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How to Prevent Abuse.

How can we prevent abuse of children in private homes?

You can't always, but you can help a parent to *be* a better parent with a bit of loving support. You can help a struggling parent with ideas and/or a listening ear.

I think no matter what system of accountability you choose to deal with abuse or potential abuse, there are going to be problems. Children are small and can't speak for themselves... well, at least in any sort of meaningful advocating kind of way when someone at home is hurting them.

But make government tightly wound up with the home environment in an attempt to catch abuse, and it still won't catch every case. THEN abuse that happens at the public school is not so easily escaped. I think what Elf experienced is actually pretty typical. I think a LOT of students are bullied by their teachers and peers, sometimes mercilessly, and nothing is done. Easy to say that with public "accountability" that schools will do the right thing. They DON'T. Sometimes children who suffer abuse at school don't tell, and so of course Mom's not going to put that call in to the school. Sometimes the school plain old drags its feet.

Sometimes stuff happens. But I think EVERY time it happens, it's tragic no matter *where* it happens.

In fact, I fear with more tax dollars and everyone under a certain income bracket having to use the public schools for special services, there is a "what's good enough for me is good enough for you" mentality in too many fellow parents. (Crab in a bucket kinda thing. Your autistic kid is eating up too much of my kid's money etc.)

At least, God forbid, if I were to drop off my son at my imaginary friend Joan's house for a few hours and later discovered she'd abused him, I wouldn't HAVE to send him back to her house the next day. I wouldn't need to prove to the state that I have his best interests at heart by keeping him at home away from his "peers" and her helpful oversight. I wouldn't HAVE to fight tons of district (taxpayer-financed) lawyers working against the interests of my family like parents do in some states.

Of course the other end of the spectrum, letting parents do whatever they jolly well want, has its flaws as well. There will *always* be some sadistic parents out there, and some that even in a watchful society, will find ways to get away with stuff. There just will.

I've heard of people losing kids for no more than spanking, but I've also heard stories... oh, goodness, I've heard awful, awful stories that make you just want to check up on every little kid out there just to see if he or she is ok today. :[ Just to give each of them a hug and hope things are well for them.

So sometimes, I *do* understand, emotionally, why people err on the side of Nosy Nellie, even if I think Nosy Nellie is acting all unconstitutional and should mind her own stinkin' business.

I don't think there really is an answer, but I hope people don't try to make the "state" in charge or every family.

So how would we make sure that every child is cared for? How would we be sure that kids aren't being burnt with cigarettes and/or starved at home?

I'm not sure that there is any foolproof way. Honest answer. And someone else being a nutbrain shouldn't mean I have to be "accountable" to doctors and other assorted personalities of the Godhead.

(That was sarcasm, not bad theology. Just FYI.)

Not to mention, I personally am beginning to get VERY DISTRUSTFUL of doctors. The questions they ask when you go to the ER, like, are you up to date on shots? Is there abuse in your home? Are none of their @#*$ business if I'm there for a busted finger and I TOLD you how it happened for crying out loud. Then they seem to think I'm belligerent that I won't answer their question "so they can help me."

Holy crap. Just mark me down as a mental case and move on, all right?

OK, and we also got kicked out of a medical practice for refusing certain shots. New doctor does NO shots. So... in the interest of public health and safety, you've just alienated a family with six children from getting ANY vaccinations instead of just about 3/4 of them and made them less likely to see physicians for problems. That's great!

Instead of meeting people where they are and dealing with the fact that we religious people are sometimes a little quirky, they have to be all authoritarian, give it the all or nothing approach and wonder why we're choosing, more and more frequently, to say, "NOTHING! Stay away from my kid!"

This sort of attitude then gets misinterpreted as "they have something to hide." You can't win.

But I don't think this side of heaven that there is an "answer" as to how to prevent abuse completely. Having strong families, people who are connected to others in their community, would be a great start. Wow, I'd really like that. Nevermind the abuse prevention situation for a sec, it would be nice to have *somebody* around. Here we are with no family nearby. Last time I went out with my husband alone? Years. No. Take that back. I had about two hours when I was delivering S in the hospital last January... but other than that... years. Maybe I should say that that would just be a plain old nice thing to have. But having a little help here and there, I'd guess, would be a nice way of having people in the community involved with a family.

