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Monique is a 28-year old single mother of African American descent. She is unemployed while trying to nurture three young children. The oldest is eight years old, while the youngest is two years old. Victor, the middle child, is six years of age. Monique is unemployed and forced to live with her mother, Marion, who is unemployed just like her daughter. Thus, the whole family’s survival depends on one unlikely breadwinner. He is none other than Richard, Marion’s boyfriend. They live in an impoverished neighborhood in a two-bedroom apartment.
Victor’s Development Stage and the Child’s Progress
Victor is a six-year-old child. Thus, he is still considered as a young child, categorized explicitly under the early childhood development stage (World Health Organization, 2017). Queries regarding Victor’s progress in the context of early childhood development are assessed within a framework that examines specific needs. The said framework takes into consideration how Victor’s family and other social support systems are able to meet his needs based on the following criteria: physical development; cognitive development; and social or emotional development (UNICEF, 2017).
Children falling under the aforementioned development category require the same solutions to basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. However, young children like Victor require nutritious food, protection from the elements, as well as the time and space to grow in a safe environment (UNICEF, 2017). Notwithstanding the extreme poverty that they were contending, Victor and his family had enough resources to provide quality meals. This assertion was based on the pronouncements made by a pediatrician tasked to examine Victor and his siblings. Thus, the only problematic area of Victor’s physical development is the long-term impact of the physical injuries caused by maltreatment from the adults in his family (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
With regards to Victor’s cognitive learning skills development, one can make the argument that he possessed a satisfactory level of mental cognition, based on how he articulated his problems to the CPS operative. He was able to describe the domestic violence problem, as well as the manner in which he tried to cope with the said issue. However, he is at a stage wherein he needed to demonstrate a higher interest in literacy-related activities. Thus, he needed to attend a learning system that offers primary education to children his age (UNICEF, 2017). There was no evidence to suggest that he was attending school.
Victor’s social and emotional growth requirements are two of the most problematic issues when it comes to the said developmental stage (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). At this stage of his development, Victor is expected to gain curiosity regarding his social environment, the people, and the social structures that form part of the community. He is expected to gain more confidence when it comes to verbal expression and uses the same skill to cope with his personal problems (UNICEF, 2017). This is the best time to learn how to ask and learn from the interaction with people around him. However, the physical beatings, verbal abuse, and other negative behavior initiated by the adults in the family make it difficult for Victor to learn new things and gain confidence in leveraging new skills in order to expand his understanding of the world around him.
Victor is classified under a vulnerable group defined by issues of domestic violence and criminal behavior (Figeuiras, Souza, Rios & Benguigui, 2012). This vulnerability is characterized by threatening behavior, physical abuse, and acts of violence perpetrated by family members (Figeuiras et al., 2012). Victor is not only a recipient of physical contact; one can argue he suffered from the effects of verbal abuse. In his case, the destructive behavior of his mother, grandmother, and a non-relative sharing a home with him caused bruising, welts, and lacerations all over his body.
There are at least three significant areas of concern. First, the violence perpetrated against Victor, and his siblings occurred behind closed doors. Thus, it is difficult for concerned citizens or CPS operatives to intervene or monitor Victor’s physical well-being and mental state (Thomas et al., 2012). Second, there exists a high probability of escalating the level of violence against the children. Third, it is not easy to detect the severity of the impact of domestic violence on vulnerable children if health workers had no training that enabled them to spot trouble signs. For example, if the health intervention utilized was only in the level of examining issues that are detectable by the naked eye, it is highly probable to miss the detection of healed bone fractures or repeated bone breakage due to extreme application of violent force. As a result, physical severe injuries may cause stunted growth for Victor. Last but not least, the most critical issue to consider is the possible escalation of violence that may lead to death.
Culture, Gender, and Class Issues
The National Black Child Development Institute, Inc. attempted to paint a positive picture of black children growing up in the United States of America. This goal was accomplished by removing the racial undertone of the assertion that children of African American descent are at risk. In other words, it is not prudent to make an automatic judgment on the basis of skin color, gender, or race. However, it is impossible to ignore evidence of behavioral patterns, as well as statistical data that supports the idea that children of black families are oftentimes poor, struggling to cope with school requirements, suffering from the consequence of having an absentee father and headed towards a bleak future (Cabrera, 2013).
