Child Abuse In Australia: Types, Statistics, And Nursing Interventions

Forms of Child Abuse in Australia

Child abuse is one of the main concerns that are bothering the government of Australia from a long time. By the term child abuse, one can literally point to the actions conducted by parents or caregivers or any other stakeholders that resulted in causing injury, emotional harm, death as well as risk of serious harm to the child. Government had noted that there can be many form of child abuse which had been reported to them. This mainly included the different forms of child maltreatment and also included neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, exploitation as well as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is also noted to be one of another significant issue which harms the children’s mental as well as the social development resulting in severe emotional harm (Dingwall, Ekelar and Murray 2014). These affect the well being of the child in such a way that not only he enters into phases of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but also makes the future of the child unsure as it also affects the academic career and physiological well being of the child. Automatically child abuse initiates sequences of effects on the child’s physical and mental health that altogether modifies his thinking in such a way that his behavior towards society, friends, and others in adult life also gets altered (Hockenberry and Wilson 2014). Thereby one can understand that caring for children who have been abused and neglected should be cared for in order to help them overcome the mental and physical stress that had gone so that proper interventions can be provided at the right stge. Proper preventive and curative measure if applied by the nurse can ensure that the child can recover from the stresses caused and thereby make arrangements that he does not have to suffer anymore. Moreover proper interventions can help in making them develop a future which would be les vulnerable to threat and more prone to happiness and success.

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The Australian government had set out many initiatives to note the number of cases that are reported on child abuse and are trying to read the trend if increase in the reported case. To be precise, in the year 2014 to 2015 a total number of notifications of cases that were reported to the Australian institute of health and welfare was 320169. Out of them about 152086 was reported  to be cases of child abuse which was investigated or were in the process of investigation. Of these cases about 140719 cases were finalized in the year 2015 on August 31 and along with that 56423 cases were substantiated by AIWH in 2016. A report had been prepared by the research team which had ensured that the number of reported cases have been found to increase over the years. Researchers have also found that After New South Wales had initiated the “keep them afe” reforms, the 2010 to 2012 data shows that there had been full reporting under the legislative changes which had been made in the New South Wales Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 that had been proclaimed in the year 2010 on 24th January. This reporting took place the after the government of NSW changed the threshold from the tag of risk of harm to the tag of risk of significant harm. The government of Queensland had also taken promising steps where a large number of staffs were recruited to carry on the investigation process smoothly. They had helped by reducing the number of investigations that were not finalized and helped by increasing the number of investigations with an outcome which was finalized. This was mainly done by categorizing them into substantiated, unsubstantiated and no investigation and assessment outcomes.

Statistics of Reported Child Abuse Cases

The government had mainly noted the various types of crimes that gets reported and also have provided a detailed figure of each of the types of abuses that can be noted. The table had been provided below which can clearly state that the different statistics of each of the types.

Out of this one can easily notice that the amount of emotional abuse and abuse due to neglect have been in the highest number.  Then comes the numbers of physical abuse followed by the number of sexual abuse. Data have suggested that between the time periods of 2010 to 2011 and then from 2014 to 2015, child maltreatment has been reported to be in a steady state for all types except emotional abuse. This had increased from 2.2 to 3.4 per 1000 children over the time as reported by AIWH in the year 2016.

