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The people who help abused children are part of a multidisciplinary team of child protection services professionals. These people investigate incidents, counsel abused children, treat the physical wounds of abuse and provide prevention services, such as parenting classes and community outreach. The professionals in this field work together closely to prevent abuse and, when necessary, prosecute the perpetrators of child abuse and neglect.
Child and Family Social Workers
Depending on the state, social workers for Child Protective Services agencies may handle the full spectrum of child abuse and neglect cases. They strive to protect children while maintaining the integrity of the family unit. This process usually involves repeated visits to the child’s home to ensure a healthy, abuse-free environment and referrals to services such as parenting classes and counseling. Social workers help children to find new guardians through foster homes and adoption in cases where removing the child is necessary for his or her continued safety. Social workers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a major in social work to land entry-level jobs, though a major in psychology or sociology is sometimes acceptable.
Child Abuse Counselors
When social workers or other child protection services professionals suspect abuse, they often refer the children to child abuse counselors. These professionals have specialized training in recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect. After they identify abuse, they work closely with children to build trust and allow the child to voice their feelings about abuse and begin the healing process. Child abuse counselors often accomplish this through play therapy, which may involve activities such as drawing or playing with dolls. These counselors advise guardians on how they can help the child at home and give them understanding of the child’s situation and progress. Counselors need at least master’s degree in psychology or counseling and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised experience to become licensed.
Child Abuse Pediatricians
Child abuse pediatrics is an integral part of identifying and preventing child abuse. These specialists work in children’s hospitals and other health care facilities. They diagnose and treat the physical wounds of children in suspected cases of abuse. During treatment, they use their specialized training to identify signs of abuse and neglect. When they identify warning signs, child abuse pediatricians report their findings to child protective services or law enforcement and may testify in court cases. Child abuse pediatricians must undergo four years of undergraduate study in any major, four years of medical school and a three-year child abuse pediatrics fellowship training program.
Law enforcement personnel that deal with cases of child abuse and neglect need specialized training due to the complex nature of these crimes. They must be empathetic to all parties involved to gather the necessary evidence to confirm that a crime took place and gather evidence to help district attorneys prosecute cases. Law enforcement child abuse specialists work closely with child protective services to ensure that the outcome of any investigation serves the best interest of the child. They often participate in outreach programs at schools or other community centers with the aim of increasing the reporting of child abuse cases. Law enforcement personnel need at least a high school degree, must meet strict physical and personal requirements and successfully complete training at the agency’s academy.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social Workers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
- All Psychology Careers: Child Abuse Counselor
- Psychology School Guide: Child Abuse Counselor
- Council of Pediatric Subspecialties: Child Abuse Pediatrics
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
Jon Gjerde worked as a journalist in northern California where he covered topics ranging from city, county and tribal governments to alternative transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Davis.