Social work: domestic violence

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Every child has a right to protection from abuse by primary guardians. The right to protection from all forms of abuse ranging from physical and mental torture to exploitation and negligent treatment is particularly vital in the case of special needs children. According to Pecora et al. (2014) special needs children face challenges that require parents or caregivers to assist in, in order to foster positive childhood growth and development. The author is emphatic that, special needs could include developmental issues, medical conditions, disabilities, and even emotional difficulties. Given the intricacy of adopting and taking care of children with special needs, prospective parents ought to be fully committed and capable of taking up this protective role, while Child Protective Services (CPS) must be equally vigilant to safeguard these children’s welfare in their adoptive homes. However, several cases have highlighted the plight of special needs kids suffering abuse, while under the care of their foster parents. Of particular interest is the Richmond, Texas child abuse case, whereby a couple was arrested after an anonymous caller tipped off Fort Bend County CPS about alleged child abuse. It is after the anonymous report on November 22, 2016 and subsequent investigation that, the Fort Bend County CPS removed and acquired temporary custody of all the seven special needs children held at the said home and placed the accused in police custody.

Race/Ethnicity of the Victims/Family

In this highly publicized case, a couple was accused of abusing their adopted children. These perpetrators of child abuse were Paula Albert Sinclair and her paramour, Allen Richardson, both of whom are African-American. The victims of abuse and neglect, on the other hand, were Jabor’e Sinclair an African American male; Jacob Sinclair, a male of Spanish descent; Regina Sinclair, an African American female; Orodone Sinclair, a Hispanic male; Christian Sinclair, a Hispanic male; Hector Sinclair, a Hispanic male, and Jasmine Sinclair, an African American female. Evidently, all the children were either African American or Hispanic; both considered minority groups in the U.S. As denoted by Child Welfare Information Gateway (2016), a family’s ethnicity or race may influence various child welfare factors. The author notes that families of color, either black or brown, are disproportionately reported to authorities for child abuse and neglect, with most of their cases wielding a higher likelihood of being substantiated after investigation than Caucasian families. In addition, in many cases, minority groups are of lower socioeconomic stature than White people, which implies that many adoptive parents from these groups rely on Adoption Assistance stipends to sustain their families. As a result, there is a possibility that some individuals may opt to adopt children as a way of gaining financial benefits without actually providing necessary care to the kids.

Cultural Aspects of the Victim/Family

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the family in this case is that, Paula Sinclair had divorced her husband with whom she adopted the children and had settled with the 78 year old Richardson. On being charged, both reported meager earnings indicative of financial strain and low socioeconomic status. These aspects of age and fiscal incapacity, bring to question the couple’s capability to raise children, particularly those requiring special care.

Age of the Victim/Family Members

In terms of age, the seven victims were between 16 and 14 years old. The oldest was Jabor’e Sinclair at age 16, followed by Jacob, Regina, Orodon, and Christian at 15 years, and Hector and Jasmine, at 14 years of age. The adoptive mother, Paula was 54 years old at the time of arrest, while her partner was 78 years.

Type of Violence Perpetrated/Experienced

The type of violence instigated by Paula and Richardson amounted to extreme child abuse and neglect.  For instance, the seven children were confined in a single room within the house, where they ate, slept, and even relieved themselves. The room was barricaded, preventing them from escaping. The victims were also malnourished, since they were only served rice and beans on a daily basis. In addition, they were completely denied access to education because they were not allowed to leave the house for school and neither were they homeschooled. The children further suffered debilitating physical abuse, judging from their multiple bodily scars and injuries some fresh and others in their healing stages.

Identify Social Justice Issues within this Case

A wide array of social justice issues emerge from the case. For example, the case bolsters available evidence that children with special needs are more susceptible to abuse and neglect compared to normal children (Jones et al.2012). Another notable concern is that, special needs children are usually isolated and entirely dependent on their caregivers for vital support, and these caregivers most often end up being abusers. Limited access of victims to law enforcers, social or medical representatives, and other people who may intervene, hinders such victims from reporting abuse. Fear of continued abuse may also prevent victims from proactively seeking help. The other issues include failure of CPS to comprehensively evaluate the foster parents’ prior records, both criminal and financial, in order to establish their suitability and to follow up on the children’s welfare.  For these reasons, relevant authorities must be extra keen on placement of special needs children with adoptive parents and following up to ensure safety.

Counter Transference Issues Experienced With the Case

On reading about and analyzing the case, I felt overwhelmed and angry that a parent would subject children to such horrific abuse and neglect. I could not understand why someone would willingly apply for adoption rights only to turn around and subject innocent and vulnerable individuals to unwarranted maltreatment. I also wondered why relevant authorities did not vigorously investigate the parents before allowing them to adopt the seven children within a relatively short time span.  In light of these perceptions that I found could make me lose my objectivity, I have learned that when working with domestic violence victims it is important to practice self-care. I will strive to sustain self-care through exercising, taking time to clear my mind, and seeking counseling services when necessary.

Supervisory Skills Necessary to Work with this Client/Family

Some of the supervisory skills necessary to work this family include sensitivity to the victims, by being keen listeners as well as engaged and trustworthy advocates, while being nonjudgmental. Social workers should also strive to adhere to the NASW code of ethics, in regards to the code of self-determination. Social workers must maintain an impartial stance devoid or personal beliefs and biases, thus allowing victims to make autonomous decisions that deal with the situation to their best interest. Judging from this case, it is also vital for CPS to thoroughly investigate adoptive parents prior to entrusting them with children’s care. Relevant authorities should follow-up with the family to find out reason for students’ withdrawal from school and they could also introduce safety mechanisms in the foster system thus equipping children with the abilities to report or counter abuse.

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  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
  2. Jones, L., Bellis, M.A., Wood, S., Hughes, K., et al. (2012). Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. The Lancet July 2012.
  3. Pecora, P. J., Sanders, D., Wilson, D., English, D., Puckett, A., & Rudlang-Perman, K. (2014). Addressing common forms of child maltreatment: Evidence-informed interventions and gaps in current knowledge. Child & Family Social Work, 19, 321–332.
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