Disabled Children: Vulnerable Populations & the Responsibilities of Caretakers

Types of child abuse include emotional abuse, witnessing violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Any individual or group that relies on others for care is at risk, with certain conditions that work to elevate the likelihood of abuse “individuals with “high” care needs are more likely to experience neglect than those with “low” care needs”.The Social Dynamics of Family Violence. Australia: Accessible Systems PTY, 2012. Print., p.116) Children apart from the elderly are arguably the most vulnerable demographic among us, which heightens the chances of exploitation and victimization to occur. In analyzing the subset concerning children with disabilities, the risk for abuse of any kind increases. Children, depending on the type and severity of the specific disability rely on their caregivers in a more permanent way whereas children without disabilities gradually take steps towards independently accomplishing life stages on their own or with less assistance required. (Hattery & Smith, p.102-103)

Similar to the phenomenon of elder abuse, many factors of being a disabled child contribute to an increased role of their vulnerability and subsequent abuse/neglect. One of the largest factors that presents the opportunity of abuse is the accessibility to the victim. The lack of physical and cognitive functioning skills may disallow full agency to be utilized by the victim, who in this case already lacks a full ability of agency due to their child status. Historically accepted beliefs, norms, and practices concerning childcare were also understood in the sense that the family sphere has and still is treated as a private entity. (Hattery & Smith, p. 22) This dynamic puts a massive level of importance on the caregiver’s role as protector in the lives of disabled children. It is the protectors’ job to ensure the health of the disabled child is being taken care of, whether that is providing proper amount of nutrition or administering medication the adult in this role must be able to safely and correctly administer care.

The needs required by disabled children not only demand more from the caretakers involved but requires that more individuals are actually involved in the process of the children’s lives. These caretakers should be held complicit. In dealing with special populations, the 2003 Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act called for child welfare agencies to coordinate services with other agencies including public health, mental health and other developmental disabilities agencies. (Hattery & Smith, p. 26)


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