College of Social and Natural Sciences
Social Work Program
Dr. Dada M. Maglajlic'
To the Prevention of the Child Neglect and/or Abuse
Since 1985 the
number of reports of child abuse and neglect has risen by
50 percent. Among reasons cited as contributing to this increase
are greater public awareness, more families living at or near
the poverty level, abuse of alcohol and other substances and
fewer resources available to the increasing number of families
needing child protective services.
In 1993 an estimated
1,299 child abuse and neglect related fatalities were confirmed
by child protective agencies in the United States. At least
three children died each day as a result of maltreatment.
The cause of death for 51 percent of victims was abuse, 43
percent of deaths were the result of neglect, and 6 percent
of the fatalities were caused by a combination of abuse and
neglect. Young children were most often the victims of these
fatal injuries, with 86 percent of deaths occurring when children
were under the ages of five. 46 percent of these victims were
under the age of one at the time of their death. Breakdown
by the type of abuse indicates the following: 1,404,830 cases
of neglect (47 percent), 896,700 cases of physical abuse (30
percent), 328,790 cases related to sexual abuse (11 percent),
"other" - that is more than one form of neglect
and/or abuse was present in 269,010 cases (9 percent), and
59,780 cases of emotional abuse (2 percent).
/Graph 1. - Source:
The child abuse
and neglect crisis in the King and Pierce Counties (state
of Washington) corresponds to the crisis at the national level.
Although we served all four major ethnic minority groups,
as well as the majority population, this project was specially
designed to empower Hispanic/Latino families. The total population
of King County is 1,507,319, while the Latino population is
approximately 70,000; the total population of the Pierce County
is 586,203 while there are over 32,000 Latino residents. About
50 percent of the Latinos in the target area are undocumented.
The vast majority are low income, with family resources well
below the poverty line and public income support playing a
significant role in family economic survival. Unemployment
and underemployment, substance abuse, low formal educational
attainment and cultural anomie are typical for these high
need - low resource families. Among the 15 risk factors commonly
acknowledged to be correlated with substance abuse tendencies,
all are present to some degree in the Latino community, including
family management problems, academic failure, economic and
social deprivation, transition and mobility.
The link between
substance abuse and child abuse has strengthened over the
years. Parental abuse of alcohol and use of other drugs has
been identified as a major factor contributing to child maltreatment
and death (Eigen, 1991). Flanzer and Sturke (1987) found a
positive correlation between alcohol abuse by parents and
maltreatment of their children 11-20 years of age.
The National Committee
for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NCPCA, Washington D.C.,
1992) estimates that 10 million children in the United States
are being raised by addicted or alcoholic parents, and at
least 675,000 children each year are seriously mistreated
by an alcoholic or drug abusing person. Another estimate reported
by the same source is that at least 11 percent of pregnant
women nationwide are using illegal drugs. Prenatal exposure
to alcohol is noted to be the major cause in birth defects.
argues that any alcoholic family is abusive since alcoholism
is an abuse in itself. Brown (1988) found a significant correlation
between alcohol abuse and child sexual abuse; half of those
who commit sexual abuse also abuse alcohol. Murphy and associates
(1991) studied the relationship between substance abuse and
serious child maltreatment; at least one parent misused either
drugs or alcohol in 43 percent of the cases they studied.
to the use of alcohol and drugs among different ethnic groups
in the United States suggests that the substance abuse may
be less related to ethnicity than to demographic and structural
factors influencing families. In their research on ethnic
high-risk families, Jones and DeMaree (1975) concluded that
social and environmental conditions such as poverty, prejudice,
unemployment, frequent family moves, low educational level
and community crime levels are intricately interrelated with
family functioning. These structural factors, often beyond
the control of family members, contribute to family disruption,
overcrowding, stress and depression leading to parent-child
conflict and hostility (Conger, 1992; Kumpfer, Alverado, Turner,
& Griffin, 1993).
and neglect are more likely among people in poverty. Although
child abuse occurs in all racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic
groups, high rates of poverty among ethnic minorities present
an additional contributing factor. This is probably why minority
children enter the child protection system in disproportionately
large numbers (Bays, 1990).
