Clarissa M.

Darnell 1
Community Partnership Project
Community Partnership Project: Issue with Child Abuse and Neglect
Project Overview
The assignment criterion for the Community Partnership Project was to select a
community organization or agency that directly serves the community population in my area.
The objective was to allow the opportunity to learn more about the importance of community
partnerships and how the connection would directly affect those involved. Being that
approximately 85% of the children within the school where I currently teach receives free or
reduced lunch based on the low-income classification of their family, there are many families in
my community that are in need. These families generate little income or even none at all,
resulting in deficiencies including things such as utilities, food, personal hygiene items, baby
care, etc. Providing necessities, such as these, for the family becomes very difficult. This
environmental factor, in addition to other factors, including various types of parent or caregiver,
family, and child factors can influence the care that children receive within their home.
According to the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect within the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, a strong correlation can be seen between cases of child maltreatment,
particularly neglect and poverty and unemployment (Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, and Kennedy,
With the impoverished population being so prevalent within my community and the
effects of child abuse and neglect having such strong connections to the impeding circumstances
faced by families within the area, I selected an agency within my community that offers services
to these children and families. Our House was my agency of choice. Our House, also home to the
Child Abuse Prevention Team (CAPT) is a non-profit organization that has been providing free
services to the public for more than 33 years (Hayes, 2013). The mission of the organization is to
protect the children of Wilkes County, NC from abuse and neglect through prevention education,
parent training and family services. The site location of Our House organization is open to
families of need and provides them with a safe, neutral, homelike setting for investigations,
classes, and supervised visits. The Our House facility is the only site across the state to offer a
home-like environment for court-ordered visits with the non-custodial parent(s), supervised by
social workers from Wilkes County Department of Social Services (DSS) or by the Our House
Staff (B. Shew, personal communication, 2014). During the visits, the supervising staff offers
support and assistance to help the parent(s) to improve parenting skills. To date, 298 supervised
visits have been facilitated at Our House (E. Osborne, personal communication, 2014). In
addition to supervising court-ordered family visits, Our House provides other resources to
families, including diapers, clothing vouchers,
The services provided by Our House are immense; however the number of staff is
limited. There are just four positions on staff, with only the executive director being considered
full-time, Barry Shew currently serves as the executive director. The other three positions
include a parenting and family educator, Curtis Lomax, a family advocate and special events
coordinator, Susan Allen, and an office manager, Elaine Osborne. Through the Family Advocate
Program, Ms. Allen works with parents who have been referred to Our House by other agencies.
She provides parenting advice, family services, and help with household management and
provides referrals for any services needed by the family. The parenting classes taught by Mr.
Lomax, are the only classes available to parents of children older than five years of age. Parents
can voluntarily elect to take the classes or are assigned through court order to attend and
complete in order to be presented in custody cases (Hayes, 2013).

