1. Intervention must be sensitive to culture, values, religion, and other individual differences.
It is important for professionals to be aware of the essential uniqueness of each individual. Since there is no single cause of child maltreatment, the community response should be individualized to examine the particular circumstances of each child and family. Since many abusive and neglectful adults have similar problems, it is easy to categorize or pigeonhole them and then offer packaged solutions. While people may have similar problems, there are elements of individual situations that will invariably be unique. Therefore, intervention must consider the unique background, strengths, and resources of each family.
2. Professionals must recognize that most parents do not intend to harm their children; rather, abuse and neglect is the result of a combination of factors: psychological, social, situational, and societal.
Parents may be more likely to maltreat their children if they were emotionally deprived, abused, or neglected as children; are isolated without family or friends to depend on; feel worthless and have never been loved or cared about; are emotionally immature or needy; abuse drugs or alcohol; or are in poor health.
3. In order to be helpful to families, service providers need to believe that many maltreating adults have the capacity to change their abusive/neglectful behavior, given sufficient help and resources to do so.
4. If the goal is to help families protect their children and meet their basic needs, then the community's response must be non-punitive, non-critical, and conducted in the least intrusive manner possible.
One of the essential ingredients in developing a therapeutic relationship is demonstrating respect for the client. This does not mean approval of a caretaker's abusive or neglectful behavior. It does mean to show respect for the person, while disapproving of his/her actions.
5. Growing up in their family is optimal for children, as long as children's safety can be assured. Maintaining the family as a unit preserves the bonding and loving relationship with the parents and siblings, and allows the children to grow and develop within the culture and environment most familiar to them.
Therefore, if safety for children can be assured, the first goal is to maintain children in their own homes by strengthening families so that they can meet their children's developmental needs and protect them from harm. Regardless of the physical and emotional trauma children may suffer at the hands of their parents, they develop attachment to their parents, even though the attachment may be dysfunctional. Efforts must first be to empower families to meet the needs of their children and to resolve the problems that led to maltreatment.
6. If families cannot or will not meet their children's needs or protect their children from harm, and children have to be removed from their families to ensure their safety, all efforts must focus on a permanent plan for the child.
Removing a child from his/her family should be a measure of last resort; it should be used only to ensure the child's safety. This is because removal of children from their parents alters children's developmental needs; children experience loss of the family, identity confusion, and negative effects on their self-concept. Children in foster care live day-to-day with an uncertainty of knowing that they can be moved at any minute. Children who live with their families rarely suspect that their families would expel them or that they could be taken away, even if these ideas are verbalized by parents in anger. However, once separated, the reality of this becomes compelling in the child's life experience. Each day and hour lived without the reassurance of permanence detracts from a child's capacity to form trusting relationships; something needed to survive in the larger society.
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