Youth Services Law

Showing 17 posts from 2012.

Unrelated Men in the Home May Increase Risk of Abuse

Another study that has stood the test of time is a 2001 review of the rate of child abuse where there is an unrelated adult male in the home.  The study followed 788 at-risk children in North Carolina from birth to age 8.   It found that the presence of a nonbiological father figure in the home significantly increases the risk of a maltreatment report.  The risk is twice that of a family with only a single mother, and more than twice that of families with both biological parents in the home.  Having a biological father in the home, whether a one- or two-parent household, was associated with the lowest risk of abuse.

In a conclusion that no doubt raised hackles, the authors stated that "the presence of a nonbiological father figure in the home should be considered a significant predictor of a future child maltreatment report."  The authors also noted that, because the overwhelming majority of the men in the study were transient boyfriends, the findings do not necessarily apply to stepfathers.

Benefits of Early Disclosure of Abuse

A number of years ago, Child Maltreatment published a very good study on the benefits of early disclosure of child abuse.  The study was relatively large (860 participants, 204 of whom reported abuse), but depended on self-reports on extensive questionnaires. One of the most-cited studies that the journal has published, the study found that disclosure of abuse correlated to fewer PTSD symptoms, such as intrusion and avoidance.  Somewhat surprisingly, disclosure did not correlate to overall psychological functioning.  The authors noted also that "those assaults that cause the most psychological damage may be the ones that are least likely to be disclosed."

Teen Disclosures of Sexual Abuse

A Teen Sitting on a Bench in a Park with a ConfidantA study from Switzerland looked at how teenagers first disclosed the sexual abuse they had suffered. The study was small, only 23 adolescents, but it involved in-depth interviews. Among the interesting findings was that most of the teenagers told a friend before they told their parents. The study authors recommend that child abuse prevention programs work on strengthening the bonds between teens and their parents, and teach teenagers how to handle disclosures from friends about abuse.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published an excellent report about Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). The treatment approach is one of the best evidence-based protocols for children who have been abused and non-offending parents. For litigators who encounter TF-CBT in a case, or face an opposing expert who doesn't use it, the report is an excellent resource.

Failing to Report Abuse Is Grounds for Suit in Ohio

This report of a lawsuit in Ohio illustrates an unusual provision in Ohio's mandatory reporter law.  The plaintiff, a high school student in Ohio, alleges that two fellow students raped her at school at the end of the school day, and that she reported the assault to a teacher.   She sued not only the alleged rapists and the school system, but the teacher for allegedly failing to report the attack to either a child services agency or law enforcement.

I discovered that Ohio's mandatory reporter statute, ORC Ann. 2151.421, differs from most states in that it does not have a criminal penalty for failure to report.  Rather, the statute creates a civil cause of action for "compensatory and exemplary" damages.  In this particular lawsuit, it is not clear how the teacher's failure to report an assault caused the plaintiff harm, but the claims no doubt will allow quite a bit of discovery into the school system's training about mandated reporter laws.

Georgia Mandated Reporter Laws

Speaking of mandated reporter statutes, here is my summary of Georgia's new law.

Student Sleep Patterns Correspond to Injuries

The American Academy of Pediatrics last month announced an interesting study in which it found that teenage athletes who slept eight or more hours each night were 68 percent less likely to be injured than their peers who slept less.  The study had a small sample (112 students in a single high school) and relied on the students' reports of their sleep patterns, but the findings do mesh with other studies about the importance of student sleep patterns.  The National Sleep Foundation has a good article outlining some of the research, as part of its push for later school start times.

In litigation involving student injuries, lawyers should explore sleep deprivation as a possible causal factor.  In real life, parents, teachers, and camp directors might be able to lower the risk of injuries if they can figure out how to motivate students to get more sleep.

American Camping Association

I am speaking this week at the ACA Southeastern Conference this week.  If you are attending, drop by to say hello.

Importance of Non-Offending Parents in Therapy

In recent research, I ran across a study that is a few years old, but still important and frequently cited. The study worked with 100 families of sexually abused children who were exhibiting Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and related behavioral problems. The researchers randomly assigned the families to one of three cognitive behavioral interventions -- child only, non-offending parent and child, or parent only -- or simply information and encouragement to find a therapist. The study found that children who participated in the interventions, either child only or parent and child sessions, showed significant improvement over the other two groups, and the children who participated with their parent showed more improvement than any of the other groups. This study, and later ones that built upon it, show the importance of non-offending parents in a child's recovery from abuse.

Georgia Mandatory Reporting Statute

As of July 1, 2012, most people who work with children in Georgia are required to report suspicions of child abuse.  I have drafted a summary of the law, explaining the who, what, when, where & why of the new law.  Download it here.

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