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The healthcare sectors thereby have to play a very important role in maintaining their duty towards these children by providing the best support. Often healthcare professionals need to have a detailed knowledge about the psychology of children as this knowledge will help him to control the emotion of the child (Widom, Czaja and Duttom 2014). He needs to have skills to handle the issues of child maltreatment in way that will help the child to overcome the stress or fear that he had inculcated after the incidences and look towards life with a brighter positive perspectives (Sperry and Widom 2013). However for that the nurse first needs to develop a detailed knowledge about each types of abuses that the children experiences. They can develop a detailed knowledge from the report called the ‘Child Protection Australia 2014 to 2015 report that was published by the Australian institute of Health and Welfare. The nurse can use it as a resource to understand the different maltreatments and how this is affecting them from the report.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have published a position statement about the duties that a nurse should take in handling the sensitive cases of child abuse. They have clearly mentioned that it is extremely important for the nurse to recognize the risk as well as the vulnerable status of the child along with the special protection that they need. The paper had also clearly stated that nurses can play a big role for a child who had faced abusive experiences mainly by preventing and identifying any such threats to the student and providing interventions through her ongoing care, education as well as support (Young and Widom 2014) . Early intervention strategies are the best application procedures that the nurses should take and therefore they need to have proper skills for correct assessment, identification, report as well as implementation of the early programs (Pietrantonio et al. 2013). The organizations also have to play a big role by helping the nurses with proper protocols and guidelines which will not only ease their work but will also help them to follow proper guidelines and do her tasks properly for best result on the child (PS_Child_abuse_and_neglect 2017). Therefore the healthcare organizations need to have prior policies, protocols and other guidelines which are effective to provide support to the nurse caring for a child.

Role of Healthcare Professionals, Particularly Nurses

It is clearly established now that child abuse affects the children’s health in a way that his emotional well being, physiological health as well as the physical development gets compromised. This is also found to affect the learning as well as the self esteem of the child resulting in a deep impact on his cognitive development. This in turn not only their future but also affects the lifelong as well as the future well being of the child (Levey et al. 2017). Different types of nurses working in different departments can contribute their skills and knowledge to overcome the serious issues. A nurse working in the maternity ward as well as neonatal intensive care (NICU)  as well as in other pediatric sectors can help the primary care givers of the children by teaching them how to care for their child or infant. Nurses who are allocated the job of working in the NICU can ensure that the child is safe from any head trauma injury along with the promotion of safe sleep (Houlgate 2017). These can be ensured by educating the parent to be competent enough to care for the child before she is released for home. The nurses who are working in the emergency department should have the knowledge and the skill to identify vulnerable children who are admitted for treatments for injuries, acute chronic conditions, ingestions and others. They mainly remain in a key position to assess the suspected maltreatment and thereby take definite steps against the perpetrators and help the child in getting well (Mazzek and Krempey 2014). Moreover, nurses working in schools can provide assistance to the teacher as well as the other school staffs. Nurses can also hold workshops to provide universal prevention programs for child sexual abuse to increase awareness. Schools nurses are the individuals who have the position to first assess the students exhibiting symptoms of potential child abuse and violence conducted on the children (Lonne and Parton 2014). Researchers have often stated that vigilance by the nurse is extremely important as they require to correctly recognizing the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect for that they can be confused with other health problems as well.

Nurses also play an important role just like other health professionals to report the cases of child maltreatment to child protective services that are organized both on the private level as well as on the governmental level (Moore et al. 2015). It is often the reports of the nurses that set the investigation in motion about the cases. However researchers have noted that many nurses face an ethical or legal dilemma while handling such complex decision of reporting them to the governmental concerns looking over child abuse issue. This is because as stated by them, their urge to come forward and help children from abuse by reporting about him may override the professional codes of conduct about maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the clients (Matthews et al.2015). However, government had encouraged nurses as well as other health care professionals to come forwards and report such cases (Stoltenborg et al. 2015). In fact, a professional who is concealing such information even after knowing the incidences are subjected to criminal penalties as well as civil liabilities. The government had clearly stated that a professional who reports such incidences with good faith and without any malicious intent come under the provision of criminal and civil immunity and would be encouraged.

Early Intervention Strategies and Skills for Nurses

A child who had been abused physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally and mentally goes through tremendous emotional distress but they do not have the capability to understand it. Moreover their developmental as well as the chronological ages are such that they completely lack the analytical ability to work though his feelings and try to heal him (Buckley et al.2014). Most of the abuses like the emotional as well as the physical abuses go hand to hand and therefore it becomes difficult for them to cope up with the effects. Therefore when the nurse would be working with the child, she must remember that the child needs empathy and not sympathy. She should never act shocked or upsetting instead develop a kind as well as empathetic approach. First of all, the nurse should first build trust in the child and try to make the child open up. If he is not doing that, the nurse should provide him time when he would be comfortable (Meink et al. 2015). The nurses should assure the child that she is there to help them and do not let the child feel confused conforming them that abuse is harmful. Children often feel apprehensive to open up about their parents and therefore the nurse should make him understand that abuse is abnormal and is not right. A compassionate touch and body language with proper interactive discussion often will help the child to rely and open up (Johnston 2015). Proper counseling of the child can be conducted once he opens in with the help of proper reporting and appointing a counselor for him. Education and counselors with the perpetrators can also be arranged. In case of serious cases, interventions may include taking the help of legal system and reporting cases to organizations handling them (Muskett 2014).

