Family Advocacy tackles child neglect

  • Published
  • By Maj. Nadine Griffin
  • 95th Medical Operations Squadron
Some of the most important issues the Family Advocacy office addresses involve cases on child neglect.

Various factors are involved in child neglect cases including childcare issues, parenting beliefs, remoteness of the base and young parents' lack of experience.

Jennifer Higgins, Family Advocacy outreach manager, said it is important for Edwards community to understand the importance of people understanding what constitutes child neglect.

"When parents fail to provide for their children, it is neglect," Mrs. Higgins said. "Neglect can be failure to provide safety, adequate clothing or any condition that does not support the child's development."

Base guidelines for child supervision address more specific needs of Edwards such as neglect issues.

However, if someone violated these guidelines, it does not necessarily mean the actions were child neglect, Mrs. Higgins said.

"The key factor to child neglect cases is examining whether the child was injured because of the neglect or was the child put at serious risk of injury," she said.

Mrs. Higgins further explained that each case is individually evaluated based on several factors.

"We look at the age and maturity, determine whether there was a safety plan in place and if the parents took the necessary steps to create a safe environment for the child to be left alone in," she said.

There are several areas parents should take into account when deciding whether to leave their child home alone.

Parents need to develop a safety plan, Mrs. Higgins said. Children need to be aware of the safety plan for emergencies and be capable of effectively implementing it.

In all cases when a child is left at home, the child must have access and knowledge of emergency telephone numbers to include a number for parents or a designated adult who is able to arrive home within five minutes.

Children must be aware of and follow the house rules such as no cooking, staying away from sharp objects and not opening the door for strangers.

Family Advocacy would like to stress the importance of being a good neighbor, Mrs. Higgins said.

"We want to foster a strong community where people help each other out," she said. "If they see a child playing alone outside, talk to the parent. Try and see if that route works first. But if people see a pattern of neglect, that's the time we want them to give us a call."

Thinking through these guidelines and recommendations will significantly increase the safety of your child's well being and reduce the risk of child neglect, she said.

In addition, according to Air Force Instruction 34-276, Family Child Care Programs, the Air Force requires individuals in family housing (military or private) who provide child care in their home for more than 10 child care hours per week to be a licensed provider. A child care hour is the number of hours multiplied by the number of children in care. The Family Child Care program is managed by the Family Member Programs Flight with the 95th Mission Support and Services Squadron. The licensing process is designed to ensure the health and safety of the children cared for in FCC homes.

Families in need of home child care services should ensure the provider is licensed. Individuals who are not approved or licensed FCC providers cannot advertise in base publications or on base bulletin boards.

For more information on the Family Child Care program, call the FCC office at 258-0319. For more information on child supervision guidelines, call Family Advocacy at 277-5292.