Howard and Associates
(1989) describe seven years of efforts to reach, assist and
understand substance-abusing families and their young children;
following are some conclusions regarding serving these families,
the characteristics of these families and the impact on children
living in substance-abusing families:
abusing parents are unstable, move frequently, lack telephones,
fail to keep appointments and drop out of sight when abusing
abuse undermines normal patterns of interaction and alters
conventional priorities in that parents who are addicted to
drugs have primary commitment to chemicals, not to their children;
c.) safety is
an issue for family members, for professional staff who make
home visits and most of all for the children of substance-abusing
families since the substance abusing parent is often unable
to assume a primary protective role;
in program staffing interferes with the formation of nurturing,
non- threatening relationships with substance abusing families.
Zill (1993) is of the opinion that it is important to look
at the realities of how families are actually functioning,
rather than labeling some types of families as inevitably
bad and others as invariably good. His review highlighted
the need for family-level interventions to enlist the family's
support in creating an enduring family environment that is
conducive to the prevention of substance abuse, and even further
to the prevention of the child neglect and/or abuse.
Polansky and Associates
(1991) are of the opinion that parents who neglect their children
differ from parents who don't: although there is a strong
relationship between poverty and neglect, not all parents
who are poor neglect their children. Parents who neglect and/or
abuse their children are more isolated, have fewer relationships
with others, are less able to plan, less able to control their
impulses, are less confident about the future and are more
plagued with physical and psychological problems. They are
also more likely to say that they never received love and
were unwanted by their parents; many of them have been raised
by relatives or in foster care, they often began life lonely
and continue to live in isolation, they also have difficulty
identifying neighbors or friends with whom they could leave
their children if they needed emergency child care or from
whom they could borrow a few dollars in an emergency.
We are of the
opinion that comprehensive, long-term community support services
which take into account any/all available positive (strength)
elements at all three levels (individual/family - neighborhood
- community) present an effective solution to the problem.
"To be committed
to an empowerment agenda is to be committed to identify, facilitate
or create contexts in which heretofore silent and isolated
people, those who are outsiders in various settings, organizations
and communities gain understanding, voice and influence over
decisions that affect their lives" (Rappaport, 1990).
Our agency was
providing comprehensive social services to some 4,700 members
of the target area annually, 40 percent of whom were under
age 18; this includes comprehensive substance abuse prevention
and outpatient treatment programs. Overall we estimated that
75 percent of our clients faced substance abuse challenges
in their lives, with alcohol being the primary concern. There
is a recognized strong relationship between child abuse and
neglect and the caretaker's substance abuse. This correlation
is evident in the target area, where the State Division of
Child Protective Services reports a dramatic 55 percent increase
in the number of child maltreatment cases reported to King
and Pierce Counties with cases going from 17,044 in 1990 to
26,440 in 1992. According to the State Research and Data Analysis
Department, the number of people receiving Aid to Families
with Dependent Children (AFDC) increased by 16 percent during
the period from 1990 to1992, which is an 8 percent annual
growth rate. During the same period, the number of children
receiving AFDC increased by 28 percent, which is a 12 percent
annual growth rate.
On an individual
person or family level, an empowerment orientation allows
the social worker to view the helping process as a partnership
in which both the worker and the individual or family are
involved in mutual assessment of problems in functioning and
definition as well as problem solving. The focus of the helping
process is on people's strengths, adaptive capacities and
potentialities (Saleebey, 1992).
approach to social work practice helps social workers to respect
people's strengths and attempts to cope: this approach supports
and reinforces the notion that people are capable of assuming
control over their lives and can adapt and cope with the negative
affects of social change.
Through the empowerment
process, an individual and/or a family with a problem discovers
the power within and learns how to resolve the problem(s)
or satisfy needs (Rose, 1990). Through our empowerment program,
legal, educational, case-management and many other services
were offered to H/L families with substance abuse and other
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The overall goal
of the project was to conduct community based comprehensive
and coordinated prevention and intervention activities to
reduce and prevent the maltreatment of children in Latino
substance abusing families within King and Pierce Counties
in western Washington. The following objectives were specifically
1.) To prevent
and/or reduce incidence of maltreatment of children in substance
abusing families by means of written information, structured
group process, individual intervention and follow-up involving
children, parents, other family members, professionals and
the community at large.
2.) To prevent
and reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect of children
in Latino substance abusing families by means of family- and
community-based education and intervention services.
3.) Provide for
project replication by wide dissemination of the project related
outcomes and other materials throughout the professional community
involved in child abuse and neglect issues, as well as substance
abuse prevention and treatment.
4.) Promote family
unification and reunification.
5.) Provide follow-up
and after care for six months (minimum three months) after
the completion of the intensive six month "wraparound"
6.) Most importantly,
neighborhood support centers will be established as a form
of support for all members of the family (children, parents).
