Let us Talk About Child Abuse

by Rev. Wambui Wa-Njoroge, M.Sci. From my notes Triumph Christian Ministries Inc., GA

by Rev. Wambui Wa-Njoroge, M.Sci.
From my notes
Triumph Christian Ministries Inc., GA

Clash of Cultures This is a good beginning point to address Child Abuse, and especially now that many schools are in session. In Africa, you have heard it said, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” But we are not living in Africa now we are living abroad (Diaspora) a case in point The United States of America.Many African countries have laws in their books, but rarely follow them.Welcome to America! They have laws that they enforce..

In America, children have rights too.When it comes to children, a lot of parents in Diaspora experience a clash of cultures.This is apparent in methods of discipline, as well as in areas that America terms, “Child Abuse.” This is what I want to talk about in the back drop of who we are and where we are Africans, living away from homeland.The Diaspora Community at large.We all have experienced this clash of cultures.Â

Why should you learn about Child Abuse? Because by learning about it and how African and American culture clash, you can avoid, or solve problems in this area.My message to the Diaspora Community is “Don’t be ignorant, educate yourself.”

What Is Child Abuse? It is the mistreatment or neglect of a child. It is a terrible act on a child considering that the child trusts the adult to love, nurture and protect wellbeing of the child.Child abuse leaves emotional, physical and psychological scars or marks in a child.Child abuse should be a concern of the Diaspora Community.

Child Abuse Categories:
Child abuse falls into categories of abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse. I want to address physical abuse because it is one area where many African values clash with American law.I will attempt to answer the following questions which might be helpful to readers: What is physical abuse? Who reports parents? Excuse me, “When does spanking, whooping and beating a child for discipline become abuse?”  When should physical punishment be used? What happens if you are accused of child abuse? Why are children removed from the home? My articles end with What next? From my Heart to yours.The later is from my philosophy on the subject of Children/Adolescents and their families.

What is physical abuse? Physical abuse results from physical punishment that leaves a mark on the body of a minor child. A minor child is a boy or a girl under the age of 18 years, but most States now refer to teenagers from the age of 17 as adults. For the purpose of this article, let us agree that a minor child is a child living in your home, who trusts an adult to keep him or her safe.One who has not graduated from High School. In cases of conflict, remember that the Federal Law and the State Law might be separate but work together depending on each case.

Marks left by abuse include, belt marks, belt buckles, hand imprint after a slap, finger and thumb marks, in areas where a child is grabbed or squeezed, rope-burns where an angry adult or parent is trying to kunyonga mtoto, bruise and scars around neck, arms, ankles, waist, and bite marks, and even hot water burns.These marks may be inflicted on a child by adults or older siblings. You know they are marks left by abuse because mostly they are in hidden areas where they are not readily visible to the eyes like under arms, inner thighs, buttocks areas covered by clothing.This tells that the abuser is aware of what they are doing. Some of the marks may appear old, and others newer indicating repeated abuse.Don’t forget that the darker the skin, the harder it is to see the bruise marks, but they are there. It is therefore, not unusual when abuse is reported, to request a child to reveal these marks.This is done in the presence of a social worker, and a school nurse or school counselor.It is common practice to photograph areas with marks of abuse, which serves as evidence of the abuse.Parental consent is not needed for this to be done. After all, the parent might be the abuser.

Who reports the abuse? The strongest case of child abuse is basically from the direct report of the child. A teacher or an adult might notice that a child is having trouble writing and that they have a bruise on their hand. Or the child is having problems sitting on a desk with their buttocks.The teacher might ask open ended questions in an attempt to know, “What happened to your hand?” or “Why are you having problems sitting still?” The child might reply, “My dad beat me with a belt.” Because most children do not edit their communication, most of the times they are downright honest. Sometimes this simple and direct report is enough information to initiate reporting and investigating a family for child abuse.In many public school systems reporting is done within 24 hours from the time it is discovered. In other words, from the time your your child arrives at school, and up to the time they leave, a lot will have happened.

Sorry for the thought that you can keep the child home until they are healed. If you inflict bruise marks on a child, you cannot keep them from school for more than 3 days in the US without someone wondering why your child is not in school.However, most reporting is done as a procedure by child-care workers, teachers, Sunday school teachers, and professionals who come into contact with your child.They range from school counselors, school social workers, therapists, primary care physicians, family therapist, including trained clergy and ministers For the most part they are mandated reporters.This means that if mandated reporters fail to report suspected or known abuse, they are accountable to the law.They can be jailed too.  Learn that in US all adults like your neighbors have a legal obligation to report abuse or the suspicion of abuse of minor children. It can and most of the times, it is done anonymously.

