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In this sad and horrible case, a 10 year-old girl, Charlenni Ferreira, was killed by her father and step-mother in Philadelphia after years of horrific abuse. Known injuries included gashes on her hands, a fractured shoulder blade, bone deformities on her arm from past trauma, bruising down her legs, scratches over her face, a fractured hip which kept her from walking properly, a split lip, a “cauliflower ear”, cigarette burns, evidence of long-term sexual abuse, and lacerations to her scalp.

Despite at least two reports from school nurses from 2006 until 2009, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services left the girl in her father and step-mother’s care for years until she died from an infection caused by untreated broken ribs, which filled her lungs with fluid and collapsed them. When she died, she also had a seven-inch gash to her head that was stuffed with gauze and covered by a hair weave.

Apparently, the department left the child in the father and step-mother’s care because it did not have conclusive evidence of child abuse.

In the following article, a review panel consisting of Philadelphia’s medical examiner, a prosecutor, doctors, social workers, and DHS officials exonerated Philadelphia’s handling of the matter.

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_region/20100219_Panel_exonerates_DHS_in_child-abuse_death.html

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The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized. Numerous studies show that breastfeeding not only improves immune function, reduces life-long disease, and increases IQ, it also helps prevent abuse and neglect due to the mothering hormones it releases. See UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Statement On New Breastfeeding, January 7, 2010, and UQ Research Finds the Mum Bud Bond May Reduce Neglect, The University of Queensland Australia News, December 9, 2009.

It appears that the mother’s body was created with built-in mechanisms to support the her healthy and positive rearing of infants to create physically and emotionally healthy adults. Yet human beings routinely breach this bond and create circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect.

Researchers have found that the incidence of child maltreatment, including abuse or neglect, is higher in migraine patients. They’ve also found that migraine sufferers reporting childhood abuse have higher occurrence of comorbid pain conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), interstitial cystitis (IC), and arthritis. See details in this Science Daily article:

Abuse in Childhood Linked to Migraine and Other Pain Disorders, Science Daily, January 6, 2010.

A study was publically released today estimating the number of child deaths from abuse or neglect in the United States between 2001 and 2007 to be in the range of 10,000. 

On average, 5 children died from abuse or neglect per day in the United States during this time period, with the rate of deaths increasing 35%.

The real number was estimated to be 50% higher due to failure to report.

These are scary numbers. They were the subject of a detailed news article on ABCNews.com today. Five Children Die Each Day from Abuse or Neglect, ABC News, October 21, 2009, by Mary Bruce.

It is great that people are paying attention.

However, think about not only the numbers that are unreported, but the number of children that are abused each day who don’t die. If we could really see what goes on behind closed doors, the numbers we compile would be staggering.

Parents find all kinds of ways to hurt their children and call it discipline:

Parents are accused of starving girl for years, Seattle PI local, October 14, 2008.

Long and Pomeroy's House

While physical violence and sexual cruelty against children are to many of us clearly identifiable as abuse, emotional abuse can be harder to recognize. Certainly, most of us would not defend the parent who regularly hurls the label “stupid” at his child, but there are many forms of emotional abuse that are much more subtle.

Consider this relatively thorough overview of several studied forms of emotional abuse: Types of Emotional Abuse, Child Abuse Effects, Darlene Barriere.  With examples of each, Ms. Barriere lists six types of emotional abuse: rejecting, isolatingignoringcorruptingexploiting, and terrorizing.

Parents may hurt a child by leaving him or her alone for long periods of time – isolating/ignoring/rejecting. Several studies have shown that children in orphanages who are left in cribs for long periods of time, while having their basic needs provided for and not subjected to violence, nonetheless end up with mental and physical disorders and stunted development, in contrast with babies and children who are loved and provided with attention and affection. (Example MacArthur Foundation-financed study described in Boston Globe Article, Study on orphans sees benefit in family care, Nov. 11, 2006, The Boston Globe, showing lowered IQ in babies raised in orphanages). Ignoring one’s responsibility to show affection and positive attention to a child entrusted by nature to one’s care does have consequences.

Consider this study published by the Americal Psychological Association:  Social Exclusion Impairs Self-Regulation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005, Vol. 88, No. 4, 589–604, finding that being excluded or rejected caused decrements in self-regulation.

Available studies lead to the conclusion that when parent causes a child feelings of isolation (through means such as leaving the child alone for lengthy periods of time, keeping the child from social activities, and/or treating the child differently than other children to create circumstances of exclusion), this creates negative consequences in the child’s brain functioning.