A number of laws and legislations have been proposed by Australian Institute of family studies regarding the issue of child abuse. Different territories have prepared their own legislation to fight against the crime. These have been provided below in the form of a table.

The main guiding principles that form the foundation of these legislations are the best interest principle that mainly looks for the best interest of the children with a promising future wit prier mental and physical upbringing and development. They also promote the importance of early intervention strategies to care for them and also help them to participate in decision making procedures. Section 8(3) of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 (TAS) states had helped children to express their views as well s the views are taken in considerations as well (Child Family Community Australia  2017). Out of home care, after care support and also permanency planning and stability care are also taken care about to provide the best life to the children gone through abuses. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 has been a new initiative that had put children in the centre position and make public health approaches for their benefits.

Policies, Protocols, and Guidelines for Healthcare Organizations

Hence, one can easily understand the various harmful effects that a child experiences when he is abused or neglected. They may be physical, emotional, psychological and many others. Government had conducted researches and has seen that the number of child abuse has become a major issue and are compromising the fate of the coming generations. Hence they had responsibly provided a number of laws and regulations to reduce the rate of child abuses and help the victims to have a proper normal life. However, nurses also play a great role in proper monitoring, counseling and providing correct interventions to such victims. They should effectively report such cases to concerned organization sin time and also introduce workshop and take up early intervention strategies to provide the nation a generation that would bring success to the nation.

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Child Family Community Australia. 2017. Child abuse and neglect statistics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

Child Family Community Australia. 2017. Australian child protection legislation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

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Hockenberry, M.J. and Wilson, D., 2014. Wong’s nursing care of infants and children. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Houlgate, L.D., 2017. Child Abuse and Neglect. In Philosophy, Law and the Family (pp. 127-141). Springer International Publishing.

Levey, E.J., Gelaye, B., Bain, P., Rondon, M.B., Borba, C.P., Henderson, D.C. and Williams, M.A., 2017. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of interventions designed to decrease child abuse in high-risk families. Child Abuse & Neglect, 65, pp.48-57.

Lonne, B. and Parton, N., 2014. Portrayals of child abuse scandals in the media in Australia and England: Impacts on practice, policy and systems. Child abuse & neglect, 38(5), pp.822-836.

Moore, S.E., Scott, J.G., Ferrari, A.J., Mills, R., Dunne, M.P., Erskine, H.E., Devries, K.M., Degenhardt, L., Vos, T., Whiteford, H.A. and McCarthy, M., 2015. Burden attributable to child maltreatment in Australia. Child abuse & neglect, 48, pp.208-220.

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Sperry, D.M. and Widom, C.S., 2013. Child abuse and neglect, social support, and psychopathology in adulthood: A prospective investigation. Child abuse & neglect, 37(6), pp.415-425.

Stoltenborgh, M., Bakermans?Kranenburg, M.J., Alink, L.R. and IJzendoorn, M.H., 2015. The prevalence of child maltreatment across the globe: Review of a series of meta?analyses. Child Abuse Review, 24(1), pp.37-50.

Widom, C.S., Czaja, S. and Dutton, M.A., 2014. Child abuse and neglect and intimate partner violence victimization and perpetration: A prospective investigation. Child abuse & neglect, 38(4), pp.650-663.

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Buckley, H., Tonmyr, L., Lewig, K. and Jack, S., 2014. Factors influencing the uptake of research evidence in child welfare: A synthesis of findings from Australia, Canada and Ireland. Child abuse review, 23(1), pp.5-16.

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