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Community Partnership Project
Upon selecting to spending time observing and volunteering at Our House, my goal was
to gain a better understanding of the mission and purpose of the organization and how students
and families from the community can directly benefit from the services offered. I feel that this
understanding will directly relate to my teaching performance, as I will be more compassionate
and sensitive to any struggles and needs of my students and their families. I will also be more
educated of warning signs and indicators of child abuse and neglect, which will allow me to seek
support and assistance for the children and their families.
Literature Review
Many factors can affect the development and learning of human beings, adults and
children alike. Similarly, the motivation of participation and engagement to learn is based on
various factors. Andrew H. Maslow developed a theory explaining the way in which the
pervasive needs of people must by met in order for conditions to be favorable for one to seek
new challenges (Hearron and Hildebrand, 2015). Maslow proposed this to take place within a
hierarchy formation. The pyramid model illustrates physiological needs, such as food, clothing,
and shelter, as the foundation, considering these needs may be the most basic. Once the basic
needs are satisfied, one is then concerned about needs of the next level, which is safety and
security, or otherwise feeling supported rather than threatened. Once those needs are met,
satisfying both tier one and two, one seeks contentment within the area of social contexts, such
as love, affection, and a sense of belonging. Moving then to the tiered need of esteemachievement, confidence, and recognition- followed by the top and final tier, the need for selfactualization. It is when one reaches this tier that the individual will be feeling fulfilled and is
working at the top of capacity, demonstrating skills of problem-solving and creativity (Hearron
and Hildebrand, 2015).
To understand how to meet the specific needs within a community according to
Maslow’s hierarchy theory, it is imperative to have an understanding of the demographics of the
area. Within my community, many families generate little to no income, resulting in a high
number of those families living at or below the poverty line. The current poverty guideline across
the Unites States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) is $23, 850 annually for a family of four (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services). According to the United States Census Bureau, the
average number of persons at or below this level within Wilkes County between the years of
2008 and 2012 was 22.4%. This average was considerably higher than the state average, which
was only 16.8% (United States Census Bureau). The conclusion can be drawn that communities
within Wilkes County may struggle with financial insecurity more than other areas across the
state, which can beget a greater deficient for providing the basic needs of the family. The ability
to meet or satisfy needs higher up ladder of Maslow’s model is compromised by the lack of
satisfaction in the lower levels. This deficient can put strain and stress on a family. The increase
of family pressures and stress may therefore affect the quality of parental care offered to children
within the home, often causing or exacerbating other situations taking place in the home such as
hostility, family conflict and maltreatment (Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, and Kennedy, 2003).
Although maltreatment of children can occur across socio-economic, religious, cultural,
racial, and ethnic groups, research has recognized a number of risk factors or attributes
commonly associated with maltreatment, such as poverty, substance abuse, and violence. The
NIS-4 indicates that children from families of low socioeconomic status had higher rates of
maltreatment, experiencing some type of maltreatment at more than 5 times the rate of other

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Community Partnership Project
children. These children were more than 3 times as likely to be abused and about 7 times as
likely to be neglected (Sedlak, Mettenburg, Basena, Petta, McPherson, Green, and Li, 2010)..
Rod Plotnik, a professor within the Department of Psychology at San Diego State University,
holds several theories related to the association between poverty and maltreatment (Goldman,
Salus, Wolcott, and Kennedy, 2003). The theories state that 1,) “low income creates greater
family stress, which, in turn, leads to higher chances of maltreatment”, 2.) “parents with low
incomes, despite good intentions, may be unable to provide adequate care while raising children
in high-risk neighborhoods with unsafe or crowded housing and inadequate daycare”, 3.). “other
characteristics may make parents more likely to be both poor and abusive, [such as] a substance
abuse problem that impedes the parent's ability to obtain and maintain a job, which also may
contribute to abusive behavior” and 4.) “poor families may experience maltreatment at rates
similar to other families, but that maltreatment in poor families is reported to Child Protective
Services more frequently, in part because they have more contact with and are under greater
scrutiny from individuals who are legally mandated to report suspected child maltreatment”
(Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, and Kennedy, 2003). Statistics demonstrate similar findings
supporting theory of Mr. Plotnik; “In 1999, 85 percent of States identified poverty and substance
abuse as the top two problems challenging families reported to child protective service (CPS)
agencies” (Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, and Kennedy, 2003).
When maltreatment, neglect, or abuse occurs in consecutiveness or severity and the
safety of children is in jeopardy, action must be taken to provide the family with intervention and
support or to remove the children from their care until appropriate changes are made. The
standards and procedures for determining the proper action is laid out by national, state and local
agencies. Child protective services (CPS) workers use statutory definitions of child maltreatment
to determine whether maltreatment has occurred and when intervention into family life is
necessary. Determination of action made result in enrolling caregivers in parenting classes and
closely monitoring the family, while more serious cases may result in displacement of custodial
care of the involved child or children to other family members or the state, such as foster care
placement through Department of Social Services.
Such decision are made in order obtain adequate care for a child or children involved. As
Maslow’s theory explains, basic needs must be satisfied in order to one to advance in skills and
understanding. An article by Symons, Cinelli, James, and Groff states that “healthy children are
in a better position to acquire knowledge” (1997). The acknowledgement is made that no matter
the curriculum a program or school offer to children, it cannot satisfy the basic needs a child has
been deprived of elsewhere, such as hunger or a distracted mind, as the health of children is
“inextricably intertwined” with their ability to achieve. Facing factors such as living in
impoverished conditions in which food may be scarce, safety is compromised, drugs are used,
and chronic violence is prevalent, the children involved are likely to suffer from emotional
exhaustion and be missing satisfaction for basic needs. These conditions will ultimately affect
the degree to which children can engage and learn. Symons et al. specifically states that “abused
children exhibit significant differences in academic achievement and intellectual functioning,
[meaning that] children may exhibit poor concentration, shorter attention span, and a general
decline in academic performance” (1997).
Advocacy must be available for children and families that are facing these conditions.
Situations can be overcome with guidance, support and monitoring, and it is through community
partnerships of organizations and agencies that families can receive such resources. Such

