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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Battered Child Syndrome : medical, legal and social work machinery for dealing with the Battered Child Syndrome Atkinson, Raymond Gareth

Abstract

The focus of this thesis is to assess the existing "machinery" of the Medical, Social Work and Legal professions in the Vancouver area, as they combine their services to cope with the recently identified problem of the Battered and Abused Child Syndrome. Knowledge of this social problem is of paramount importance in the field of child protection as the greater proportion of victims are babies of three months and younger. The swiftness and destructiveness of this syndrome, which sometimes results in death to the victim, makes early detection and immediate protection of the child imperative. Therefore the three affected professions in each community must devise a definite and cooperative pattern of response to the syndrome. Each profession must shoulder a share of the responsibility as the services of all three are necessary for the ultimate goal of protection for a helpless child. A three-pronged approach involving each discipline was selected. Piles of victims were provided for examination by a local hospital and child protection agency. Information was transferred to a predesigned schedule, and tables constructed depicting injuries and other characteristics of the victims and also common parental traits within the battering families. Due to the time element and difficulty in locating actual cases that had been before the courts, examination as to legal involvement was restricted to case studies. Results of the study indicate that present machinery is adequate and that each discipline has become more adept and thorough at, handling such situations within the last few years. Definite recognition must be given to the planned establishment of a Battered Child Registry in Victoria. The Protection of Children Act is, as it stands, a proper vehicle for bringing cases of battered children before the court. Individual professionals must be aware of any subjective emotional reaction that could prevent their objective handling of such cases. This is one social problem in which rehabilitation and treatment of the family must take a subordinate position to the absolute protection of a single family member. Medical evidence in court should be focused on establishing persistence of abuse, and social work evidence should portray the existence of an unsafe environment. More follow up work must be done with the families even after permanent removal of a child, in hopes of rendering the family safe for the care of future children. The emotional impact felt by the family on the removal of such a child is yet to be documented and resultant behavior noted. Care must be taken by Child Welfare authorities to follow the emotional development of the victims, documenting the resultant adult personality type and any treatment found necessary during the formative years and its degree of success.

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