Child protection is not a phenomenon that has appeared recently. It was a serious matter in Biblical times as well. However, nowadays, the laws of most countries require that specific words and terms are defined in any legal setting to avoid the confusion arising from their use. The children’s rights are the needs and responsibilities that guardians and parents have to provide for their children. However, these rights are not always enforced or adhered to by the expected groups responsible for children. In this case, the child protection is a legal requirement that all parties must adhere to as well as ensure that other parties do not allow suffering of children. Children would require a custodial or legal protection in several cases. Some of these cases include: the presence of irresponsible parents or one irresponsible parent on the onset of divorce, in case of the death of both parents, child labor, denying of healthy living, and abuse of a the child’s right to education. There are subcategories of these cases. However, all these and their subcategories can be addressed under the aspect of child protection. Child protection is the subject of this essay. The paper will cover all of the above cases, while at the same time providing the methods on how to accomplish this task.
Current Child Protection Situation
Generally, children are at risk if such factors occur: 1) low income or parental unemployment, 2) homelessness, 3) poor parenting, 4) poor schooling, 5) postnatal depression amongst mothers, 6) substance misuse by parents, and 7) community factors (Wilson & James, 2007). However, all the other situations that do not fall under the scope of normal can be viewed as detrimental for the young individuals that are only starting to develop into adults.
Child protection as a topical issue in today’s society is not only a concern about forensic evidence of child abuse occurrences, but also about welfare, prevention, and treatment of the little ones. In order to improve it, the priority should be given to effective supervision and training of social workers as well as to the effective protection from abuse brought about by enhancing children’s quality of life (Wilson & James, 2007). Modern child protection system is too much about monitoring and policing and not enough about helping and supporting. It is largely shaped by series of public inquires about child deaths. Child protection system is aimed at detecting abuse and does not consider how best abused and neglected children can be helped (Beckett, 2007).
Child protection is to be secured by juvenile justice. Its main idea is that children and young people’s best interests are of primary consideration in all actions affecting them. Children are: 1) to be given conditions to develop their full potential,2) to remain wherever possible within their family and common networks, 3) to be protected from discrimination and abuse, 4) to be given proper care by those looking after them, and 5) to receive promotion of religious, cultural, racial, linguistic background (Williams, 2008).
A multidisciplinary team is usually created to provide children with the best possible care. It generally includes social, health service, and educational workers, legal system and child care practitioners, and voluntary groups. However, there exists an opinion that children would be better protected if there was a single agency in charge, rather than all these groups cooperating together (Hobart & Frankel, 1998). Nevertheless, importance of joint work between the police and social services in investigation of child abuse is also indisputable (Lawrence, 2004).
Child protection is a wide area that can be addressed in some phases and stages. However, one cannot protect a child if there is no threat to his/her survival. Therefore, one of the threats in the life of children that require protection is child labor. As highlighted earlier, the definition of words and terms is a crucial requirement in the legal setting. Therefore, child labor is the act of subjecting children to duties that surpass their ages and those which are aimed at benefiting other parties. Organizations around the world have termed the child labor as the act of forcing children to work. However, the research suggests that the fact that a child is allowed to work, or forced to work, or asked to work in any environment may be termed as profitable to the owner and is called child labor. If the child labor is an unethical behavior, there is a possibility that it is also a crime in more countries than just the USA and the UK. Therefore, if there is an aspect of criminality in child labor, there must be a connection between the crime and a possible culprit (Polnay, 2001).
Child labor is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity. It is harmful to their physical and mental development and interferes with schooling. It is socially as well as morally dangerous and harmful (International Labor Office, 2004). Child labor is different from the stages of development in that it provides a child with difficulties of analyzing his/her environment. A child’s environment is supposed to be free of responsibilities and stresses and should have a sufficient supply of mental, physical, and spiritual support. In this case, child labor, in the context of passing the responsibilities to a child, can be termed as a problem that needs to be solved. Solving of this problem is referred to as the protection of children.
“Child slavery”, “Child corns” - some time ago, we could hear about it only on TV or in newspapers reporting from abroad, where insatiable bourgeois were using child labor on factories, in coal mines, forcing them to work as mules. Those children were always dirty, unhappy, untidy, and unfriendly in the pictures taken. Unfortunately, today, instead of listening to fairytales, gaining knowledge, going in for sports, and resting in children camps, the little ones are working beyond their strength and enriching adults in this way. Moreover, they are not being paid. These young slaves cannot even utter a word. Some of them are happy when given sweets, others rejoice when given shabby clothes. There are also those who jubilate when given some food. However, there is one more category – children who were intimidated and bullied and as a result work out of fear. Still the worst thing is when children fall victims of swindlers, when the latter deceive them and instead of getting these promised “mountains and marvels,” they are given nothing, not even a single “thank you”.
