Treatment of Neglected Children
Most intervention programs with neglectful families focus services on the parents, and few offer direct therapeutic services to the children. Removal of children and placement in foster care to assure the safety of the child is the most widely used direct intervention with children. Removal and placement of children resulted in reduced rates of repeated maltreatment for children and adolescents.
Review of projects providing direct services for abused and neglected children revealed improvements in all areas of functioning for over 70 percent of the children served. Group counseling, temporary shelter, and personal skill development classes were effective interventions with adolescents. Therapeutic day care services for preschool children proved to be the most effective service for both the neglected and physically abused children served by the projects reviewed.
Therapeutic Child Care for Young Children
Child care programs for children with specially designed therapeutic activities to provide stimulation, cultural enrichment, and development of motor skills and social skills, have proven to have a significant impact on the child's functioning and the prevention of repeated maltreatment by parents. Therapeutic child care requires thorough individual assessments to identify specific cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral problems. Successful care also includes intensive, daily contact between the children and the child care staff to carry out the planned therapeutic activities to meet specific goals for each child. Child care staff must be well trained to understand the negative developmental effects of neglect and provide the therapeutic interactions with the children. Neglectful parents should also be involved in the program and receiving simultaneous intervention to remedy deficits in parenting.
Programs for Older Children
School-aged children who are victims of neglect have serious deficits in cognitive and academic skills that require intervention to prevent school failure and dropout, and a continuing downward cycle of functioning. School and community programs are required to remedy the child's social and learning deficits.
Examples of preventive programs and services for school-aged children and adolescents follow.
- Special education programs with low teacher-to-child ratios, structured learning-by-doing activities, positive reinforcement, and the best computer-assisted learning technology available help remedy deficits in cognitive stimulation and motivation to learn.
- School or community tutorial programs using professional teachers or volunteers provide neglected children and adolescents with necessary academic help, encouragement, and a relationship with a nurturing adult to help overcome academic deficits.
- Group counseling and personal skills development classes for older children and adolescents provide opportunities for developing life skills appropriate to age and developmental level. Groups are especially appropriate with younger maltreated children because their observations and interpretations of commonly shared experiences exert a corrective influence on one another.
- Volunteer big brothers and big sisters provide neglected children with emotional nurturing, tutoring, cultural enrichment, recreation activities, and positive role modeling as well as vocational and career counseling.
If temporary placement of the child outside the home is necessary, a service/treatment plan must be developed with the family specifying what must be accomplished, when, and by whom in order for reunification to occur.
The plan should provide:
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- a definite projected time for returning the child to the parents;
- specific goals to be achieved prior to the child's return;
- specific actions to be taken by the parents, foster parents, and professional helpers to facilitate the accomplishment of the goals and the return of the child.
- Consistent professional support and follow-up with the family on scheduled activities and goals are essential. The reunification plan represents a partnership in problem solving.