Child abuse is just plain wrong and anyone who loves children would do anything to make it stop. Unfortunately, there are times when people step up to the plate and report suspected abuse, but to no avail. Failure of the assigned social service worker to recommend cases for criminal action, not enough resources, workers who are spread far too thin, and worst of all, returning children to homes where they were abused creates a vortex of abuse that could have been prevented. Second chances are a good thing in most instances in life. Child abuse cases are not one of those instances and the fact that it happens on a regular basis is atrocious.
In 2008, a couple in Carnation, Washington was arrested for severe abuse of their teenaged daughter. The stepmother punished the child by not allowing her to have more than a small Dixie cup of water per day. To make matters worse, the girl was only given toast to eat and did not gain any weight for several years. The girl once tried to sneak into the bathroom to get toilet water to drink because she feared her stepmother would hear the water running and punish her further. She was caught and punished for it. Her teeth were damaged to the point that several of them had to be extracted after the girl was taken from the home.
The story gets worse, but there is one consolation. The girl’s younger brother did not suffer from the same fate. He was treated well and so were the pets in the home. The girl reported that she was being locked in her room months prior being removed from the home. Had the caseworker recommended the case for prosecution, the abuse could not have gotten worse. Unfortunately, that is not what happened and the girl went for up to a month at a time with no more than a tiny drink of water per day while she and her brother were pulled from public schools under the guise that the stepmother would be homeschooled. What is wrong with this picture? Simple, the system failed that little girl far longer than they should have.
In 2007, a Las Vegas couple was charged with child abuse after their toddler was severely beaten. Authorities said it was surprising that the child survived the abuse. The mother told police that the child was beaten because she pooped in her pants and then smeared the feces all over the place. To add salt to the wound, the child was also severely dehydrated. The case was bad enough without the added concern that there had been approximately seven reports over the years that the child was being abused. Social services took the word of the mother that the children were fine and never opened a case against her.
In 2014, a mother in Milwaukie, after lying several times to officials, finally admitted that she had punched her toddler, pushed her toddler into a heater and busted her head open, burnt the toddler with cigarettes and pushed the child down onto a carpet where nails had been pulled up. The child suffered from severe internal and external injuries that were consistent with child abuse. When asked by authorities if she had any other children, the woman replied no. She later admitted to having seven other children who were all removed from her care for child abuse on previous occasions. Although the abuse of the toddler was not reported before, maybe there should be precautions in place, such as a permanent registry for child abusers so that if they have a child in the future, authorities are aware that it is a potential risk for the child.
The various child welfare systems in place in the United States do not appear to have gotten better with time. The same type of behavior still exists now as it did in the late sixties and seventies. Child abuse is overlooked by people and the people hired to protect the children sometimes ignore their job duties and children are either killed or hurt again. It’s a vicious cycle that should have evolved further than it has in fifty years. Unfortunately, the children are still paying the cost and much of the abuse is worse than ever. How do we change it? Can we change it? And why haven’t we changed it yet?