7.) As part of
the support services, a special help-line was introduced,
available 24 hours a day.
In the Latino
culture, the family tends to focus inward for emotional and
financial support whereas the majority culture expects families
to seek help from government agencies and community services.
The Latino family structure assigns traditional roles for
family members in an authoritarian decision-making structure.
Typically, the oldest female is expected to care for her younger
siblings, while the oldest male is expected to assume the
father's role of provider in his absence. This compares to
a generally more democratic process among Anglo families.
Such differences are compounded by many Latino families who
have limited opportunities to learn and use English as their
primary language. In such families, however, children may
learn and use English rapidly, often resulting in a role reversal
around age 12 in which children of recent immigrants develop
better understanding of the majority culture. Such situations
exacerbate the difficulties of parenting, significantly increasing
the potential for maltreatment, particularly among adolescents.
Child abuse and
neglect is supposed to be reported to Child Protective Services,
but the system falls short of preventative measures to avoid
reoccurrence, particularly with respect to Latino families.
Without support and intervention by bilingual and bicultural
staff, families are driven further inward and may become even
more isolated as a result of unfamiliarity with the bureaucratic
process and general fear of authority figures.
Our approach gave
participants a range of wraparound services designed to support
successful completion of substance abuse prevention and treatment
programs by caregivers in order to remove substance abuse
as a major contributor to child abuse in the family. All caregivers
were either in the substance abuse treatment program when
accepted into the empowerment project or were referred to
the substance abuse treatment as part of the project assessment
project implemented a three-pronged outreach effort involving
agency referral, public relations and street-based outreach
to identify families potentially appropriate for the participation.
Inter-agency and within-agency referrals were accepted. At
the same time, project staff conducted outreach efforts among
public agencies and community organizations involved in family
support services and substance abuse prevention and treatment
to alert them to the implementation of the empowerment project.
The object was the establishment of an interagency collaboration,
so that potential participating families are identified by
public and private service providers for referral to the project.
The referral process was facilitated through existing working
relationships with some 70 public and private human service
In addition to
the involvement of the interagency network members, a variety
of public relations techniques were utilized to get the word
out about the project, such as press releases to local popular
media and wide distribution of the bilingual, culturally appropriate
project materials in the community.
outreach was conducted in locations where potential participants
are likely to be found, including churches, agricultural work
facilities, Latino shopping districts, residential substance
abuse facilities, detox centers, etc.
In order to assure
that all prospective participants receive a comprehensive
assessment of the family needs, when a family requests services
or is referred to the project, an in-depth evaluation was
performed following an initial intake process. The assessment
was accomplished through interviews with most (if not all)
members of the family in order to obtain needed information
and ascertain the appropriateness of the project for the family
(and vice versa). At the same time, all other materials were
taken into consideration, such as reports and recommendations
from the referring agencies, results of various evaluations
and testing procedures.
included the following elements for all family members:
a.) family social
history, including child care and respite care needs and responsibilities,
resources and needs,
c.) housing situation,
including possible overcrowding and potential for homelessness,
abuse history on the part of the caregivers,
and sexual abuse history
level and intellectual functioning,
h.) work history,
i.) summary of
reports and recommendations of referring agency,
and linguistic factors that are relevant to services,
k.) health assessment,
of outcomes the participants hope to achieve with timelines
regarding other support services that may be needed; e.g.
job training, job placement, basic skills education, affordable
was accomplished through a conjoint process involving the
project multidisciplinary team composed of child service professionals,
substance abuse counselors, mental health professionals, social
workers and participating family members. Every effort was
made to fully involve participants in the assessment process
to encourage their "ownership" and positive engagement
in the project.
The results of
the family assessment process were used by the project staff
and associates to develop Family Services Plans (FSPs). The
FSP was an action plan based upon the results of the assessment.
It contains the steps needed to resolve problems that have
placed the children in the family at risk of neglect and/or
abuse. The strategies and activities, designed to help participants
achieve each outcome, were specified, as was the service team
member responsible for implementing the strategy or activity.
The responsible person was a family member, volunteer (if
appropriate) or one of the professionals involved in working
with the family. In addition, the frequency, intensity, location,
method of delivery, expected starting date and duration for
each type of service was included. Outcomes were reviewed
on a regular basis to ensure that progress had been made;
whenever indicated, modifications in the FSP were provided.
