Saturday, January 30, 2010

National child abuse study

The US Dept of HHS has just published its 4th annual study of child abuse and neglect. Here is the pdf. It defines:
Emotional abuse. In the NIS definitions, this category includes close confinement, verbal or emotional assaults, threats of sexual abuse (without contact) and threats of other maltreatment, terrorizing, administering unprescribed substances, and other or nonspecific abuse. Close confinement refers to tying, binding, and other inappropriate confinement or physical restriction. Verbal or emotional assault involves systematic patterns of belittling, denigrating, scapegoating, or other nonphysical forms of overtly rejecting treatment. Emotional abuse also includes all varieties of abusive, exploitative, or overtly punitive behaviors where actual physical contact did not occur (such as intentional withholding of food, shelter, sleep, or other necessities, or excessive responsibilities or excessive demands for income-producing work by a child). For the more extreme forms of tying and binding, Harm Standard guidelines permit “inferred harm.” That is, they permit assuming that serious emotional injury occurred in the absence of explicit symptoms, which allows the child to qualify as emotionally abused under the Harm Standard. However, for all other forms of emotional maltreatment, the Harm Standard requires direct or circumstantial evidence of moderate injury or impairment.
My ex-wife accused me of emotional abuse. Neither she nor any witness ever even alleged any of the harms in the above paragraph. Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph refused to accept any definition of emotional abuse, or that any specific evidence of abuse needs to be demonstrated. But he sent the cops to seize my kids on an ex-parte motion anyway.

Now I am getting a court-ordered evaluation by a psychologist. I am hoping that he follows the generally accepted information in the field. That is what expert witnesses are supposed to do.

Here is how harms are rated:
Serious harm. As noted above, NIS defines an injury or impairment as serious when it involves a life-threatening condition, represents a long-term impairment of physical, mental, or emotional capacities, or requires professional treatment aimed at preventing such long-term impairment. Examples of serious injuries/impairments include: loss of consciousness, stopping breathing, broken bones, schooling loss that required special education services, chronic and debilitating drug/alcohol abuse, diagnosed cases of failure to thrive, third-degree burns or extensive second-degree burns, and so forth.30 Serious harm from Harm Standard maltreatment occurred to 6.6 children per 1,000 in 2005–2006, representing 487,900 children, or over one-third (39%) of all children who were countable under the Harm Standard.

Moderate harm. Moderate injuries or impairments are those that persisted in observable form (including pain or impairment) for at least 48 hours (e.g., bruises, depression or emotional distress not serious enough to require professional treatment). Moderate harm occurred to 9.4 children per 1,000 (or 694,700 children) in 2005–2006, and these accounted for over one-half (55%) of all children countable under the Harm Standard.
In California, emotional harm has to be serious in order to be actionable.

The study has a lot of statistics, but most of them are too coarse to be useful. It finds, for example, that CPS findings of emotional neglect of toddlers has gone way up among low socioeconomic groups. It is harder to tell whether there is any good justification for this increase. It is possible that this is just the easiest way for meddlesome social workers to intervene when they don't approve of some child-rearing practice.

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