Clarissa M. Darnell 4
Community Partnership Project
partnerships are crucial for providing children with the adequate level of care needed in order to
positive prompt necessary growth of skill and understanding.
Community Service Plan
As I first began considering possibilities for completing the assignment requirements of
this project, I spoke with the school counselor at my school about the demographics of the
student population. Already knowing that the number of children to receive free or reduced
lunch was an exceeding high number, implying the number of families categorized within lowsocioeconomic status, I questioned other statically groupings that may be related to these
circumstances. She shared with me that the number of referrals to DSS is an alarming high
number for our area and that several children have removed from their parents’ homes based on
circumstances of abuse or neglect, from substance abuse or violence. After being removed from
their home, the children have been placed in kinship care or in DSS custody and in homes of
local foster parents. Based on this need, I choose the local agency Our House, as they directly
serve this population.
In order to seek approval, I contacted the office manager, Ms. Osborne, and asked if
volunteers were accepted and if work would be available for me. She expressed gratitude in my
request to offer assistance and become involved with the programs offered. An orientation
meeting was quickly arranged in order to get the approval process started. During the initial
orientation meeting, protocol and procedures for volunteers were discussed, as well as
possibilities for ways in which my hours could be most wisely spent. I shared with Ms. Osborne
that I wished to gain a clear understanding of the programs and services that the organization
offered to children and families and the response of such efforts. It was arranged that I would
have opportunities to directly interact with a child and the non-custodial parent(s) during
supervised visits. Through direct contact with the clientele, I wished to become more aware of
the challenges that the child and families face and how they respond to the services provided by
Our House. I wished to also gain insight of the supportive partnerships present between Our
House and other organizations and affiliations to offer support and resources to the families
within the community. I spoke with Ms. Osborne directly, in an interview-type conversation to
seek the additional information about the services and resources offered by Our House; the
interview questions and responses are included in the Appendix.
During my time volunteering, I spent time directly interacting with the clientele,
supervising visits with children and the non-custodial parent, in order to gain first-hand
experience with the population. I also assisted Ms. Osborne with clerical work in order to gain
an understanding for the way in which the organization is ran and managed. Specific
documentation of the Community Service project is listed in the Appendix.
Completing the assignment requirements of this project has been a very enlightening,
eye-opening, and rewarding experience. I feel that I have a better understanding of how custodial
visits are ordered or assigned through the court system and how Our House provides services for
these families. Having the opportunity to meet the children and the non-custodial parents during
the visits, my heart ached for the situation what was being faced by both parties, but it allowed
me a gain a great deal of empathy and compassion for the specific situations. Through this
experience I realized that I previously had many ill-conceived judgments and assumptions about