The FSP included the following elements:
a.) summary of
reports and recommendations of the referring agency,
and linguistic factors that are relevant to services, including
the primary language of the parents,
c.) health assessment,
including a physical examination, vaccinations, nutrition
factors, as indicated,
prenatal and postnatal history of children,
family social history,
family needs; e.g. child care, respite care, transportation,
translation, and referral information,
g.) results of
testing and evaluation conducted during the assessment process,
h.) family input
regarding concerns, priorities and resources related to reducing
maltreatment risk factors for their children,
of outcomes to be achieved during participation in the empowerment
project along with timelines for progress milestones,
j.) action plan
of project activities to be utilized during project participation,
k.) steps to
be taken following graduation from the project to ensure successful
transition to abuse- and neglect-free living situations.
Over the year,
the management team at our agency observed that we served
many members from the same family within different departments
- different treatment programs. In order to acquire a higher
quality of service - both efficacy and efficiency - we decided
to introduce an empowerment project based on wraparound services
offered internally and externally.
was agreed that all agency departments will be offering services
to the family members respecting the jointly defined scheme,
that is, Family Service Plan (FSP); all participating professional
staff and volunteers received additional training (between
20 and 40 hours). The following departments participated in
Abuse and S.A. Prevention,
Violence (Victims and Batterers Program),
4.) Mental Health
for Children, Adolescents and Families, and the
5.) Adult Mental
services were offered at several levels: "in-home,"
in-family services coordinated by the agency case manager
and supported by the home visitor and tutor; additional services
were provided by the extended family, direct neighbors and
services" - services provided in the local community,
focusing on the support and "friendly intervention"
offered by the school teacher, local church clergy, staff
and volunteers from the local community center and the like;
services network" - a formally defined network of the
specialized social service agencies which operate in each
of the two counties offering the following services:
most agencies were specialized either for a particular age,
particular ethnic group and/or particular region, most offered
comprehensive services through partial hospitalization, outpatient
and outreach programs;
b.) most services
were offered 24 hours, with specialized emergency services
and crisis intervention;
c.) most agencies
emphasized continuity of care, and
or preventive intervention.
"wraparound," the empowerment project was offered
to 240 families in King and Pierce Counties during the predefined
18 months of the years 1994 and 1995.
project services process was initiated by developing a trusting
relationship between the project staff and the family. This
was initiated by the staff learning about the family's concerns
and priorities for reducing and eliminating the factors that
are placing their children at risk of maltreatment. Within
the family parameters and the action plan contained in the
FSP, participating family members would begin involvement
in the project activities, focusing on family priorities and
resources, the strengths and the needs of the at-risk children
in the household and support needed to insure caregiver completion
of substance abuse treatment.
The whole project
was based on the concept of delivering in-home and neighborhood-based
services to participating families to improve the parents'
competencies in appropriate child rearing skills, while reducing
the potential for their children being maltreated as a result
of parental or caretaker substance abuse. A Case Manager was
assigned to each participating family, who was responsible
for ensuring that the family made progress toward achieving
the outcomes in their FSP. The Case Manager had the duty to
coordinate the work of a multidisciplinary team that included
other professionals such as substance abuse counselors, mental
health specialists, Home Visitors and volunteer "parenting
role models" (whenever possible, close neighbors). The
Case Manager placed an emphasis on ensuring that caregivers
are receiving all required ancillary services to facilitate
their attendance at, and successful completion of, substance
abuse treatment programs.
project service delivery methodology involved visits to the
homes of the participating families by Case Managers, Home
Visitors, and/or volunteers responsible for teaching parenting
and lifestyle skills to the caregivers and at the same time
monitoring the implementation of the FSP and providing direct
support to caregivers in their daily living environment. The
tutor was responsible for assistance to the children regarding
their school related responsibilities and was an optional
member of the standard "home team." Each family
was entitled to the regular two-hour home visit based on individual
family needs with no less than biweekly visits during service
implementation. On average there were four visits per month
during support service initiation, with the frequency escalating
to as many as two times per week during family crisis situations.
The Home Visitors worked closely with the parents to make
sure that they have accessible support services, per steps
contained in their FSP.
In addition to
the support of the Home Visitors and Tutors, participating
parents and children were involved in a variety of neighborhood-based
activities including individual counseling, group counseling
and culturally specific training programs designed to improve
their competencies in life skills. All counseling services
were provided by professionally trained and experienced agency
staff. Individual counseling (1:1), on average, lasted an
hour. Group sessions were performed in a group setting, with
at most 15 group participants per counselor and they lasted
an hour and a half on average.
focused on such topics as anger management, conflict resolution,
adult/child relationships and interpersonal skills development.
