Posted On: November 9, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

The determination as to whether a parent is brought to court for maltreatment

The determination as to whether a parent is brought to court for maltreatment of a child is made by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. When a complaint of child abuse is brought to them, it is their job to investigate the compliant thoroughly and to bring an abuser to justice. However, the elements of child abuse and neglect leave room for a good deal of independent conceptualization. What one person considers abuse or neglect is not considered abuse or neglect by some others.

With the advent of more Middle Eastern cultures coming in to America, the buzz topic has been female circumcision. In America, it is considered child abuse to circumcise a female child; however, it is not considered child abuse to circumcise a male child. Social norms factor greatly into the consideration of what is child abuse and neglect. Many African cultures believe that a skinny female child is a sin and a humiliation to her family. The mothers have been known to force feed their girls so that they gain weight. In their culture, it is believed that if they are not fat, they will not be desirable as wives. Different cultures have different beliefs about the treatment of children. As these cultures become mainstream in the United States, court systems will become more involved in determining if these customs should be preserved as integral to their cultures, or outlawed as child abuse or neglect. The lines have become so blurry that occasionally, the investigators assigned to the ACS become overzealous or hypersensitive to the plight of children. There is no question that children are considered precious in the United States. The goal of the court system is to ensure that children are cared for and provided a home life that is enriching to them. However, this goal can sometimes become diluted by circumstances.

One such case involved an eight year old girl who was out of control. Her mother told her to find some crayons and colored pencils so that she could complete her math homework for school. The child did not want to do her homework and threw a temper tantrum. She was yelling and screaming at her mother. Then she began to throw objects around the room and ran into her bedroom where she slammed the door. She continued to throw objects in her room at her mother when her mother came into her bedroom to discipline her for her behavior. The mother picked up one of the little girl’s belts in her room and swung it in the direction of the child’s bottom. The child moved and turned around at the same time. The belt buckle struck her in the face causing a small scratch to the child’s cheek just below her eye. When she went to school the following day, she told the school officials that her mother had struck her in the face with a belt buckle. The school called the ACS and an investigator was dispatched to examine the case.

The investigator and case worker went to the child’s home and found no evidence of mistreatment or neglect. The home was nice and clean. There was food in the pantry and in the refrigerator. There was no evidence that the child had been abused or that any other situation of this type had occurred before. The case worker still charged the mother with child neglect based on the use of excessive corporal punishment. The court determined that the situation did not meet the test for abuse or neglect because there was no evidence that the incident had caused any lasting damage to the child in any way. The court dismissed the charges against the mother.

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