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Domestic Abuse and Violence

The problems associated with child neglect are often less obvious than other types of abuse and are frequently overlooked by social responders. These types of situations are frequently seen in domestic violence shelters and are extremely challenging to address. Consider the following scenario (this is a composite of several case studies).

Mary is 22 years old and is staying at a domestic violence shelter after leaving her extremely abusive boyfriend. Mary is 5 months pregnant and has 1 daughter, Sue, age 4. Mary needs to look for a job and has signed a child care agreement with Lynne, another mom at the shelter. (This is according to the guidelines of the shelter). Lynne agrees to baby sit Sue until 5 p.m. and Mary agrees to return at this time.

Mary signs out of the shelter and lists “looking for job” as her destination (as per the guidelines of the shelter). She leaves no number where she can be reached and has no cell phone. At 5:15 p.m. Lynne approaches the shelter worker on duty and explains that Mary has not returned and that she needs to get ready for her night job. She cannot continue watching Sue. Janice, another shelter resident, overhears and says she’ll be glad to watch Sue until Mary returns. When asked if she would like to stay with Janice, Sue agrees although she does show some signs of anxiousness. The shelter worker now has some difficult decisions to make. This is the information at the worker’s disposal:

  • Intervention on behalf of the survivor and the child should ensure the safety and well being of both parties.
  • The shelter is not a licensed day care facility and can be heavily fined if it is determined that shelter workers are baby sitting.
  • The shelter worker does not know what has happened to mom. She may have been detained, kidnapped, held hostage, hospitalized, or even killed. She may also be visiting the abusive boyfriend, partying, or has abandoned the child.
  • As a mandated reporter the shelter is required to report suspected or known cases of child abuse.
  • The shelter maintains a file on both survivor and child which contains a family history, including information about previous intervention with Child Protective Services. Information from other social response agencies may also be in the file as well as any problems mom and child may have had while in shelter. The file also contains emergency contact information for mom.

For the purposes of this discussion topic please respond to the following:


1. Is this an example of child neglect? Please explain


2. What do you think the shelter worker can do to address this situation?


3. Will these actions ensure the safety and well being of both parties? Please explain.


4. Use in-text citations and references to support your response.

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