Social workers play an integral role in protecting children from abuse and neglect and help children as they deal with a variety of issues such as violence, neglect, poverty, and more that interferes with a child’s health, well-being, and quality of life (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, p.239).
Neglect accounts for 52% of the approximate one million cases of child maltreatment that occurs each year in the U.S. About 1/4 of the cases involve physical damage, about 12% involve sexual abuse, and the remaining cases involve emotional abuse/psychological maltreatment (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 239).
In the U.S. 13 million or nearly 18% of children live in poverty and children of color are at a higher risk of living in poverty. Maltreatment can happen in any household, but statistically it is more likely to occur in poverty-stricken families ( DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 240).
The effects of maltreatment can be devastating. Children who have experienced trauma can have a number of permanent physical and emotional scars. Traumatized children may find it very difficult to trust others or form healthy relationships. They may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drugs or alcohol. Some may even develop clinical depression or PTSD and long term victims of abuse may have health and academic problems (DiNitt0 & McNeece, 2008, p. 241).
Children who witness abuse are more likely to be abused themselves and to abuse their own children and/or spouses in the future (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 241). Unfortunately, this abuse is a cycle and it is incredibly important for social workers to break the cycle and get children the help they need.
Alcohol and drugs are highly connected to child maltreatment – an estimated 67% of parents involved with the child welfare system abuse drugs and/or alcohol. Often when poor neglectful parents are abusing substances, children are left to fend for themselves and protect/take care of siblings. It is up to social workers to provide children with the resources they need to live a safe and self fulfilling life (DiNitt0& McNeece, 2008, p. 241).
DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.