Ensuring The Safety of Children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing: A Call to Action
This document is intended as a first step for family-led organizations, professional support systems, schools and government agencies to build awareness of the need for assuring the safety and protection of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
GPODHH recognizes that children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/HH) cannot grow, thrive, learn or achieve at a level consistent with their potential if they are experiencing maltreatment, i.e., neglect and abuse. GPODHH acknowledges the research that indicates children with disabilities experience a greater prevalence of maltreatment than their non-disabled peers. Further, GPODHH accepts that the following factors that substantially contribute to the increased rate, duration and impact of maltreatment experienced by children with disabilities.
These factors include but are not limited to:
- People may view deaf children with negative attitudes and assumptions, this includes a likelihood of deaf children facing societal stigma and being viewed as less valuable members of society.
- They are often not recognized to be at higher risk for maltreatment.
- They experience greater degrees of social isolation and loneliness than their nondisabled peers, thus often making them socially less mature and more welcoming of attention from individuals who intend them harm.
- For a number of complex reasons, they often do not...
- know what is appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior from another individual
- know that they have the right to say “No!” nor what to do if that right is disregarded
- possess the language, knowledge needed to share their feelings and day-to-day experiences, thus are less able to share that they have been maltreated
- know how to recognize, avoid and/or respond to risky situations, and
- understand changes in their bodies and their emerging sexuality.
- They may demonstrate behavioral patterns that are misinterpreted to be associated with their disability rather than the maltreatment experience.
- Law enforcement, child protective services, child advocacy services and prosecutors lack sufficient preparation and resources to effectively interact, interview and document the maltreatment experiences of children with disabilities.
- There is a chronic and systemic lack of therapeutic services available for children with disabilities that have experienced maltreatment.
Finally, GPODHH is cognizant of the CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences research that indicates that the significant, negative, lifelong impact of the child maltreatment experience upon individuals mental and physical health, behavior and life span. GPODHH believes that all members of intervention teams/service providers/school personnel have a responsibility to child safeguarding.
The GPODHH seeks the support of individuals and organizations to further safeguard our children in influencing change at the following three levels:
Level 1: Awareness & Understanding of child abuse and neglect. You must be aware of the problem before you can address it
- Occurrence, perpetrators, contexts, and impact of child maltreatment upon health, behavior, learning and performance.
- Share this document with a friend/colleague
- Consistently “check in” with your children/students (i.e., what they are doing and how they are feeling)
- Trust your gut, when you think a child/student may be experiencing maltreatment – ACT!
Level 2: Recognition & Reporting. You must act for the safety and wellbeing of the child above all other concerns
- Physical, behavioral and linguistic indicators that a child may be experiencing maltreatment, plus individual country supported policies for reporting suspected instances of child maltreatment.
- Review and discuss suggested resources with at least one friend/colleague;
- Know the laws and policies in your country.
- Communicate with the possible maltreated child/student to let him/her know that you care for them, that he/she is safe with you and you will do all you can to help him/her.
Level 3: Prevention & Response. You can prevent, or at least diminish, harm by planning for safety and success
- Strategies and resources to effectively incorporate child safety into early intervention strategies, student’s educational plans and day-to-day instruction, as well as the use of trauma informed practices to effectively respond to the needs and behaviors of children who have experienced maltreatment.
- Strategies that support families and systems to optimize early identification and intervention which in turn facilitates language development and communication strategies as an essential component against increased vulnerability of having no language or means of communication
- Share and discuss this document at school meetings;
- Increase your knowledge by reading the resources below.
- Derive from work done in other countries that will fit your culture and communities.
The professionals and systems that serve families across the globe can increase their support to ending child abuse and neglect by acknowledging and engaging in actions to reduce and prevent maltreatment of children who are deaf/hard of hearing across the globe. Parents can teach and model behavior and take specific actions that will increase the safety of their deaf/ hard of hearing kids. Together, we can make a difference.
For more information, contact GPODHH Children’s Safety committee members, Bianca Birdsey (email@example.com) and Janet DesGeorges (Janet@handsandvoices.org)