Excuse me, Jameni “When does spanking, whooping and beating a child for discipline become abuse?  We were spanked, whooped and beaten and we turned out just fine.Physical abuse takes place when appropriate disciplinary measures fail and a parent with unrealistic expectations just want to teach the child discipline! Teach him a lesson or two.For those in the community of faith, parents and others are just trying to follow the teachings of the Bible in Proverbs 23:13-14, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not died, you shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” This can be paraphrased that if you live in the United States and beat your child with a rod, one of these days you will surely land yourself in jail.

My birth country is Kenya, so let me say something relevant to the Kenyan community. Most Kenyans are familiar with physical abuse because it is a part and parcel of our culture.Many Kenyans may remember being told, “nitakuchapa,” or neighbors’ remarks, “chapa mtoto ashike adabu.” Not to forget, “children are to be seen and not heard. Since when did adults listen to and obey watoto.” I still remember a line from a play in High School, “Those who take ideas from children will be treated like children.”

As a result physical abuse of children is widespread in Kenya to the extent that if an agency could be established, and assuming it would be governed by law, and it its sole purpose would be to investigate and prosecute families who in the past have abused children, or are currently abusing children, a good number of Kenyan parents might have to spend a day or two in jail or in the court staring at an angry judge. Some Kenyans and no doubt a large number have been brought up to believe that the most effective method of discipline is the belt, kiboko or even a muiko! There really is no argument that “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a Child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15). Or foolishness might land a smart person in jail for ignorance.

When should physical punishment be used? I am not really sure that physical punishment is necessary. I promised Samrack I will send an article next week.I changed my mind because I was in our grocery store a last week.I stood still and witnessed a mother spanking her little child, just because the child for some reason refused to sit in the shopping cart. That is not it, earlier I noticed that someone who looked more like a grandmother was restraining the child rather strongly. She was not hurting the child though. This is why I stood still, and made sure that grandmother and mother, as well as the little boy could see me. If they had hurt that child in my presence,I would have had no problem intervening. Mostly the question I get asked is, “So you are going to tell me how to raise my child?” My answer is, “Yes Ma’am! I can help you or let Department of Child and Family Services (DFCS) help you.” (This scene is from GA the Bible belt of USA). These two adults were oblivious of cameras in the store and shoppers staring at their actions. I wonder what they are capable of doing when they are left alone with a little child.

Perhaps reluctantly stated, it might be okay to use mild physical punishment when children ignore issues of safety for themselves and for others, like running in front of a moving vehicle. It may be that physical punishment may stop a very young child from misbehaving. But if the child does not internalize that value, it might communicate to the child that it is appropriate to use violence to solve problems or to resolve issues. The next time you are near a play ground, take a step closer, and you can visually tell which child has been a victim of physical violence.Very young children will play out what they have learned at home.I observed 2 young brothers, play out and say, “nitakutwanga kama vile baba na mama…” They proceeded to kick punch, pinch and slap each other  kama baba na mama.  Violence produces violence later in life.

What should you do if you are accused of child abuse? Get yourself a lawyer. Child abuse laws are designed to protect children. Therefore, the court does not have to prove that you are innocent until proven guilty or that you are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Rather, you have to prove that you are innocent. The court will readily believe the word of a child against your word. After all the abused child is the recipient of your behavior. Why should you be believed?

Why are children removed from the home? One of the most heart wrenching and painful experiences any parent can go through is to have children removed from home. If this happens, remember that God is still in control.The government is not interested in disrupting your parental rights, nor does it want to keep your children permanently. In fact, there are not enough foster care homes. But don’t let this deceive you.The government has potential to disrupt your parental rights and to place your child in foster care, and not necessarily with another mwananchi.Wacha kucheza na serikali hii. The government would prefer for you to assume your social responsibility of providing care for your family. .

The Yellow Tape: Children are removed from home to protect the victim (the abused child) and other minor children (siblings) in the same home from further abuse.Remember that when one child is being abused, the siblings watch in silence and in fear.They do not know whether tomorrow they are next. Think of the act of removing children from the home as an act of putting a yellow tape around a crime scene to seal it off, so that it is not contaminated, until the evidence is compiled and the investigation is completed.

