Justice or Too Far?

The parents of an eight-year-old boy recently pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter of their son.  Their son died from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008.  The state of Ohio brought involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents.  The two parents face up to eight years each in prison.

The charges stem off of the parents’ lack of medical care in regards to their son.  From reports, they believed that their son had swollen glands.  He did not complain of any tenderness or pain.  Their son exhibited no signs of failing health.  The parents claim that their son had a lump near his glands that would swell and reduce periodically.  Other than this lump, their son exhibited no symptoms.  According to the Mayo Clinic, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is linked with symptoms that include painless swelling of the lymph nodes, constant fatigue, fever and itching.  Not every case identifies itself through all or any of these symptoms.

As for the child in question, his lymph nodes periodically swelled and then went down, with no other symptoms.  The charges brought against his parents, go substantially past substantiating them for abuse or neglect of a child.  Rather, these charges hold them out as murdering their eight-year-old son.  It appears as if these parents struggled financially and were trying their best to provide for their child.  Is it necessary to charge grieving parents, ones who probably feel their failure everyday, with murder of their own child?  What exactly is the justice here?  If the state is seeking deterrence, is a murder charge truly needed? … <Read More>


Is Poverty Causing Increased Child Abuse?

http://www.charitico.org/images/hungry-children.jpgWhile few people doubt the devastating effects that poverty has on the well-being of families, poor teenagers in Texas are entering the foster care system at a higher rate than in the past.  The New York Times recently published an article about the poor economy in Texas and its correlation on the number of children in foster care.  Recent census data revealed that 1.7 million children, who make up 26% of the Texas population, are living in poverty.  Another startling statistic is that the number of child abuse and neglect reports has increased 6% in the past three years.  In one particularly poor county in Texas, the number of child abuse and neglect reports rose 36% in the last three years.

There is a strong correlation between the increase in poor families and the increase in child abuse and neglect reports, with no magic wand that legislators or judges can wave to make these families more affluent, or better able to care for their children.  Judge Darlene Byrne, a Texas judge who hears child protective cases, said the following to a poverty-stricken young mother who was pregnant with her ninth child but hoping to reunite with her other eight children who were in various foster care homes:

“These children did not make this mess; the adults in this room made this mess.  Love does not feed or shelter or clothe or take your kids to the doctor. Love’s a good thing, but it’s not enough to raise a kid.”  As harsh as this statement may seem, poverty can, and does, prevent parents from adequately providing for their children’s health and well-being, especially when a ninth child is on the way when she has eight siblings whom her parents cannot care for. … <Read More>


The Fine-Tuning of Child Abuse (definition)

What exactly constitutes “child abuse”?  I’m sure the typical scenario played out in your head is a possible broken family, living in a messy squalid apartment, where the mom doesn’t feed the children or buy them new clothes and dad beats them with a belt and locks them in a closet.  Of course, while situations like this do unfortunately occur, “child abuse” may also encompass broader, and sometimes less obvious or definite, circumstances.

 In class this past week, we received a fact pattern about a working mother with three children, the oldest of whom is 12-years-old, whose one child goes to school without a lunch most days, with holes in his shoes, and wearing the same clothes for days in a row.  As well, the oldest son would often be in charge of supervising his younger 3 siblings while his mother was away, and during one unsupervised moment, one of her children fell off the bed and broke his arm.  Our prompt asked us to decide if this constitutes child abuse or not.… <Read More>