But wait! Maybe we need to define "abuse" before we go on. Reading the Bible to your kids is not abuse, nor yet is enrolling him in a Madrassa. You can teach the child that Santa is REAL and that he's descended from apes. In my opinion, abuse is not feeding your child enough, but it doesn't count when you send him to bed without supper for being sassy. It counts if he NEVER gets supper. Unless you're celebrating Ramadan all year, in which case, whatever, but just feed the kid a big meal at least once a day and I think we're good.

On spanking your own kid. I don't ever want to see it. But I can't say you should lose your kid for it just because I want to cry and hide witnessing this. Spanking your kid all the time, leaving your pornos out for him to find and calling the kid a stupid f-ing maggot on a regular basis is a bit problematic. Just so you know for next time I come over.

Speaking of the definition of abuse, I do have a son who literally thinks he is abused when his Nintendo system is taken away. Oh, my. This particular person will scream, bang on things and yell choice words like, "YOU'RE ABUSING ME! AAA!!" He'll start kicking the wall, punching things, thump thump thump... which sounds really great if you're standing outside. I wonder why I have received no helpful visitors from DFS yet, but they are hopefully busy dealing with more pressing cases of abuse as detailed above. Not that I'm wishing for real abuse cases. Well. Arg. You knew what I meant, people. Ok, so anyway, knowing what abuse is and is not would also be helpful to (ahem) certain people in the community. Losing the Nintendo does NOT qualify.

I think churches also play a big role in abuse prevention, as do family-centered businesses like preschools and daycares and schools. Maybe I'll get flak for saying that, and it kinda goes against what I said up in paragraph 4 (hey, I'm not writing Scripture here; I'm drinking my coffee and chatting with you. I get to contradict myself while I'm being consistent about it. My blog.).

Lots of people use these institutions and they're not going away anytime soon. However, I think before nosy teachers from school call about abuse, they should be SURE it's going on. I think the law should be changed to NOT allow anonymous reporting of abuse, ever. The name, address and driver's license number of all reporters should be at least known to the person taking the call and investigating. And no more shield laws protecting these professionals. Abuse of the system is abuse of the system no matter who does it.

You know, when I was in journalism we had the saying, "When in doubt, leave it out." Oh, there were plenty of times stuff did not get printed because we didn't have two sources on record saying this or that, or we had some loose ends to tie up before the story is printable and no one seemed to be able to get that information. Mind you, I was at a teeny little daily. I'm sure better-connected journalists who have been able to print stories like, "Alien Cousins of Elvis Visit South American Tribe" are more qualified to speak on this maxim.

But anyway. All that to say this: Be careful before making accusations. If you're so big and bad that you can report on a defenseless family to the DFS out of "concern" for the child eating too many Twinkies and playing outside on a school day, make sure that it's really concern and not retaliation. Be really sure that it's abuse before picking up that phone, because it is really going to mess up some little girl's life if they have to "examine" her, ok?

In conclusion, Mrs. C is not in charge of the world. Maybe Mrs. C feels the way she does because her kid wasn't treated so well in daycare and school situations. Like I said, I'm not writing Scripture here. Just chatting.


  1. "Just chatting" makes great use of our blogs! I feel your heart here though.

  2. You and I could talk about this for days :)

    Did you know that here in NSW, Australia, we have a nasty thing called 'mandatory reporting'? Mandatory reporters (GPs, teachers, day care workers, nurses, police, anyone who has professional or voluntary dealings with children) must, by law, report their concerns, whether they are substantiated or not. If they get 'caught' NOT reporting (as if that could possibly happen, hello!), they are liable for the $22000 fine. The individual, not the employer, nor the organisation, is liable. To my knowledge it has never happened, but the fact that it 'could' is enough for most people. Thankfully, this awful system is currently under review.

