Essays academic service


Responding to abused children as a teacher

The model, which draws together the services of the Departments of Education, Health, Social Services and Justice, is based on an "Integrated Services Management Approach" aimed at providing specific supports or interventions for children with special needs. For the purpose of the policy a child with a special need is defined as "one who is identified to be at risk or has a special need as determined by one or more of the service partners" Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1996: My interest in this most recent initiative has to do with my ongoing research into the relationship between teachers' work and the school's response to victims of child abuse.

The school's role in responding to child abuse has been generally viewed in two ways: The surveillance role involves requiring teachers to report disclosures or suspicions of abuse to their local Child Protection Service Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1993.

This is a legal requirement and therefore highly emphasized by school boards. Prevention efforts, such as the development of curriculum materials or workshops for teachers, have so far been given less attention Tite, 1993, 1994, 1996.

My goal in this paper is to focus on the integrated services approach in order 1 to explore its potential with regard to improving current surveillance and prevention models and 2 to speculate on the extent to which the new policy reflects an adequate response to the difficulties associated with teachers' surveillance role. The Coordination of Services The current trend toward the coordination of services is based on the idea that "coordinated intervention is the ideal goal.

What is often missing from this work is a full understanding of the overlapping bureaucratic, professional and personal contexts in which identification and reporting decisions are made. The Teacher's Role By focussing most of my previous research in Ontario and Newfoundland on teachers and their experiences and perspectives of both hypothetical and real cases, I have tried to develop our understanding of these contexts in several ways.

These findings, drawn from Tite, 1993, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c. Teachers seem reluctant to be bound by legal definitions or formal reporting requirements.

Instead, they include a wide range of behaviours in their own theoretical definitions and often prefer to deal with cases informally at the school level.

Underlying these informal interventions is the sense that some cases can be handled more effectively by the school than by CPS, a perception which seems rooted in a view of children which emphasises discipline and intellectual and emotional needs.

Responding to abused children as a teacher vast majority of teachers in both provinces indicated that they probably would not notice the signs of abuse if the child is not having trouble at school. It is clear, however, that classrooms present other complicating conditions. Detecting abuse is difficult, for example, in a setting where children frequently present themselves with minor injuries, where abused children can explain away injuries with excuses that sound entirely plausible in their familiarity, where it is not unusual to see a child who seems emotionally distressed, and where, increasingly, children are displaying advanced sexual knowledge and behaviour.

While interpreting children's symptoms in such circumstances would seem to require a sophisticated knowledge base, more than half of those surveyed in both provinces were unable to indicate whether their school board has a reporting policy, and fewer than half had attended a mandatory child abuse in-service session in the last five years.

Difficulty of distinguishing between suspicion and proof: Many teachers engage in their own informal investigations of their suspicions, sometimes feeling that they need "proof" before making a formal report, but more often out of their professional concern for the "whole child" and maintaining good "working partnerships" between the home and school. This process is fraught with difficulty, however, as teachers often find themselves acting in ways that contradict their normal concerns for children's trust, privacy, and safety.

Teachers indicate a pervasive sense of self-doubt about their role in the coordination of services. In part, this seems to arise out of the increased demand to be more responsive to abused children, and a lack of confidence in their ability to do so. For some, the uncertainty seems rooted in the perception that they are taking on a role which is outside of their normal teaching role.

For others, it is a question of parents' intentions. Also evident is a lack of consensus about how to balance their concerns for children's safety against the need to maintain the child's family unit, especially where there is a question about CPS ability to provide long-term solutions.

Conflicting views about the victims of abuse: Related to this are the findings from my most recent research which suggest significant differences in responding to abused children as a teacher and social workers' views about the victims of child sexual abuse i. The most obvious issue is the extent to which the child's age and behaviour appears differentially to influence attitudes about the child's credibility, with teachers more likely than social workers to accord little credibility to adolescent victims, particularly if they are seen as a "problem" children e.

What Should You Do When You Suspect Child Abuse?

Frustration about the outcome of reports to CPS: Teachers' frustration with the responding to abused children as a teacher of their reports is very clear. There is widespread concern about "budget cuts, long waiting periods and huge caseloads," and an overriding sense that CPS is simply unable to cope. Another source of frustration concerns disagreements about the severity of the abuse, particularly with cases of emotional abuse and neglect.

Teachers often feel unheard or misunderstood by child protection workers when they believe that they have clear ongoing evidence of abuse or neglect, but where there are no "marks" or "witnesses" to support them.

Related to this is teachers' fear that reporting will only make matters worse. This is expressed in a variety of ways: It is clear as well that some teachers see themselves at risk of personal revenge, either in the form of physical violence or attacks on their professional credibility. While I was unable to conduct a gender analysis for the Ontario study, the findings from Newfoundland and Labrador indicate statistically significant gender differences in the identification of cases; 42.

