The Guardian Advocate Newsletter
Guardianship Reality News
By Robert T. Fertig
Nationally, 3.6 million referrals are made to Child Protection Investigators, involving 6.6 million children annually. The U.S. happens to be the worst among developed industrial nations, losing 4-to-7 children every day to parental abuse and neglect.
Florida happens to be the nation’s grayest state. Nearly 25% of the Sunshine state’s population are seniors. They should be the nation’s leader in Eldercare and Childcare laws, standards, and support systems. Are they?
There are sensationalistic stories about guardianship “exploitation and fraud.” We provide a “balanced view” by those who handled dozens of complex cases. The facts are that guardianship is a profession dedicated to the Best Interests of Children and the Elderly.
Responsibility for making life-and-death decisions for children and the elderly is much more difficult than making individual decisions for oneself.
The Patient Advocate shares with our readers the realistic challenges of caring for both children and the elderly given into our care, which is a very great responsibility. There are no easy answers; each is a special case, an individual person, who deserves a personalized solution to their particular circumstances.
If you have vulnerable children, or grandchildren, and/or elderly parents or grandparents, this newsletter is for you. This work is similarly for professional guardians or conservators, attorneys, as well as administrators, law enforcement officials, social workers, health care providers, case managers, and faith-based institutions.
“Everyone wants to be your sun, but not me. I want to be your moon, to light up your darkest moments when your sun is not around.”
Every year, there are three million reports of children neglected and abused in the United States. For every incident of child abuse or neglect reported, an estimated two incidents go unreported. Almost five children die every day from child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of four. Child abuse occurs across all socioeconomic levels, all cultural lines, all religions and education level. Neglect, the most widespread form of child abuse, makes up more than 59% of all abuse cases.
Source: Child help and DOSOMETHING.org
The public must know how our national child and elderly protection systems works—or does not work—so that people can participate politically in its reform. Most maltreatment deaths result from physical abuse, especially children receiving injuries to their heads. Known as abusive head trauma, these injuries occur when a child’s head is slammed against a surface, is severely struck or when a child is violently shaken. There have been major improvements in the ability to diagnose abusive head trauma and in investigators’ abilities to recognize when a caregiver’s explanation for injuries do not match the severity of the injuries.
Many children, who die from physical abuse have been abused over time, but a one-time event often causes a death. The most common reason given by caretakers who fatally injure their children is that they lost patience when the child would not stop crying. Other common reasons given by the abusers include bedwetting, fussy eating and disobedient behavior.
Fatalities from neglect include a number of different ways in which caregivers fail to adequately provide for or supervise their children. Caregivers may fail to provide food and nurturing to their child, leading to malnutrition, failure to thrive, starvation or dehydration. Caregivers may fail to seek medical care when their child is ill, leading to more serious illness and death. Neglect cases can also result from intentional or grossly negligent failure to supervise a child, resulting in bathtub drowning, suffocations, poisonings and other types of fatal incidents.
Young children are the most vulnerable victims. National statistics show that children under six years of age account for 86% of all maltreatment deaths and infants account for 43% of these deaths. Fathers and mothers’ boyfriends are most often the perpetrators of abuse; mothers are more often at fault in the neglect fatalities. Fatal abuse is interrelated with poverty, domestic violence and [usually] substance abuse.
Major Risk Factors:
Younger children, especially under the age of five.
Parents or caregivers who are under the age of 30.
Low income, single-parent families experiencing depression and stresses.
Children left with male caregivers who lack emotional attachment to the child.
Children with physical, emotional and mental health problems.
Lack of suitable childcare services.
Substance abuse among the primary caregivers.
Caregivers with unrealistic expectations of child development and behavior.
Training hospital emergency room staff to improve their ability to identify child abuse fatalities and improve reporting to the appropriate agencies.
Providing an advisory on the mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect to local human service agencies, hospitals and physicians.
Case management, referral and follow-up of infants sent home with serious health or developmental problems.
Media campaigns to enlighten and inform the public on known fatality-producing behaviors, i.e., violently shaking a child out of frustration.
Crisis Nurseries which serve as havens for parents “on the edge” where they can leave their children for a specified time, at no charge.
Intensive home visiting services to parents of at-risk infants and toddlers.
Education programs for parents such as the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), the Parent Nurturing Program and Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (S.T.E.P.).
Source: National MCH Center for Child Death Review (edited for this newsletter)
This is a true story from children less than ten years old. They are the most vulnerable and innocent of all children. They cannot speak for themselves. We were the voices for these children. This story will give the reader a portrait of how State Departments of Children and Families (DCF) system works to protect children, with the essential support of volunteers like us, known as Guardian ad Litem (Guardians) or CASA.
These volunteers work without enough resources, without adequate training, and without sufficient supervision. They do works of charity without faith-based support because of our secularized governmental system. By this we do not mean they are atheistic; many are spiritual, but they are not permitted to express their Judeo-Christian belief— Love of God and love of neighbor.
The malevolence that we expected to experience was parent’s abandonment, abuse and neglect of God’s precious innocent children. While we find reasons to fault Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), what we did not expect to encounter was a far more dysfunctional (DCF) system in many other states—nationwide.