Canadian foster care services are similar to American social services in that they aim to provide safe and nurturing environments for children in need. Children who are referred to social services such as foster care are usually the victims of maltreatment of some kind. The types of abuses that these children experience vary but include neglect, sexual abuse, endangerment, physical violence, and emotional abuse. Although all of the children referred to foster care services are survivors of at least one type of maltreatment, it is unclear how many of these children have experienced multiple forms of abuse, which is referred to as polyvictimization. In order to help these children recover, it is essential that clinicians be aware of the various forms of maltreatment they have experienced. Therefore, Katie Cyr of the School of Social Work at the University of Montreal in Canada recently led a study that measured what percentages of children in social services had experienced polyvictimization.
Cyr interviewed 82 caregivers of preadolescent children and 136 teens in foster care using the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ). She asked the children and caregivers to report the types of maltreatment that occurred during the previous year. She found that almost all of the children had experienced some form of maltreatment, and 93% of those children had experienced polyvictimization. Additionally, over half (54%) of the children had been the victims of more than three different types of abuse or maltreatment in the previous year. Cyr said, “The results of this study highlight the importance of obtaining data on multiple forms of victimization experienced by young people from diverse populations.” Doing so will allow mental health professionals to target each and every form of abuse and the psychological damage caused by them. Children who are adequately identified as high risk children will then be able to receive the services they need to address their individual issues in the most effective and constructive ways possible.
Cyr, K., Chamberland, C., Lessard, G., Clément, M.-È., Wemmers, J.-A., Collin-Vézina, D., et al. (2012). Polyvictimization in a child welfare sample of children and youths. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028040
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