By Connie Valentine, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
An alarming percentage of the 74 million children[i] in the United States are in jeopardy, living with physical abuse, sexual trauma, emotional pain, and/or neglect. Nearly 6 million of them are involved in reports of child abuse every year, although fewer and fewer are being protected.[ii] 22% live in poverty [iii]
There is much talk and little effective action regarding children. Child protective services changed its name to child welfare services to reflect the new policy norm: parental reunification, not child safety. Children are not regarded as young citizens with inalienable human rights to safety in their home. They are essentially treated as objects.
Nowhere is this more evident than the family (divorce) court. Over a quarter of children live with one parent [iv] since half of marriages end in divorce.[v] When a divorce or separation occurs, most couples work out parenting issues outside the courtroom. A minority of cases end up in custody disputes and are labeled “high conflict divorces” by those who stand to make money on the cases. In fact, these custody disputes are mostly domestic violence and child abuse cases. [vi]
When a child reports he or she is being abused by a parent, the situation is handled entirely differently from a report of abuse by a neighbor or stranger. Child welfare services is called, instead of law enforcement. A social worker talks to the parent, instead of a law enforcement officer interrogating the suspect. The identified perpetrator get s a high powered attorney and demands custody in family court, instead of the case going to criminal court to try the accused.
Astonishingly, most of the time the identified abuser is given partial or full custody, especially if there are allegations of child sexual abuse, even with evidence of the abuse.[vii] If the couple has resources, high priced professionals are appointed to ferret out the truth, but often advocate for the wealthy batterer rather than the bankrupt victim. Domestic violence and child abuse are ignored. Children are not believed. Safe parents (usually mothers) trying to protect the children from physical and sexual violence are frequently placed on supervised visitation or no contact, effectively silencing the young victims.
The pain, fear and confusion of a child who has lost his or her mother and been placed with the identified abuser after reporting abuse is catastrophic. Continued abuse, betrayal and breaking of the attachment bond with a mother are just a few of the wounds endured by the child. The stigma of being a motherless child is profound.
A mother who has lost her child after reporting child abuse is devastated. Being powerless to protect a beloved child who is being injured is excruciating. Sadists understand this all too well. Then there are added insults. The general community does not know there is a pattern and practice of placing children with abusers because the media rarely covers the issue and no governmental agency keeps statistics. So the mother becomes marginalized as an anomaly. No one comes to her aid. Family members withdraw. Friends desert her, saying she is becoming too intense. Teachers and business associates look askance. The stigma of being a mother without her child is profound.
So what can you do? Learn more about the 58,000 children per year who are needlessly reabused. [viii] Know that if this epidemic is not stopped, the next generation will be at high risk of substance abuse, mental illness, behavioral problems, promiscuity, obesity, smoking, relationship and vocational problems, cancer, liver, heart and lung disease. [ix] Write to your Congressman demanding oversight hearings. [x]
The health of our society depends on you.
Connie Valentine, M.S., is the co-founder of California Protective Parents Association www.protectiveparents.com. She has worked for decades to ensure that children have a right to physical and sexual safety when their parents separate or divorce.