There are two interesting aspects to this gender distinction, the first the fact that men tend to predominate in the higher grades and administrative roles, the second pertaining to policy and training. The prevailing view is that identification should be influenced by type of teaching assignment and exposure to policy and training. However, the data here is very clear: Put another way, after controlling for grade level, type of class assignment, and exposure to policy and training, differences in suspicion rates remained significant for males, but not for females.

The potential for inappropriate screening: The majority of teachers are reluctant to make formal reports to CPS, but most of their suspicions are reported, and most reporting is done through the principal. Principals seem adequately prepared to handle reports, but at least half seem unwilling to pass teachers' reports on to CPS, or to encourage the teachers to do so.

Apart from the possible effect of gender, this seems connected to how abuse is narrowly defined procedurally and to principals' experiences of what CPS will investigate and what they will otherwise dismiss. Thus, although teachers' reporting seems initially to be consistent with accepted procedures, in practice the process appears to be sufficiently vulnerable to principals' responsiveness to raise questions about the potential for the inappropriate screening of cases at the school level.

The Integrated Services Management Approach Because they so clearly underline the educational difficulties associated with reporting, these findings compel us to consider the potential benefits or drawbacks of an integrated services management approach. The most obvious question seems to be whether the model provides an opportunity for teachers to become more engaged in the problem of child abuse, while resolving their own difficulties within the educational context, and coordinating their activity with other professionals such as social workers, health-care providers and justice officials.

  • Handle Jimmy with care;
  • The Coordination of Services The current trend toward the coordination of services is based on the idea that "coordinated intervention is the ideal goal
  • It is clear as well that some teachers see themselves at risk of personal revenge, either in the form of physical violence or attacks on their professional credibility;
  • Apart from the possible effect of gender, this seems connected to how abuse is narrowly defined procedurally and to principals' experiences of what CPS will investigate and what they will otherwise dismiss.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Integrated Services Management Approach is meant to be a collaborative process involving the child, the parents, and service providers from Education, Health, and Social Services. The idea is that personnel from the relevant agencies work together to identify the child's needs, to define appropriate goals for meeting those needs, and to provide the required supports and services. The aim is to provide a holistic approach which ensures that the child and family are full partners in the process, while encouraging the sharing of knowledge and expertise among service providers.

Although this paper is focussed on child abuse, it is important to note that this is not the only issue addressed by the model. In fact, it is designed to deal with a wide range of special needs and problems, e.

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Given the objectives outlined above, presumably there is room within the ISSP planning process for flexibility in terms of the level of formality and format. Nevertheless, a formal process is outlined very clearly in the policy see figure 1. As Figure 1 indicates, the process consists of four essential stages: The ISSP process begins with screening and identification.

Screening and identification is followed by assessment and exploration of strategies, and then, if a referral is not deemed necessary, the "service provider" should engage in ongoing evaluation and monitoring. Unfortunately, as we have seen, in terms of the child abuse issue, this is where the teachers' role generally begins and too often ends.

This is because most of the difficulties associated with reporting, discussed above, act as barriers to the referral stage.

  • A School Leader's View I can certainly empathize with your anxiety over the right thing to do for Jimmy;
  • Child abuse in schools;
  • Jimmy told you about the abuse he has endured, but that doesn't happen often;
  • The Teacher's Role By focussing most of my previous research in Ontario and Newfoundland on teachers and their experiences and perspectives of both hypothetical and real cases, I have tried to develop our understanding of these contexts in several ways;
  • In fact, teachers may be very reluctant to do so in any case, given the difficulties associated with dealing with the child and parent after they have made a child abuse referral.

Finally, given the significant gender differences along with the fact that the vast majority of school administrators are male, clearly, the chances of teachers' suspicions going beyond the pre-referral loop are low. The second stage of the ISSP process is the referral stage. Prior to the implementation of the new integrated services management approach, a child abuse referral generally meant a quick phone call to CPS or the police very few teachers in my samples indicated putting anything in writing.

A referral to an ISS Manager begins a process whereby he or she determines the membership of a team and completes a profile which is sent to the Child Services Coordinator and communicated to a Regional Services Management Team. Government of Newfoundland, 1997, 8-12. Presumably, in cases where a child abuse referral comes from the school, the teacher could be considered a "relevant player" or a "service provider" in cases where a child's learning has been affected by the abuse, for instance.

However this is not clearly defined in the document. While teachers are mentioned as team members and service providers, their role does not come up at all in any of the examples of child abuse.