Many family sessions were performed in the family homes, one
counselor working with the whole family, an average counseling
session lasting one hour. However, many counselors reported
staying much longer (to express their respect for the culture).
With respect to
parents, a peer support group was established as soon as possible
(as an element of the future support center); group support
was provided, as well as encouragement for the exploration
of personal emotional development which would help them to
better understand themselves and their children while significantly
reducing and/or eliminating destructive and abusive behaviors
toward their children. This group gave parents the opportunity
to meet with their peers in a friendly, known, open, nurturing
environment in which they were able to share their personal
experience and explore the underlying reasons for placing
their children at risk of maltreatment, while at the same
time reinforcing techniques suggested by professional counselors
regarding effective methods to reduce stress in the home and
avoid situations that may lead to the abuse or neglect of
their children. Three to five parents from each group were
delegated to represent parents' needs and interests at the
empowerment project level as members of the Parents Advisory
for children focused helping children to overcome their traumatic
experiences of being exposed to maltreatment in what should
have been a comforting home environment. Age-appropriate therapy
techniques were employed to engage the children in the counseling
process; art and play therapy modalities were incorporated
with verbal techniques and role playing. Individual therapeutic
interventions focused on specific needs of each and every
child; the number and length of these sessions also reflected
the needs, severity of the trauma and progress. Different
interventions were offered in a group format biweekly with
a ratio of one staff person to 15-30 children, depending on
the group activity; many sessions were devoted to training
the children techniques to avoid abusive situations, as well
as how to report maltreatment and seek help. Group sessions
were conducted at different sites based on the children's
area of residence; we tried to utilize convenient facilities
throughout the target area such as schools, churches, community
based organizations (while offering services, we were at the
same time exploring the availability of the facility for the
neighborhood support center).
Our target population
has historically been difficult to reach with supportive services
due to language barriers and cultural isolation from the larger
community. The empowerment project provided the necessary
support for the entire family unit through addressing and
resolving the precursors to the abuse, thus eliminating the
cause and changing the behavior. This was accomplished in
a large part through in-home individual training activities,
as well as group training offered in both formal workshop
and informal group discussion settings. With appropriate coaching
and tutoring monitored by staff, we anticipated that participating
caregivers would demonstrate measurable improvement in their
parenting and interpersonal general life skills.
We were completely
open to the input from the parents regarding the topic areas
for such training and our team predefined the following:
1.) basic parenting
4.) anger management,
stress management techniques,
personal responsibility for one's own actions,
care giving techniques for at-risk children, and
heritage related to parenting.
training focused on
3.) seeking help.
of the training activities was to provide participating parents
with enhanced abilities that will help prevent maltreatment
before it occurs while empowering their children to take action
should maltreatment occur. We offered participants a broad
array of resources in order to help them eliminate or reduce
the factors that may lead to abuse or neglect of the at-risk
children in the home. Training was provided in a culturally-appropriate
and gender-specific manner. To achieve this goal, our staff
reviewed and adapted a large number of existing curricula
such as Los Ninos Bien Educados, Para Los Ninos, El Milagro
and many others.
In order to encourage
participation we provided modest stipends for appropriate
rewards and recreational activities; this included tickets
to sporting events, field trips, and specific incentives received
after completion of the FSP outcomes.
intervention mechanism, a 24-hour "help line," was
established as part of the empowerment project to provide
participating parents with a professional emergency response
to address parenting challenges or parenting crises. Participating
caregivers, children (especially adolescents) and involved
extended family members were enabled to reach project staff
around the clock, as needed, through the help line. Qualified
staff (Case Managers) was assigned to manage the calls on
a weekly rotation basis, with a goal of returning all calls
within 15-30 minutes. On-duty staff had to assess the situation
and take necessary steps toward immediate conflict resolution.
One of the important
tenets of our empowerment project was a tutoring program through
which parents were provided with appropriate role models for
successful parenting. Participants were selected for tutoring
based on their needs, as indicated in their FSP.
Tutors were bilingual
volunteers from the community; we tried to recruit them from
the neighborhood. They provided participants with a positive,
nurturing influence while demonstrating appropriate standards
of conduct for effective parenting of at-risk children. For
many participants, our tutors were the first positive parenting
role models in their lives as the majority of them most likely
have been themselves raised in abusive households in which
substance abuse was considered "normal." The tutors
worked individually with caregivers one on one in their homes
to improve self-esteem and build ability to provide children
with nurturing and loving care. All tutors completed 40 hours
of training offered at our agency. We tried to maintain a
pool of at least 20 volunteer tutors at any given time. Beside
mentoring for the parents, tutors offered their services to
the children, related to the family relations, school work
and social skills.