If your children are removed from home and placed with foster parents, based on the nature of the abuse, you may be allowed supervised visits depending on your case. The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) together with social services from (DFCS) in your county will help you develop a plan of reunification. This may include parenting classes, anger management, and so forth. Reunification can take a few months or in some cases more than one year. Make sure you follow through with the plan that is laid out for you by DFCS and DJJ. The government may give families food stamps, bus services, school breakfast and lunch, free education, free medical care, and in some cases free housing. I am sure the government does not want to be a mother or a dad to your or to my children. Let us do our part parenting with love and limits.

What Next?

  • Do not abuse your children or children placed in your care
  • Know child abuse laws in your county and state of residence.
  • Explore alternative methods of mild punishment.
  • If you must use physical punishment, don’t do it in anger. Wait until you cool down.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by children, look for help or talk to a professional.
  • With internet, you can also find a lot of resources/materials to read
  • In your community find people to talk to
  • Consult with a school counselor about resources before abusing a child
  • Include recreational activities like walking with your children to diffuse your angry feelings and reduce stress.
  • Get help if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Develop a network of support in your community, someone who can help you in difficult times we all need someone we can trust with important issues of life.
  • You no longer have or live in your village, but it is not a reason not to recreate a village where you live be nice and make friends with parents in your Church or neighborhood.
  • If you use physical punishment as your one way of disciplining your child, what will you use when that child is stronger than you?
  • There are parents who are in turn abused by their children, who are now young adults who were abused.The circle repeats itself.Â
  • Interrupt the abuse before it becomes a monster. Refuse to remain ignorant. Educate yourself.

 

As you read Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” don’t forget to read Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers [mothers], do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Also Colossians 3:21 is good, “Fathers [mothers] do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

From my heart to yours:
Having a child is an awesome responsibility. Raising a child is investing in the future.It is shaping the being of a person, impacting the life of a child for eternity. It is passing on the inheritance of our faith and commitment to our values and in many cases our culture too. Do it well and raise your children with care and lots of love. The most important thing that will make a difference in the life of a child is to have a caring and nurturing parent.Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

About the author/Ministers with Triumph Christian Ministries Incorporated (TCMI).
Rev. Wambui Njoroge is a born again Christian and an ordained minister. She is a wife, and mother to Ciru. She holds a Master’s of Science Degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in Child and Family Studies. She has experience working with Children/Adolescents and families in their developmental contexts. She is a motivational conference/retreat speaker and a Community of Faith Organizer. Her CD released in 2012 “Songs from My Heart.”
Teleconference Prayer Line for families/PUSH (Pray until something happens) every Friday from 11pm to 12:15 am/ 1-567-314-0252 Code: 527896#.

A similar article appeared in KCFA Ushirika Magazine, and Family Focus/Communities in Schools Newsletter/Turner County GA under the heading, The Bible, The Belt, and Child Abuse.”

If you want to read more articles like these on Children/Adolescents families in their developmental contexts, let me know revwambuifavored@gmail.com or/Request for a faith based workshop or seminar on “The Bible, The Belt, and Child Abuse,” and other family education related topics/WMN/9/7/2013©

by Rev. Wambui Wa-Njoroge, M.Sci.
From my notes
Triumph Christian Ministries Inc., GA

6 replies
  1. Dr. Karogi
    Dr. Karogi says:

    As a therapist who is working in Mental Health/Substance Abuse Industry I appreciate the writings of Rev. Wambui who has come out clearly professionally/Spiritually, Culturally to help us who are in diaspora who may be struggling on the issues of discipline.

    Reply
  2. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    Well put, cautionary, and very informative. It is important that our community is educated on matters that can impact their lives and those of their kids, family, and the migration experience.

    Reply
  3. wanja
    wanja says:

    you encouraged me very much,i’m having an issue right now where by i will be going to court for child abue something i didn’t even do,.

    Reply
  4. Bishop Dr. Grace Kariuki
    Bishop Dr. Grace Kariuki says:

    Thank you Rev. Wambui for educating on parenting. I have worked with children for many years and have been heartbroken witnessing parents jailed for child abused in both Africa and diaspora. I wish parents had an opportunity to receive these kind of teachings. All countries have laws protecting children and therefore this article is for all parents around the globe.

    Reply

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