Reflections of a Bleeding Heart,presents ten fact based cases representing a variety of situations. The cases are fictionalized to preserve confidentiality. They describe children and families at risk and efforts made -by social workers, the medical profession, law enforcement, the schools, the court, other helping professions and agencies as well as the families themselves - to ameliorate the problems. The challenges are daunting.
Recognizing bad things were happening to good children was slow going. In olden days children were viewed as possessions of parents - chattel - with no rights at all. This changed in 1886 when the American Humane Association, in the business of protecting animals, expanded its reach to embrace children. In the early 1970's extensive legislation was instituted establishing Child Protective Services. Following that a legally mandated system of reporting and responding to reports of child abuse and neglect evolved.
In the beginning professionals and laymen had difficulty believing people they knew socially or professionally would mistreat children. However now according to the 2004 Child Welfare League of America's National Fact Sheet, more than half of the reports made to CPS come from the professionals. Yet many of them are still not convinced. They either don't want to become involved, are unaware there is a mandate to report, or believe parents have a right to raise their children their own way without interference or regard to the affect on the child. While most people agree children should be protected, many serious, unresolved questions remain about what should be done, if anything, how, and by whom.
* When does discipline become abuse?
* Who should define abuse and neglect?
* How severe a risk should a child face before action is taken?
* What action should be taken?
* Should the focus be on preserving the family unit above all else or on removing the child or offending parent from the home?
* Who should make this decision and take the action - law enforcement, social work, the court?
* Should reporting of child abuse and neglect, which is mandated by law and which accesses the Child Protective Services system, be centralized or decentralized?