Regardless of the need to paint a positive picture with regards to the plight of black children, it is a known fact that even after redirecting resources in order to enhance the quality education accessible to African American children, the end result is often discouraging. In fact, there is a significant achievement gap between black and white children (Boykin, 2013). The low academic performance of black children is not only the end-result of poverty, absentee fathers, and domestic violence, as exemplified by the life struggles of Victor. It is also the inevitable outcome of using a paradigm that utilizes “talent identification and sorting” (Boykin, 2013). As a consequence, children like Victor are oftentimes declared as unmotivated or ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the educational process when there are other factors involved causing distractions and difficulties that are beyond the child’s control.
In addition, Victor is a black male child, making it extremely difficult for him to acquire the necessary motivation to study and build a better future. His race, gender, and social status inadvertently created barriers for his growth and personal development. Thus, it is difficult to see the establishment of unhealthy relationships that are causing tremendous harm to the child’s social, physical, and emotional development.
Protective Factors and Risk Factors
Theoretically speaking, Victor has the capability to access and enjoy the privileges of at least two essential protective factors. First, there is a so-called family protective factor. In this particular paradigm, Victor gets the nurturing benefits of parents and stable family relationships (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). In addition, Victor is supposed to benefit from the so-called community protective factor. These are additional social structures in the community that help protect Victor from abuse. Unfortunately, these protective factors are absent in Victor’s life.
Instead of benefitting from protective factors, Victor faces the consequences of risk factors. For example, chronic physical illness and mental health issues may emanate from his experience of living in a social context defined by domestic violence and criminal behavior. Aside from a history of maltreatment and the negative consequences of an unemployed single-parent household, Victor must also contend with family risk factors. At the end of the day, his poverty and the pending cases filed against parents and a nonbiological caregiver, work together making him at risk to suffer the consequences of social isolation. At the same time, he is prone to suffer from poor parent-child relationships, not to mention the negative interactions between the children, the mother, and the grandmother (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
Victor is the target of physical abuse and violence coming from the frustration of his mother, grandmother, and a nonbiological and transient caregiver in the person of the grandmother’s boyfriend. These three people alternately or simultaneously vent their anger and frustration on Victor (Devaney, 2015). This is evidenced by the use of excessive force to discipline the child, and this is exemplified by welts and lacerations.
The physical abuse coming from the mother and grandmother are more predictable because Victor stated that they prefer the use of a belt to inflict harm on him and his siblings. However, the most critical issue of physical abuse, the one that has a higher probability of causing permanent or long-term damage, is Richard’s propensity to throw things at the children when he is in a foul mood or fighting with Victor’s mother or grandmother. These projectiles inflicted severe damage forcing Victor and his siblings to use the bed as a protective barrier. These are serious safety issues. However, the most dangerous type are those associated with Richard’s criminal behavior. For example, Victor may accidentally ingest illegal drugs while playing inside the house. It is possible that an offshoot of Richard’s criminal activity causes physical violence to indirectly fall on Victor and the other children. Thus, it is not difficult to make the assessment that Victor’s life is in danger due to the fact that he is living in a house that is probably the center of Richard’s criminal enterprise. In addition, Richard’s use of illegal substances may enhance his violent tendencies and escalate the physical abuse directed at Victor (Devaney, 2015).
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The combined impact of extreme poverty, domestic violence, and criminal behavior reduces Victor’s quality of life if he is allowed to co-exist with his dysfunctional family. The family’s dependence on Richard’s criminal enterprise makes it impossible for the family to turn things around. As a result, it is no longer possible to establish a nurturing and protective environment that Victor requires in order to satisfy the needs of the early childhood development stage. Victor is in a vicious life cycle that leads to stunted growth and mental health issues. He is being subjected to psychological and physical torment that boys his age are not supposed to witness or experience. He is in a dangerous situation, and in order for his life to improving, it is imperative for the CPS to arrange a foster care type of arrangement for Victor and his siblings.
Boykin, W. (2013). On enhancing academic outcomes: For African American children and youth. In the National Black Child Development Institute (Ed.), Being black is not a risk factor: A strength-based look at the state of the black child (pp. 14-17). Web.
Cabrera, N. (2013). Minority children and their families: A positive outlook. In the National Black Child Development Institute (Ed.), Being black is not a risk factor: A strength-based look at the state of the black child (pp. 4-7). Web.
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Devaney, J. (2015). Research review: The impact of domestic violence on children. Irish Probation Journal, 12(1), 79-94.
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Thomas, A., Carey, D., Prewitt, K., Romero, E., Richards, M. & Velsor-Friedrich, B. (, 2012). African American youth and exposure to community violence: Supporting change from the inside. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 4(1), 54-68.
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