Series: Working with Children at Risk
As stated in The Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2004 edition of Identifying and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect, the sad facts are:
There are four recognised types of child abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, and neglect. Children and young people are most often abused by a parent or a carer. The rates of substantiated abuse or neglect decreases as age increases, children under the age of one year old are the most likely to be subjected to a substantiated report of abuse, and children 15-16 years of age are the least likely.
There is no accurate statistical information on the prevalence of child abuse in Australia. The most accurate statistical information available is based on the number of reports of suspected child abuse made to the statutory child protection departments in each state. While these statistics give some indication of the extent of this problem in our society, it is well known that a large number of cases of child abuse go unreported.
Difficulties arise in obtaining accurate statistics regarding child protection because in Australia state governments have the statutory responsibility for protecting children from abuse and neglect, however the definitions of what constitutes child abuse differs across the states and territories, and mandatory reporting requirements also differ between the states and territories. Thus it is difficult to obtain consistently comparable statistics to give a national indication.
However of the number of substantiated cases reported, 28% comprise of physical abuse, 10% sexual abuse, 34% emotional abuse and 28 % neglect.
Overly represented in child abuse substantiated cases are families with a complex range of socio-economic problems such as poor housing, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, single parent families, social isolation, and family and domestic violence. Parents faced with these challenges often require additional support to care for their children, as abuse of a child seldom happens once; it is often a process that can persist over many years.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are eight times more likely to be reported in child protection statistics than non Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children. While children with disabilities especially those with chronic health problems or serious disabilities are more vulnerable to abuse or neglect as a result of stress that “around the clock” care can create for carers. Adults who were abused as children are at greater risk of developing psychological and emotional problems later in life and of repeating the pattern of abuse with their own children.
In this series, we will look at the issue of child abuse and neglect – and how counsellors can play a positive role in assisting children.