Where teachers are mentioned in the document, it is generally in relation to providing services for children with identified learning disabilities. This raises the question of whether or not teachers are expected to be part of the referral process responding to abused children as a teacher leaves us to wonder how teachers' confusions and uncertainties will ever be resolved if they are left out of the loop at this early stage.

Close to one-half of the teachers in both my samples indicated that they never heard about the outcomes of their referrals.

  1. Many teachers engage in their own informal investigations of their suspicions, sometimes feeling that they need "proof" before making a formal report, but more often out of their professional concern for the "whole child" and maintaining good "working partnerships" between the home and school. The most obvious issue is the extent to which the child's age and behaviour appears differentially to influence attitudes about the child's credibility, with teachers more likely than social workers to accord little credibility to adolescent victims, particularly if they are seen as a "problem" children e.
  2. If he can't find it in academics right now, how about encouraging him in a sport, music, or some other skill or special interest? Developmental and ecological perspectives.
  3. The answer is a simple one.

When I raised this issue at a recent ISSP workshop, I was told that this was "confidential" and therefore could not be communicated to teachers, leaving me to puzzle out how teachers could responding to abused children as a teacher "relevant players" or "service providers" without appropriate information.

Since health, social services and justice officials can readily obtain children's school records, while teachers cannot have access to the outcomes of their referrals, we clearly need to question the extent to which the integrated service management approach is truly integrated or service oriented. The planning stage begins with a team meeting, a meeting which is seen as "a continuation of the problem solving process begun at the pre-referral stage" 23. The team meeting is meant to be: More specifically, the team is expected to develop an action plan.

The plan is to consist of a set of prioritized goals for the child, a list of supports, services and recommendations for each goal, and a list of service personnel or agencies to be responsible for implementing the various components of the plan.

The planning process is intended to be consensual, with team members reaching agreement on strategies, approaches and interventions, and ways of avoiding duplication of services. As I suggested above, it seems unlikely in child abuse cases that teachers will be included as team members in this planning stage. In fact, teachers may be very reluctant to do so in any case, given the difficulties associated with dealing with the child and parent after they have made a child abuse referral.

However, two key issues should be considered at this stage.

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First of all, if teachers, children and parents could be brought together in a consensual planning environment, this type of arrangement might hold some solid potential for reducing teachers' fears and uncertainties.

Second, since teachers are among the few professionals who may be expected to work with the child before, during, and after the referral, whether or not they are including in the team planning stage, they should be considered key service providers.

Again, though, where teachers are specifically named in the ISSP document, it is generally in cases where children are deemed to need special education services, such as speech therapy, and so on. Almost no attention is given to teachers as service providers in terms of their expertise with dealing with children who are in other kinds of distress. After the meeting, individual team members with responsibility for implementing the ISSP are expected to engage in a number of tasks, the first of which is to complete the necessary paperwork.

According to the document, this formalizes each team member's action plan and ensures that the identified objectives are met. While the document is unclear about teachers' role in cases where they are not official members of the team, it does indicate that if the ISSP includes an area for which additional expertise is necessary, the team members, in writing up the ISSP, should "include the relevant person" or recommend "resource materials to help write this portion of the ISSP" 27.

  1. According to the document, this formalizes each team member's action plan and ensures that the identified objectives are met.
  2. Interestingly, teachers are mentioned as a special case in this section of the document in reference to the scheduling of meetings, for it is noted that "a convenient arrangement for some schools is to schedule meetings to coincide with the normal parent-teacher interviews avoiding the need for parental travel to multiple meetings" 29. The vast majority of teachers in both provinces indicated that they probably would not notice the signs of abuse if the child is not having trouble at school.
  3. However, this is not made clear in the document, nor is there any mention of how this might work in cases of child abuse.

Thus, presumably, teachers could be called upon at this point to become service providers. However, this is not made clear in the document, nor is there any mention of how this might work in cases of child abuse. Following the development of the ISSP, the team is expected to meet again to draw up a schedule for the interventions, and, once implemented, to meet again twice annually to review and monitor the child's progress. Interestingly, teachers are mentioned as a special case in this section of the document in reference to the scheduling of meetings, for it is noted that "a convenient arrangement for some schools is to schedule meetings to coincide with the normal parent-teacher interviews avoiding the need for parental travel to multiple meetings" 29.

This is a puzzling statement, especially coming near the end of the document. Nowhere else is it suggested that teachers could play such a key role. In this paper I have considered the Integrated Services Management Approach only from the perspective of teachers' role in responding to child abuse.

Further analysis of the model should include the perspectives of other professionals as well as other difficulties e. Specifically, teachers need to recognize the features of the new model which may act as systemic barriers to responding to abused children, and to begin questioning aspects of the new policy which do not seem to work well for them or the children they are trying to protect.