Unfortunately, many children in the United States are victims of abuse and neglect. In 2011, nearly 3.4 million children were reported to officials as suspected victims of abuse. Types of abuse and neglect include physical violence, sexual abuse, lack of supervision, abandonment, medical neglect and parental substance abuse. Children who are proved to be victims of such abuse or neglect may receive in-home services, be subject to court intervention or enter into the foster care system. Officials emphasize that anyone who suspects child maltreatment has an obligation to take action by reporting it to law enforcement or child protective agencies. But certain careers help some professionals to take an especially active role in rescuing abused children.
Protect and Serve
Police officers are bound by a duty to keep communities safe. Uniformed officers patrol neighborhoods and businesses. They uphold the law, respond to calls for service and emergencies, write reports, prepare cases and arrest suspects. Additionally, school resource officers -- police officers who are based at some public schools -- work to provide security and maintain safety on campus. School resource officers routinely interact with students and, upon observation, may become concerned about abuse or neglect. Uniformed officers in the community may encounter situations during their routine patrols, stops and assignments where abuse or neglect is suspected. In these instances, police officers file a report, or referral, with the state child welfare agency and may arrest or detain the alleged abuser while official charges are pending.
Through their work, counselors and therapists may encounter children they suspect are being abused or neglected. These professionals support clients of all ages with emotional disorders, life changes and mental health concerns. They also connect people to other helpful resources, like psychiatrists and support groups. Clients may disclose personal, sensitive information to counselors and therapists, but all such information is not protected by client confidentiality. Under law, therapists and counselors in all 50 states must report suspected child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Counselors and therapists support people through many challenges, but instances of alleged abuse and neglect require them to put the interests of the child first.
Head of the Class
Teachers are among the most consistent and present people in a child's life. They spend hours with their students five days a week for many months in a row. Through lessons, activities and conversations, teachers learn their students, developing a sense of their personality, mood, interests, likes and dislikes. This constancy of interaction and observation places educators in a position to notice signs of abuse or neglect. Like professionals in several other fields, teachers are also obligated under law to report suspected abuse or neglect of children. Teachers are also uniquely positioned to be a source of support, motivation and understanding to children in such circumstances.
A Watchful Eye
Child protective services professionals and case managers respond to reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. They are typically employees of the respective state's child welfare agency. These social services professionals investigate referrals alleging abuse in neglect; this involves reviewing the original report, visiting the home in question, interviewing related parties, making determinations and recommendations, and, when applicable, managing a client's case. Child protective services workers are likely to be involved when vital decisions are made about a child's custody and care, in addition to being in sustained contact with the family, child, caregivers and other influencers in the child's life.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families, Child Maltreatment 2011
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Police and Detectives Do
- The National Association of School Resource Officers
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families: The Role of Law Enforcement in Response to Child Abuse and Neglect
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists Do
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect
- Oklahoma Department of Human Services: Careers - Child Welfare Specialist
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images