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April 2020Vol. 21, No. 3Reducing the Risks of Maltreatment for Children With Disabilities

Children with disabilities involved with child welfare are at greater risk of experiencing maltreatment. Kidpower has a webpage intended for educators of children with disabilities that focuses on how to use protective knowledge, actions, and skills to educate parents and protect children from the risk factors associated with child abuse and neglect within this vulnerable population.

The webpage lists the following 12 risk factors that may apply to children with disabilities and potentially lead to maltreatment:

  • Having chronic disabilities that may overwhelm parents
  • Not understanding what constitutes maltreatment and that they have the right to say "no"
  • Limited communication skills that inhibit their ability to tell others that they have been abused
  • Being frequently dependent upon others to meet their basic needs
  • Being unresponsive or overly responsive to affection
  • Being separated from their caregivers for extensive periods of time
  • Being expected to interact with a significant number of adults in a variety of contexts
  • Not recognizing their own sexuality
  • Not knowing how to recognize or protect themselves in a risky situation
  • Being socially isolated and lonely
  • Not being recognized to be at higher risk of maltreatment
  • Not being "valued" as a member of the community

Each risk factor is followed by knowledge, skills, and actions for educators, parents, and other caregivers that can help mitigate the risk to children who exhibit these traits, such as how to coach children on safety rules, as well as actions children and youth can practice, such as how to seek help and setting boundaries.

The protective knowledge, actions, and skills can be introduced, adapted, and reinforced over time and incorporated into individual education programs, individual family services, and section 504 plan objectives.

Visit the Kidpower webpage What Educators of Kids With Disabilities Can Do to Reduce Their Risks of Maltreatment to learn more about how to protect children with disabilities from maltreatment.