In order to provide
parents with the full support they need to overcome risk factors
for maltreatment, participants in the empowerment project
were offered respite care services so that they may be relieved
of their parenting responsibilities for periods of time ranging
from several hours to several days, depending on the individual
requirements. Respite care was provided in convenient neighborhood
settings utilizing available community (neighborhood) facilities.
Respite care was offered so that parents have the freedom
to attend the scheduled training and counseling activities,
as well as simply to give them a "time out" from
their day-to-day parenting challenges.
referred to different programs within the collaborating network
to address additional supportive service needs, such as job
training and placement, basic skills education, income support
eligibility, immigration issues, cultural support groups and
others. Project staff compiled and maintained a comprehensive
directory of supportive services available in the community
as an additional resource for the participating families.
Recommendations for these referral resources were included
in the FSP, and were modified as necessary, based on the family's
progress as observed by the Case Manager, Home Visitor, and/or
All services were
provided utilizing a case management approach. Monthly case
conferences were held by the multidisciplinary service delivery
team to evaluate progress of the participants in improving
parenting skills and reduction of actual and potential child
abuse and neglect. Project staff prepared a detailed case
management report on a quarterly basis; whenever feasible
the report was shared with the extended agency team and the
staff from the collaborating agencies. These reports formed
the ground (basis) for the regular case conferences with the
project participants. Recommendations for modifying the FSPs
were made following consultation with the family members.
The focal point
of the project was substance abuse treatment services: it
was anticipated that the vast majority of caregiver participants
will either be in a substance abuse treatment program when
they are accepted into the project or will be referred for
such services during the assessment process. Our agency was
the only specialized provider of culture-specific services
for Latino youth and adults in western Washington providing
outpatient services, outreach, individual and group therapy
and an Alcohol and Drug Information School. These resources
were available to the project participants on an as-needed
basis. The overall project approach was to facilitate the
completion of substance abuse treatment by caregiver participants
through the provision of the family support services described
The basic FSP
consisted of the two equally important components: six months
of intensive service, with a six month follow-up and aftercare
for all families that completed their FSP. Its primary purpose
was to ensure that families are maintaining appropriate home
environments. Following their participation in the project,
staff served as a resource for parent "graduates"
to help them in successfully maintaining their improved family
living situation. Project staff was available to help family
members troubleshoot problems and overcome any difficulties
that may have arisen. Special emphasis was placed on verifying
that the caretakers were maintaining sober living environments.
Follow-up was accomplished using a variety of methods, including
telephone contact and home visits, as well as contact with
the children's teachers and staff from collaborating network
agencies. The use of the Help Line was encouraged; calls from
the program graduates were to be followed by a visit to the
home. Program graduates were strongly encouraged to continue
their participation in the peer support group or neighborhood
support center. Also, they were encouraged to become volunteers
after successfully completing their involvement in the project.
As volunteers, these graduates assisted other parents learning
to provide care to their at-risk children without exposing
them to maltreatment.
that by giving project graduates the opportunity to help their
peers, we may reinforce the new parenting skills they just
obtained through the Project, by helping at (through) the
neighborhood support center to the new families and new project
individuals, families, communities and organizations can gain
control and have a voice in decision-making about their well-being.
Specifically, empowerment is a process through which people
become strong enough to participate within, share control
of and influence events and institutions that affect their
lives (Torre, 1985).
As a result of
the empowerment approach, family members begin to develop
a less contaminated and constricted view of their situation
and identity, and they take on a firmer appreciation of how
their lives have been shackled by authorities, institutions
and agencies. Thus, family members are helped in gaining a
more authentic sense of who they are, what they do and what
they want to do.