Clarissa M. Darnell 5
Community Partnership Project
a violating parent that loses custody of their child or children to the other custodial parent or a
family member or parents that lose custody to DSS. I felt that the parent(s) must not have a deep
love or caring for their child in order to commit the actions of abuse or neglect, or were very
selfish to choose other factors, such as drug use, over caring for the well-being of their child or
children. However, after speaking with the staff at Our House about specific family stories and
sat in on visits with the clientele, children and non-custodial parents, it was clear that my preassumptions and judgments were incorrect. I quickly realized that in many cases, the visiting
parent or parents do have a deep love for their child. I feel that this gain will impact my teaching
practices, specifically my interactions and relationships with the families that I serve.
As I found that several of the visiting non-custodial parents tried very hard to warmly
greet their children with special tokens, gifts, and a pre-selected dinner, and to engage the
children through the visit through play interactions and verbal conversations; investing effort into
learning about the activities taking place in their lives and re-build or maintain a positive
relationship with the child. Because of the efforts that the parents displayed, I feel that I will
have a greater empathy for the non-custodial parent within the circumstances that each of them
have faced in the past and are continuing to work through. However, I did observe that the
efforts of all non-custodial parents were not the same and all relationships between the children
and the visit parent was not always totally positive. There was a family that received court order
for the father to received two hours a week visitation with his daughter, meeting at the Our
House facility during my time volunteering at the agency. There were multiple scheduling issues
for the custodial and non-custodial parent to come in and complete the initial orientation that Our
House requires, as scheduled appointments were missed numerous times. Once the paperwork
was completed by both parents and the first meeting was scheduled for the father to receive his
visitation, the child arrived with her mother, the custodial parent, and her father never showed up
for the visit. I was not there the day that this this visit was scheduled, but I was told afterward
that the child left the agency that afternoon in tears, as she had brought a cards she had made for
him for Father’s Day. Although I have gained a sense of empathy for the parents that are now
trying to recover for the mistakes made in the past, I still struggle with passing judgment on
parents when situations occur that affects the emotional security and or physical safety of the
child involved.
With the new understanding that I have gained, I feel that I am not better prepared to be
an advocate for the children and families that are experiencing custodial exchanges or
displacement. I now have a rejuvenated motivation for building meaningful, positive
relationships with each of the students and their family, satisfying the need for security and
social contexts. The establishment of such relationships will allow the children and family
members to feel safe and cared for, and ensure them that they are valued and will be supported
through the situations that they face. Within the security of the relationships, I will also be able
to understanding if there are any other deficits for needs and provided the appropriate resources
or referrals to get the assistance that the child and the family may need. While all children and
families that experience hardships or live in impoverished circumstances, facing many factors of
health risk, are not involved in custodial reassignment or with DSS, I realize that it is just as
important for me to be an advocate for them as well, in order to offer educated guidance, support,
and encouragement for working through the situations without circumstances becoming worse.
As an advocate, I will not only focus on creating the personal relationships, but on a larger scale,
I will utilize my position as an educator to raise awareness with my school and community about
the situations facing this population and the direct affect that it has on the lives of the children,

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Community Partnership Project
including the education and the ability of the children to learn and develop. As an aspect of
raising awareness for the needs of the population affected, direct efforts will be made to also
raise awareness of Our House and the services that the agency provides. I will organize
campaigns and donation drives to collect materials and goods for the agency, as well as support
events sponsored by the organization.
I am hopeful that my efforts to support the children and families as well as to raise
awareness of the population and the Our House agency will prove beneficial. I have developed a
soft spot in my heart for this population after investing the time into learning of the need of the
children and families and the wonderful work and service that Our House provides our
community. It was very easy to establish a relationship with the staff at Our House, and even the
clientele in which I was directly involved, so I will enjoy continuing to be involved and offer
assistance to the agency with the services they offer. My desire as an educator and an invested
member of the community is to do my best to make a positive difference in the lives of all
students and families that I work with, especially those facing high risk situations and factors.

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Community Partnership Project
Appendix A: Reference List
Goldman, J., Salus, M.K., Wolcott, D., & Kennedy, K.Y. (2003). A coordinated response to
child abuse and neglect: The foundation for practice. U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services.
Hayes, F. (2013). Our house open, still needs funds. Wilkes Journal Patriot. Retrieved from:
Hearron, P.F. & Hildebrand V., (2015). Management of Child Development Centers, 8th ed.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Green, A., & Li, S. (2010).
Fourth national incidence study of child abuse and neglect (NIS-4). U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Symons, C.W., Cinelli, B., James, T.C., & Groff, P., (1997). Bridging student health risks and
academic achievement through comprehensive school health programs. Journal of School
Health, 67(6).
Appendix B: Other resources
North Carolina Division of Social Services-
United States Census Bureau.
Appendix C: Personal Interview with Ms. Elaine Osborne
Questions asked:
How are families referred to Our House for
non-custodial visitation?