Child slavery is one of the several stages of child labor. It is understood as the act of forcing children to work with no form of fair treatment and free movement. However, if the aspect of compensation can isolate the work done by children from being referred to as child labor, then child slavery can be formalized in the family setting (Fowler, 2003). Children can be exploited in many different illegal and inhuman ways, each of which is to be resolved by juvenile justice system. All the children have the right to be protected from economic exploitation, illicit production, trafficking of drugs, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and use in armed conflict (Craig, 2010).
Problem of Irresponsible Parents
Many children have been taken away from their parents because of the irresponsibility of the parents. However, the factors that come into the play, in majority of cases, are the impact assignment of new caretakers has on a child, while leaving the parents to reproduce further. In this case, the protection of children should be connected only to the living children. The possibility of an irresponsible parent bringing another child to the same environment is high under various circumstances. The aim of law is to enforce the regulations and make sure that people behave in a responsible manner. For this reason, the living children can be taken away from their parents and be given a chance to be happy under the responsible caretakers. However, parents who cannot be responsible for their children’s wellbeing, require to be held responsible for their actions.
“Parenting capacity may be limited temporarily or permanently by poverty, racism, poor housing or unemployment, by personal or marital problems, sensory or physical disability, mental illness or past life experiences” (Cleaver,2007). Of course, all these situations are unhealthy for the children, but in many cases, they are not enough to take a child from his/her parents. Birth family, although not ideal, is always a priority while dealing with such controversial issues:
Child protection deals with an intrinsically complex balancing act between protecting children and preserving families. Children’s safety may be improved by removing them from their birth family but this has significant implications for their welfare. Promoting their welfare within the birth family is desirable but potentially leaves them in greater danger (Munro, 2010).
We can prevent rivers from flooding our homes by building some protective barriers along their banks. However, in the equatorial setting, this method may not work. To be effective, the concerned parties can deal with the current flooding issues by building those protective barriers and the future ones by altering the course of the river. Applying this to the case at hand, children are the floods, while their parents are the problematic rivers. Therefore, the current ‘flooding’ can be prevented by taking the waters out of the ‘rivers’ and placing them in safer places. In terms of taking care of future flooding, the water is no longer the issue, but the river is. It is the duty of parents to protect their children and act responsibly. If a parent is not willing to take care of his/her child, then the child can be placed under the protective custody, while the parent is denied the right to have any more children. After all, the society cannot be dealing with mistreated children while the culprits run scot-free.
Abuse of Child’s Right to Education
Children have a basic set of rights that are to be realized by parents. Of course, not every child can grow up in a wealthy family, eat only the best food, and have a normal family consisting of both parents that have no bad habits. However, the most important thing is to provide a child with the absolutely necessary things. One of such things is education.
Parenting appears to be the most important factor associated with educational attainment at the age of ten, which in turn is strongly associated with achievement later in life. Parental involvement in education seems to be more important influence than poverty, school environment and the influence of peers (Wilson & James, 2007).
When a man and a woman make a decision to have a child, they are also to consider that they will be responsible for his/her development as a personality. All his/her future success, decisions in controversial situations as well as possibilities to achieve more depend on educational background. Without education, every person’s possibilities are limited. Taking into account the fact that a child is not mature enough to be responsible for his/her own educational process, this is solely a parents’ responsibility. Deprivation of a child to have a decent universal education is a crime on the part of care takers and is to be resolved with the help of juvenile justice system.
Violent attitude towards children can be observed in many forms – from lack of desire to take care of children and parental indifference to physical punishment. Violence against children is an influence of adult person on a child that violates constitutional right of a human being to personal inviolability in physical and spiritual sense. If to think of violence as a philosophical notion, it can be viewed as any kind of humiliation that leads to any physical and spiritual limitation of an individual or stands in the way of his/her possibility to fully develop; it is the supremacy of the adult’s will over the will of a child. Violence against children can be viewed within the framework of four categories: neglecting behavior, physical, sexual and psychological violence.
Neglecting behavior is a constant failure of parents or care providers to satisfy basic needs of a child in his/her age, such as food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, defense, etc. This attitude is a result of the adults’ irresponsible conduct. It varies from 1) parents leaving a child at home alone for several hours while they work to 2) the so-called cases of "home alone" when the child is unattended and parents depart for a weekend or a holiday. The worst is the situation in which a person responsible for a child does not do what is needed to ensure his\her health, safety, and physical development. For example, when a child is hungry or kept in a cold room, when he\she does not have clothes or opportunities to study, etc.