All families were
helped; a very large number of our families, and in particular
a large number of the younger members of the family, were
A. Both adults
and children in the families:
understanding and knowledge about their own emotional development,
as well as development of the interpersonal skills, anger
management, stress reduction, and responsible behavior;
2.) were, all
in all, helped legally, financially and educationally, and
through a set of wraparound professional services, the family
achieved better, healthier functioning;
insight in/about the problem and learned to seek appropriate
help (this happened in about 30 percent of families with prolonged
abusive behavior); for these families, it would be fair to
say that they were helped on their way toward empowerment
but that they still need more intensive, prolonged and individually
B. Parents and other adults in the family:
improvement in their parenting, interpersonal and general
life skills, and learned how to eliminate and/or substitute
matters related to their immigration status with the help
of specialized legal services;
3.) learned about
their rights and the protection (often free of charge) which
they can easily access;
4.) learned how
to secure affordable (and sometimes free of charge) child
care and respite care;
job training and knowledge on how to get a better and/or better
with other families in the community and developed culture
specific bondage, what represented the most empowering component
of the overall project;
more appropriate knowledge about society at large and the
ways to develop local, neighborhood connections.
C. Children and
other young members of the family were:
1.) helped to
overcome traumatic experience through age-appropriate counseling,
therapy and other services;
2.) helped to
understand their own parents (aunts, uncles) and serve as
an additional source of their parents' (aunts/uncles) problem
resolution and growth;
to prioritize their needs and need-related goals, focusing
on their identity, education (school), free time and other
4.) trained to
avoid abusive situations, seek help (when help is needed)
and report maltreatment in the case that it occurs again.
project was a great learning experience for all of us. With
great difficulties and many additional efforts, the basic
project paradigm was implemented. We managed to offer an intensive
six months of wraparound services in the home and in the local
community to over 200 families residing in King and Pierce
Counties in western Washington. We established three neighborhood
support centers. We learned that such intensive services are
helpful in preventing child neglect; families with already
existing child abuse demonstrated a large number of long-lasting
problems and such families needed differently designed approaches
(long-term, individually tailored and specialized services).
experiences may be of help to other professionals who are
contemplating a similar project:
1.) Many families
needed over three months to develop open, trusting relationships
with the three key members of the project team (Case Manager,
Home Visitor and Tutor).
2.) Once such
a relationship was established, family members demonstrated
an "over- trust," or a need to constantly be in
touch and consult team members regarding practically all family
3.) Having that
in mind it is easy to understand that the "completion"
of services after six months comes as a shock to those families
we served. Our team was the first "authority" they
trusted; some kind of bond was created between them, their
community (and culture) and mainstream society, and they feared
that if they lost the established "bond" they would
go back to where they were before entering the program.
4.) A similar
situation was experienced regarding the "help line:"
at first families experienced huge difficulties using the
help line, even when the real crisis was taking place, but
once they learned that it is very easy to "dial the number"
they demonstrated a tendency to overuse the line, calling
for all kinds of irrelevant, benign reasons.
5.) The situation
was somewhat similar with children and youth: at first they
feared that they may be punished by their caregivers (parents
and/or other adults in the family) for "reporting"
a potential maltreatment; often they called from the public
phone, not from the family phone but once they learned that
each call was handled with special care, they started to call
on a regular basis (especially when the person on duty was
a member of their family service team).
6.) We experienced
a large number of problems regarding recruiting volunteer
tutors and other volunteers; our families live in a neighborhood
in which residents work long hours holding several (very low
paying) jobs; many families have problems of their own as
it was very hard to find positive role models and neighbors
willing to offer four to six hours a week and after a while
we had to lower our criteria and our demand regarding the
culture (from being a member of the culture of the H/L community,
we went to accepting as volunteers neighbors who have some
knowledge of Spanish and the basic understanding of the Latino
7.) We also experienced
problems regarding development of the neighborhood support
centers: to begin with, it was very hard to find a facility
which was available in the neighborhood that was nice, safe,
free of charge, open in the evenings and over the weekend;
we tried to partner with the similar programs which already
existed in the community; unfortunately we had to learn that
there are many reasons (many constraints attached to the programs
internally and/or externally, most often related to funding)
why this is not possible.
8.) The same
is true for the "help line;" we learned that it
would be more expensive to partner with one of the existing
help-lines than to establish our own "internal"
help-line by using the agency's cellular phone.
9.) On the positive
side, we learned that our best partners are graduates from
the agency's substance abuse and domestic violence programs
(former victims and abusers) as many of them expressed sincere
interest in becoming a part of the project to achieve additional
training (way beyond the required number of hours and predefined
content); it seemed that at the same time they wanted to help
members of their community and "pay back" to the
agency but unfortunately the number of such families was not
10.) Also, adolescents
from such families were excellent volunteer tutors, but their
number was way below our need; they did represent a great
addition to the project, a facet which was not anticipated
in the project paradigm: to deliver a clear positive message
to the children and youth still living in neglecting and/or
abusive families that the problems can be resolved, things
can get better and that there are positive alternatives was
one of the most powerful components of the program.
