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The case of a 3-year-old boy, Juan Hernandez, abused by his father, is quite a shocking and thought-provoking experience. Unfortunately, child abuse is not a rare occurrence and, therefore, needs to be studied to prevent further similar instances and help the victims recover from the shock.
I developed a lot of interest in the case and, therefore, decided to explore it by seeking a deeper understanding of the problems being experienced by the boy. Further on, it occurred to me that there might be a link between the boy’s attitude and his cultural background. I have believed for a long time that the Latinos are very temperamental. I had already prejudged the boy based on his ethnic background, since, as Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & De Arellano explain, “There is more evidence that ethnicity may have an impact on the types and severity of symptoms that children develop following exposure to child abuse” (Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & De Arellano, 2001, 149).
The manner in which the mother of the boy reacted when she was questioned compelled me to conclude that she loved the boy unconditionally. I realized that she had separated with the husband due to love for her children. She was worried that in case anything happened to her, the children would suffer. I also noticed that the father of the two children preferred to spend his time mostly with the boy rather than with the girls, which seemed rather suspicious to me. Though the issue of sexual abuse was shocking, it was still rather predictable, given the father’s weird behavior. Furthermore, I realized that the father of the boy had also been the victim of a sexual abuse, which was no great surprise; as Lovett explains, “infants in at-risk families will not develop a secure internal working model for attachment experiences” (Lovett, 2007, 584). He had experienced the same while he was young.
I noted that Mr. Hernandez already had a criminal record. Therefore, his social behavior should have been tracked after he was released from prison. Thus, the instance of sexual abuse of the patient, as well as the father’s drug abuse, could have been prevented. In fact, the very idea of releasing Mr. Hernandez from prison without running any tests on his sanity seemed wrong. In addition,
Effects of my reactions to my interactions
The way social workers react to various situations affects how they carry out their daily duties. I feel that learning about this case has shaped me greatly as a social worker (Hester, 2007). I have developed several assumptions that can come as great help in the course of my future practice. While at work, I encounter people from different walks of life, such as drug abusers, violent people and people from the social and family backgrounds that leave much to be desired (Bell, 2003).
The given case has also contributed to my better understanding of the problems that the Latino people typically have to face. After reading the case study, I concluded that drugs addiction is quite notorious among Latinos. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez use alcohol and they have both abused hard drugs. In its turn, drug and substance abuse is often linked with violence in families for good reasons. If I handle a family where parents are abusing drugs, I will have the reasons to suspect that they might handle the children in an inappropriate way and, therefore, might prevent a tragedy, i.e., a death or a physical/sexual abuse of a child.
Moreover, if I handle a case in which parents come from a similar ethnic background (such as the above case), the case considered above might help me tackle the probable issues in the most efficient way possible (Hester, 2007). However, it is important that the given case should not spawn acquiring prejudices about Latino people – I may end up offering wrong and uninformed conclusion on similar cases. Consequently, the situation may be worse if both parents have a history of drug abuse. Chances of a decision being biased in such a scenario are very high (Bell, 2003).
Additionally, I believe that people from an abusive background have higher chances of abusing their children. The given fact is especially important in the light of the fact that children often tend to conceal the facts of their abuse, considering it shameful: “The victims themselves may have a difficult time recognizing their own victimization” (Cermak & Molidor, 1996, 386). While my suspicions might prove wrong in the end, which I will be only happy about, I might also stumble upon an instance of child abuse, thus, putting a stop to it and saving the child.
Effective strategies for managing these reactions
As it has been stated above, because of the studied case, I might become somewhat overreacting towards the cases that involve parents with dubious backgrounds. Several scholars have studied the causes and effects of intense reactions. It has been noted that overreaction affects the judgment of an individual (Siegel, 2010). However, quite a number of strategies that can help an individual avoid instances of overreaction are available.
The most important strategy is calmness. While handling such cases, I believe that calmness will enhance my ability to handle stressful situations (Bell, 2003). Research has shown that calmness has the ability to offer effective coping strategies during situations that are traumatizing (Bell, 2003). Being calm during examination and interviewing of patients is crucial in this process.
Secondly, an emotion-focused strategy should be adopted. With the help of the given approach, I will create a working environment that is full of optimism (Siegel, 2010). Even though the situation is challenging, I will appear more capable of ensuring that my patients fully trust the final judgment. Therefore, I will view the stressing situations as challenges rather than threats. This approach will also put me in a position to offer better solutions to the existing problem instead of developing an emotional attachment to the problem in the patient.
Thirdly, the aspect of self-care must be addressed. It is important to help the boy understand that his health is his top priority and that he should pay close attention to the signals that his body shows when some of its organs do not function properly. Therefore, it will be required to teach the boy analyze his behavior, at least in a simple manner, and to notice specific dysfunctions, if any appears. Moreover, it will be required to teach the boy to ask for professional help in case specific symptoms emerge. Finally, it is crucial to help the boy handle his fears by recognizing and defeating them. The above-mentioned can be achieved by specific therapeutic strategies e.g., drawing the “far” and then tearing the paper, making a clay image of the feared person/situation and then destroying it, etc.
Finally, it is advisable for any individual who has been employed as a social worker to be pro-active in helping the patients find the solutions to their problems and start living a normal life. It is obvious that some situations faced by patients may not be changed easily. Taking positive steps will provide the best chances for avoiding further challenges or preventing the same difficulties in the future (Bell, 2003). This strategy will ensure effective management of stress at work (Siegel, 2010). I am certain that a combination of the three strategies will ensure effective management of similar situations faced by patients.
Cermak, P., & Molidor, C. (1996). Male victims of child sexual abuse. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 13, 385-400.
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Cohen, J. A., Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A. P., & De Arellano, M. A. (2001). The importance of culture in treating abused and neglected children: An empirical review. Child Maltreatment, 6, 148-157.
Lovett, B. B. (2007). Sexual abuse in the preschool years: Blending ideas from object relations theory, ego psychology, and biology. Child Abuse: Social Work Journal, 24, 579–589.