calling, and yelling mothers and fathers have corrected their children this way for years. For centuries, children were considered the property of the parents.
Parents were able to discipline their children in any way they saw fit. As time has progressed, the courts have taken an interest in how children are disciplined. The courts think and people who spank their children are abusing them, children should be in the care of their biological parents, and the punishment for child abuse is adequate. Society has not done enough to protect vulnerable children. Six categories define abuse: physical abuse, mental abuse, physical neglect, medical neglect, sexual abuse, and failure to thrive. Physical abuse is classified as any injury inflicted on a child of a non-accidental nature.
Mental Abuse is described as causing fear or feelings of unworthiness by locking the child in a closet, ignoring the child, or belittling them. Physical neglect is defined as failing to meet the child’s basic needs. Medical neglect is defined as failing to meet the child’s basic medical needs. The two most serious categories of abuse are sexual abuse and failure to thrive. Sexual abuse is any contact of a sexual nature with a child. Failure to thrive is classified as the child not growing the way he or she should. There are two sub-categories of failure to thrive, organic and non-organic.
Organic is any medical condition that affects the child’s health. Non-organic is where the parents are not meeting the child’s basic needs such as feeding them, caring for them, and clothing them. Non-organic failure to thrive leads to high numbers in infant death. A less important argument is that spanking your child constitutes abuse. Barbara A. Wauchope and Murray A. Straus notes, “Although most physical punishment does not turn into physical abuse, most physical abuse begins as ordinary physical punishment. ” (qtd. In Barken 325).
I do not believe that spanking a child when they have done wrong is abuse. I have two nieces, five and two, and I have smacked their hands for touching things that they should not have. My hand was smacked when I was a child for touching things that I should not have. I have spanked my two nieces as well, and I know that I am not abusing them. There is a big difference between spanking a child lightly to get her attention, and hitting her just because. A more important argument is that the commonwealth of Virginia thinks that children should be in the care of their biological parents.
Don Goss, a Child Protective Services worker for the city of Roanoke, notes, “I do agree with this, because largely the biological parents will usually try to work through problems their children are having. Where many times foster families will only try for so long and when the child or dealing […][with] the child’s behaviors become to time consuming, difficult to[o] handle or costly they will give them up. Usually this results in a group home setting with no parental figures at all” (Goss). I do not agree with this at all.
This scenario did not work with Avian Lewis. If CPS would have left him with his foster parents then Avian would not have been found in a city dump. In “Report on Child Deaths Due to Abuse or Neglect in Virginia During State Fiscal Year 2010” the state notes, “The goal of Child Protective Services (CPS) is to identify, assess and provide services to children and families in an effort to protect children, preserve families, whenever possible, and prevent further maltreatment” (Commonwealth of Virginia 3) Last the courts contend the punishment for abuse is adequate.
Don Goss, a CPS worker for the City of Roanoke notes, “[l]argely the Juvenile and Domestic Courts will handle the cases with least restrictive alternatives and rehabilitation efforts” (Goss). For the lowest form of abuse, the punishment is two years as the crime becomes more serious the punishment goes to ten years. (Crime Codes 1) The “Report on Child Deaths Due to Abuse or Neglect in Virginia During State Fiscal Year 2010” notes, “Thirty-one children died as victims of physical abuse or neglect; 23 died as victims of physical abuse and nine children died due to medical neglect” (Child Protective Services Program 4).
I do not think that a possible ten year sentence is harsh enough for the crime of child abuse. How is this punishment fair to the children who have been hurt? Some children who suffer from abuse will have a lifetime of therapy to help them deal with the damage caused by their parents. Parents who are abused as children will in turn abuse their own children. In Criminology: A sociological understanding Widom notes, “Such parents are more likely to abuse their own children in a vicious cycle of violence” (qtd. In Barken 325).
If we worry more about helping the children who suffer abuse rather than protecting the parents then the violence would end. Over 50 percent of parents now being investigated by CPS have files about them when they were children (Goss). Parents learn how to discipline their children from the way that they were disciplined. It is important to make sure children get help with a therapist when abuse is involved. Government agencies have been getting involved with child abuse, but it is believed that they should not be.
Andrew Karmen in the textbook “Criminal Investigation” notes, “For centuries, parents were permitted to beat their children as they saw fit in the name of imposing discipline. . . . Only if injury or death resulted were adults in danger of being held responsible for going too far, a problem labeled cruelty to children” (qtd. In Hess and Orthmann 342). “Honor thy mother and father” and “spare the rod and spoil the child” are saying heard throughout time. In many ways, I believe both of these sayings.
Parents should discipline their child to ensure that they turn out to be respectful, hardworking adults, but not to the point where it hurts them. Throughout time, children have been exposed to many forms of violence. Infants were killed as “birth control,” getting rid of “retarded,” and the “deformed children” (Hess and Orthmann 342). Spanking a child when they have done wrong is not abusing them. In the commonwealth of Virginia, it is only considered abuse when a mark is left.
I do not believe that children who have suffered a large amount of abuse and neglect from their parents should be placed back in the care of the same people who hurt them. I also think that the punishment for abuse and neglect should be harsher to deter parents, caregivers, and relatives. Jennifer Thomas, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker notes, “Kids need the support of therapy until the grown-ups in their lives are taking care of everything better” (Thomas). If parents and the justice system would concentrate on the children then a lot of lives would be saved.