Responses given by Ms. Osborne:
DSS conducts visits here with non-custodial
parent(s) when children are placed in foster
care, as this location provides a neutral
location, protecting the biological parents and
the current foster care family. Other visits are
supervised by me, or another staff member of
Our House, once the family receives a courtorder for non-custodial visitation. The court
order specifies the numbers of visits per month
the non-custodial parent will receive and for

Clarissa M. Darnell 8
Community Partnership Project
what duration.
The time frame depends on court rulings. If
parents “behave”, visits can continue. A noncustodial parent can challenge the court for
custody, such as shared, joint, or sole custody,
once the ordered number is met. However,
some families maintain regular visits, such as
one family that has been coming here for biweekly visits for over two years.
Are there other services that Our House offers Yes. Families can come in requesting diapers
the community?
and other baby care items, vouchers can be
provided for clothing items from a partnering
How many families has the organization served Supervised visits: 298
thus far into the year?
Family Advocacy Home visits/ Contacts: 146
Diapers Provided: 151
Clothing Vouchers: 349
Is there a limitation to how long visits can

Appendix D: Community Service Documentation- Log of Activities
Who (Title)
*Melinda Woodruff
*Barry Shew
(Executive Director)
*Elaine Osborne
(Office Manager)
*Curtis Lomax
(Parent Educator)
*Elaine Osborne
(Office Manager)

*Volunteer Orientation
(Completing required
paperwork and touring the

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
Time: 11:00-12:00
Duration: 1 hour

*Staff discussed with Melinda
and I the mission and goals of
the agency, Our House, and
our responsibilities as a

* Assisted Ms. Osborne with
filing documentation of
supervised visits

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

* Conducted interview with
Office Manager

Duration: 1 hour

*Received informational
review of paperwork used

Time: 10:00-11:00

Clarissa M. Darnell 9
Community Partnership Project
with new families
*Melinda Woodruff
*Elaine Osborne
(Office Manager)
*5 year old daughter and her
mother as the visiting parent
(mother is allowed one
supervised per week for one
hour duration)

*Assisted with supervised
visit- Celebration of the
daughter’s 5th birthday.

Monday, June 9th, 2014

*Modeled for mother,
appropriate play and verbal
interactions with daughter

Duration: 1 hour

Time: 4:00-5:00

*Assisted mother with
cleaning up kitchen and dining
area after the birthday party.

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

*Melinda Woodruff

*Assisted with supervised
visit- dinner between mother
and daughter.

*Elaine Osborne
(Office Manager)

*Monitored communication
exchanges for appropriateness

Duration: 1 ½ hours

*12 year old daughter and her
mother as the visiting parent
(mother is allowed two
supervised visits a month,
each for one hour)

*Engaged with and modeled
appropriate conversation with
daughter, regarding school,
interests, and summer


Time: 4:00-5:30pm

*Following visit, provided
assistance to Ms. Osborne
with documenting visit
*Final 30 minutes- assisted
with preparing written
resource materials by folding
and bundling pamphlets about
local organizations that offer
services and support

* Initial 30 minutes- Provided
assistance to Ms. Osborne

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Clarissa M. Darnell 10
Community Partnership Project
*Melinda Woodruff
*Elaine Osborne
(Office Manager)
*Susan Allen
(Parent/Child Advocate)

with clerical work while
waiting on the family to arrive
for supervised visit, coping,
filing, and assembling
documentation packets for
supervised visits

*Supervised each visit with
* 3 month old daughter with
the 3 month old infant (first
father, followed by separate
visit with father and daughter,
visit with infant and mother
then the second visit with
(each parent, mother and
mother and daughter). During
father, are allowed one
both visits, monitored
supervised visit each week,
interactions between parent
each for one hour, separately). and daughter and observed
DSS worker and Guardian ad
and engaged in conversation
Litem was also present for this between DSS worker,
Guardian ad Litem and parent
*5 year old daughter and her
mother as the visiting parent
(mother is allowed one
supervised per week for one
hour duration)

*Modeled appropriate
interaction and language
during engagement with
*Final 30 minutes- Provided
assistance to Ms. Osborne
with documenting supervised

Time: 1:30-5:30
Duration: 4 hours