11.) An additional
positive element, often "overlooked" by the professionals,
was a rather strong bondage within the extended family: special
caring attitudes, many positive elements which go beyond logic
and comprehension (on one side we have neglect and/or abuse
and, at the same time, on the other side we have love, respect,
care and many other positive features).
We had to learn
about many "ifs," most of which were related to
the situation in the country of origin, family of origin and
one's own childhood experiences and circumstances related
to their immigration, as well as a rather complex, multifaceted
matrix relating to "living in the U.S."
The etiology of
child abuse is multiple, complex and interactional. Some authors
argue that the forces are sociological. Polansky (1985) states
that poverty and social change place considerable stress on
families; when family has no one to turn to, all kinds of
problems and/or crisis may result with which the family is
not able to cope. There are contributing environmental conditions
such as the lack of social services and other community-based
services, unemployment and inflation, as well as highly bureaucratized,
complicated procedures which often prevent families from seeking
The number of
children and youth at risk who can benefit from preventive
and support services is staggering. Evidence suggests that
one-fourth of children in the U.S., by age 15, have a high
probability of experiencing at least one risk tenet; another
one-fourth are at moderate risk. The Urban Institute (1992)
developed a model with points to the four components:
existing problems such as poverty, neighborhood-environment-family
dysfunction and other environmental forces can have negative
effects on children and youth and make them increasingly vulnerable
to later family, school or community problems;
2.) risk markers
such as poor school performance or involvement with child
protective services are visible indicators of problems linked
with increased vulnerability and/or the potential onset of
3.) problem behaviors
such as early sexual activity, truancy, running away from
home, early use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, as well
as hanging around with gangs and delinquent peers have the
potential to harm children and youth and community;
4.) risk outcomes
such as pregnancy, homelessness, prostitution, delinquency,
sexually transmitted diseases and other life-threatening conditions,
as well as death by accident, suicide or homicid stem from
problem behaviors; these outcomes are more prevalent than
is generally assumed.
There is no doubt
that societal and cultural factors, as well as the level of
support available to families from the communities in which
they reside have an impact on the nature and extent of problems
experienced by families. No matter how troubled, all families
have a certain amount of positive elements such as strength,
which can be utilized while working with families. Effective
prevention and intervention programs should capitalize on
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Breakdown by type
Breakdown of Fatalities
by abuse or neglect for 1993
Age of Child at
Time of Death
EMPOWERMENT APPROACH TO THE PREVENTION OF THE CHILD NEGLECT
This paper presents
a brief description of the empowerment demonstration project.
The goal of the project was to demonstrate an effective interagency
collaborative approach for preventing and intervening in the
maltreatment of children aged 0-18 living in families in which
the caretaker is a substance abuser. A special emphasis was
placed on working with families with adolescents. The primary
target population was Latino families residing in the King
and Pierce counties of western Washington in the U.S.
The overall objective
of the project: to develop an innovative model of support
for families in which there is a concurrent substance abuse
and child neglect and/or abuse. Key components of the program
are intensive, wraparound, in-home services delivered by the
service team (Case Manager, Home Visitor, Tutor) according
to the Family Service Plan (FSP), jointly developed by the
agency team and family members. Our approach emphasized home
visits by bilingual and bicultural professionals who will
train participating family members in effective parenting
techniques and monitor progress of the family members toward
achieving goals stated in the FSPs. Additional project components
include individual and group counseling, tutoring, diverse
group training and a 24-hour help line. In addition, education
was offered to the staff of the collaborating community agencies,
family members and concerned people from the community regarding
recognizing the precursor signs of concurrent child maltreatment
and substance abuse. The objective of the empowerment project
training was to provide participating caregivers with enhanced
abilities that will help prevent maltreatment before it occurs,
while empowering the children to take action should maltreatment
occur. We aimed at giving participants a broad array of resources
to help them eliminate or reduce the factors that may lead
to neglect and/or abuse of at-risk children in the home. Overall,
the service program was age-, gender-, and culture-specific.
There were two six-month components of the program: the first
six months focused on service delivery and the second six
months presented a follow-up period primarily related to ongoing
support for caregivers and other members of the family. All
caregivers are encouraged and supported to complete a specifically
designed substance abuse treatment program.
KEY WORDS: child
neglect, child abuse, substance abuse, empowerment, collaboration,
family-based wraparound services, Case Manager, Home Visitor,
Ttutor, family service plan (FSP).