Youth Services Law

Showing 9 posts from October 2008.

Non-Sexual Abuse May Lead to Sexualized Behavior in Children

Experts long have considered sexualized behavior in children to be a strong indicator of sexual abuse. Some behavior (masturbation, exhibitionism) is part of the normal developmental process, but other behaviors seem to occur significantly more often in children who have been sexually abused.

But according to a study reported in Child Maltreatment, physical and emotional abuse may cause the same behavior.  The researchers followed children at risk for physical or emotional abuse, but who had no reports of sexual abuse.  They found that children who had suffered either physical or emotional abuse exhibited more sexualized behavior than non-abused children. "Findings suggest that maltreatment other than sexual abuse, and the developmental periods in which is occurs, may be linked to the development of sexualized behaviors."

The abstract (free) and full text (minimal charge) are available online.

Lawyers handling cases with claims of sexual abuse need to be aware whether the respective expert witnesses have investigated the possibility of emotional or physical abuse in a given case.  It is one of those questions that need to be asked, if only to rule it out as a possible cause of the child's symptoms.

Day Care Worker Bites Child

A day care worker in Texas was arrested after admitting to biting a child to teach him, she said, not to bite other children. Naturally, the parents are "seeking legal representation." 

An earlier report of the incident includes a statement from the day care director. Most lawyers advise their clients not to talk to the media, because statements you make can be used against you if the matter ends up in court. The catch is that it always hurts the center's reputation when the only words a reporter can quote are "No comment."

I recommend that youth-serving organizations respond to media inquiries with four statements: (1) always, always, always express concern for the child, who is, after all, your primary responsibility; (2) identify any steps you have taken that can be made public (i.e., suspended the worker pending investigation); (3) always make clear that you are cooperating with authorities; and (4) explain that you cannot comment further about an ongoing investigation.

Resist the temptation to explain everything you know to a reporter.  Too much explanation will come back to haunt you.  You do need to establish your concern for the children in your program, but any more details need to wait until you have all of the facts.

Food Allergies On the Rise

The CDC says in a new report  that food allergies in children rose by 18% from 1997 to 2007.  It lists the most common allergies, and notes that children under 5 are more likely to have allergies than older children. (Hat tip: Child Safety Blog)

The report also says that 4 out of every 100 children has a food allergy, a fact that every organization serving food to children needs to take into account. The USDA has several helpful fact sheets  with suggestions for accommodating food allergies in camps, day care centers, and schools.

Children Testify to the Darndest Things

Posted In Child Witness, Humor

From Say What?!, we get the following exchange with a child witness:

Judge: (To young witness) Do you know what would happen to you if you told a lie?

Witness: Yes, I would go to hell.

Judge: Is that all?

Witness: Isn't that enough?

The Joy of Conferences

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the Georgia Association of Young Children (GAYC) annual conference, and in late September, I spoke at the conference for the Southeastern Section of the American Camping Association.  I thoroughly enjoyed both conferences.  It always is good to re-connect with old friends, and to remember why I enjoy so much working with people who work with kids.  

My topic in both seminars was how to implement the recent CDC guidelines on "Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Youth-Serving Organizations" (PDF available here). I helped edit the final report (finding my name on the acknowledgements page was pretty cool), and was impressed with how much work went into the project.  Given the CDC's stature, these guidelines are likely to become an important standard in the field.  The CDC imprimatur also means that the guidelines are likely to show up in lawsuits. Plenty of directors will find themselves answering a lawyer's question, "Did YOU implement the CDC's recommendation on page 4?" 

I hope to be at the ACA's National Conference in February.  If you're there, be sure to look me up and introduce yourself.

Preschools Should Avoid Exotic Pets

Yet another expert report warns against yet another common (and educational) classroom tradition. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement warning against nontraditional pets in homes with children under 5. The report also warns against taking children younger than 5 to petting zoos and other public places with exotic animals.  Although the report says nothing about classrooms, presumably the logic would apply to preschools and day care centers.

An AP article summarizes the reasons for the warning

Besides evidence that they can carry dangerous and sometimes potentially deadly germs, exotic pets may be more prone than cats and dogs to bite, scratch or claw — putting children younger than 5 particularly at risk, the report says. Young children are vulnerable because of developing immune systems plus they often put their hands in their mouths.

The list of pets that the AAP considers to be "nontraditional" includes turtles, hamsters, baby chicks, and hedgehogs.

Hat tip: DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

Preventing Scalding

A recent issue of Pediatrics journal reports an interesting study of scald burns in young children. The study's authors found that a surprising number of young children were injured from getting hot liquids out of a microwave, while others were scalded by an older child carrying or cooking hot liquid.

Not surprisingly, the authors recommend close supervision of young children and further studies.

School Sued After Employee Arrested

Posted In Child Abuse

Another school has been slapped with a lawsuit after an employee was arrested for molesting students. A depressing story, but also intriguing (at least to lawyers) because of the legal basis for the suit.

Continue reading School Sued After Employee Arrested ›

Fighting MRSA

A recent story from New Jersey illustrates a growing problem for schools, day care centers, and other organizations where children gather. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus areus (MRSA) infections are becoming more common, and more resistant to traditional antibiotic treatments. We are seeing more lawsuits involving MRSA, usually based on claims that a child contracted it because the center (a) allowed infected children or staff members to continue attending the facility, or (b) failed to adequately disinfect common areas.

Some of the lawsuits are based on misconceptions, such as a belief that anyone suffering from MRSA should be quarantined. The Centers for Disease Control has a very helpful webpage outlining what schools and other organizations can do to prevent and/or respond to MRSA. Many state and local health departments also have pages on their websites.

Because the infection is becoming so common, be sure that you are taking precautions recommended by the health departments in your area. Educate yourself about the initial symptoms, and what your licensing agency requires as far as reporting cases to health authorities and/or notifying other parents.

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