Psychological violence is a detrimental behavior that causes harm to the emotional development of children and their dignity. Psychological abuse includes verbal attacks, such as constant criticism, humiliation, insults, ridicule, mockery, and refusal to listen to the child. Psychological abuse also includes failure to show love, provide support, and guidance necessary for psychological growth and development. Physical abuse is a category that presupposes a corporal injury of a child. It is not only apparent when the signs of it are immediately visible (bruises, wounds, fractures, etc.), but also when they occur later. It includes hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, scalding, drowning, suffocating, and causing other physical harm to a child. Sexual violence includes all types of sex between adults and children as well as children enforcement to have sex with each other. Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation are the most serious violations of children's rights. By severity of injuries sexual abuse is frequently equated to torturing.
High proportion of children referred to children’s social care is exposed to domestic violence, parental drug and alcohol misuse within their families. This may result in parents’ difficulty in organizing their lives, their inability to control emotions (mood swings), and creation of a chaotic lifestyle. In such cases, parents fail to cook, shop, wash, clean the home, and look after their children. As a result, children have to assume responsibility of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of younger siblings (Cleaver, 2007). Such a situation is unacceptable from the point of view of child protection. Juvenile justice system is responsible for resolving all these kinds of situations that are harmful and unhealthy for the young generation. Child abuse is to be addressed seriously by the authorities and not only by means of threatening parents to deprive them from parental rights. Care takers are to be punished for all child abuse situations they were involved in.
Child Protection: Problem Solution
Child labor, child slavery, domestic abuse, and other issues that make children lives uncomfortable can all be termed as the problematic issues facing children. Therefore, the provision of child protection is a closed-ended solution to the suffering of children under the ‘care’ of irresponsible parents and guardians. The focus is supposed to move from the suffering children to the parties responsible for the child’s welfare, covering the future by dealing with the present (Lonne, 2009).
It is remarkable how many different kinds of child protection issues are still to be solved. In order to do this, different measures should be taken. The primary means are largely preventative: these are activities aimed at informing the public about the consequences of child labor, child slavery, child abuse, and behavioral change in relation to parenting. One example is information campaign to raise public awareness with the help of public and non-govermental organizations. Typically, the primary means to protect children include the following activities: 1) social service and health care workers visiting homes of families that can possibly have such kinds of problems; 2) creating educational programs of conscious parenthood and child development; 3) operation of telephone helplines; 4) counseling in community centers, etc. Special social organization’s workers (social workers, social educators, representatives of public organizations) have an important role in child protection, especially in conducting parents’ training. These trainings and seminars help them to understand the essence of parenthood, learn about parental competence and rights of a child in a family. Informational materials that contain a list of institutions and organizations designed to help and protect children are to be created and distributed in order to reverse the current child protection situation.
Secondary means of child protection are specialized services for the families which need additional help because of the risk factor of bad attitude to children. Social workers in this case need to remember that not all families that have risk factors have occurrences of bad attitude to the child. Selection approach is the only means that may probably help to provide help for such families that have some additional needs. Thus, although this approach can be seen as controversial, due to this, a positive and beneficial intervention is conducted. Various studies have established numerous risk factors. There are risk factors that cover mostly characteristics of children, parents’ past experiences, physical and mental health problems, and environment. These may or may not create a dangerous situation for a child. However, such factor as violence in the family almost definitely will result in future child abuse. While selection of families for intervention, the following factors are to be taken into consideration: child’s perception of parents, parents’ perception of the child’s position, attachment indications, and parenting quality.
Tertiary means of child protection are realized through providing services for those children who have suffered violence, abuse, and neglect before. After surveillance and detection of such facts, interference in the family is to be made to stop them and prevent from happening in the future. This activity is necessary even in the presence of proactive primary and secondary measures.
To conclude with, this paper touched upon such an important problem as protection of children and their rights in the world of adults. It may seem easy and unproblematic, but it is not so. Children all over the world are suffering because of irresponsible parents or one irresponsible parent on the onset of divorce, death of both parents, child labor, denying of healthy living, and abuse of their right to education. Numerous efforts were made by the government and social services to defend them and provide with a better life conditions. However, the problem still remains and becomes a more and more worrying trend. Preventative measures are still the main solution proposed, but it is not the only one possible. Apart from monitoring and observation, some more active immediate actions are to be taken. All the evidences of child labor, child slavery or child abuse are to be checked carefully. Irresponsible care takers are to be either made responsible for their children’s lives or deprived of the possibility to have a child. Every parent is to be reminded that he/she is responsible for educational process of his/her offspring. The main idea of child protection is to support and assist a child in his/her struggle for a better life.