  3. Thanks, Pam!

    And T, if I were a teacher, and if these weren't real families we were talking about, I'd be tempted to just hand the school directory to the social worker's office on the first day of school and say... you know... I'm not really SURE about ANY of these people (who can be?). Then you can be sure you didn't miss anyone. :]

  4. Do you think or believe that all of our conversation helps? I mean, as homeschoolers, religious parents, freethinkers, liberal progressives, aetheists, public school teachers, just all of us human beings, really striving to do the best we can for our children and other children...Don't you think that the best thing we can all do is keep talking to each other, because when we stop talking, stop trying to understand then we for sure won't. That even if it's hard to see the otherside of any issue, that we have to try?.. I just hear a lot of people giving up these days and retreating behind their doors..doing things their way and refusing to see that there are many choices and many sides to every discussion...and that perhaps while we value the place we are at and don't even wish to change it,,that we still need to listen to others, and try, really hard, screw on our listening brains...and just try to see the other person's viewpoint.

    I think we need more of that..and more talking, more blogging, more chatting, more just trying to touch each other as human beings who care about their world. Retreating into judgment feels so good when we feel we've been wronged..but does it really help our world? I don't think so. I think I need to listen to more, talk more, and just keep plugging away at the world with charm, empathy, Christian love for others..and eventually they'll .......see things my way! :)

  5. Definitely we can't be a healthy, happy society in our little enclaves shooting suspiciously at each other. The best advice I've seen about what to do when you are worried about how a mom is treating a child? -- listen (so you can hear the moment) and then talk! Say something kind to the mom and maybe the child, to break into their little closed loop of unhappiness, in the grocery checkout line say, or at the park.
    Right then, right there. Imagine if we all did that, every time it happened -- it would model better behavior and coping for the mom, show the child one happy window into the world of adults, thus hold at least the possibility of changing a bad situation for the better.

    This applies when the child is behaving badly in public too, not just when the mom is. A screaming, hungry toddler is less likely to get a slap when we frown and make the mom feel guilty for being in public at all, than if we all are that connected, supportive, understanding "village" for mom and child that's so often mocked or misunderstood. . .we unschoolers are especially good at this I think, because we don't do hitting or even punishment at all. We have strange stuff in our pockets to pull out. We divert, redirect, smile, wink, sing, act goofy, play invented games, and pose surprising questions that shake up ruts and annoying habits. So it's our listening and talking is we can give back to the community without legal authority or money, etc. :)

    You know the Biggest Loser theme song? -- "what have you done today, to make you feel proud?" -- that's how I feel about my conversations with moms and their kids out in the world and here on the intertubes too. Not with the idea of ideology but just doing something I feel good about that day, to make me feel proud. :)

    So I like Betty's listen AND talk more idea, so that we get a sort of synergy going. We don't want to be conversational "cowards" about our differences (a la the new attorney general's comments about race discussions.) Connections crackle with life in both direction, at least in a healthy communications network, and the more we feel heard, the more we're willing to talk.

  6. Darn, obviously I meant MORE likely to get a slap when we frown and cluck than when we smile and say something helpful. . .I've noticed this applies even at church btw!

  7. Betty, I *do* think talking helps, but some people make me a bit nervous and I'm not really ready to enter into a "conversation" with them. I feel that my convictions get mistaken for hostility or something to hide.

    JJ, I knew what you meant. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the OPPOSITE happen to me when I was out with G when he was young. He wasn't diagnosed yet, but he would turn purple and howl suddenly a *lot.* My husband had left the state to start a new job and I HAD to go grocery shopping, etc. NO family nearby. I can NOT just leave the cart or call a friend or whatever as advised in those stupid parenting magazines. And he would have that blood-curdling scream that would send people RUNNING from the other end of the store to see what was happening to the poor tot. It was hard.

    I've also had a problem a while back where Woodjie was SPANKED in church by a nursery worker because he was "naughty." I went to the pastor and told him that I did NOT want this to happen ever again. I think he was disappointed that I did not give the NAME of the person, but to me the name wasn't important. I think she was doing what she thought was right at the time. What's important is that we have an understanding of how our children should and should not be treated.

    It wouldn't bother me *so much* if this person spanked her own kids. (I don't like seeing it.) But I hope that discussion brings change.

    Now I am keeping a laminated card in Woodjie's bookbag with his diapers with some signs and a note indicating the kid is nonverbal. IMO he's almost certainly on the spectrum. :]


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