The following is an introductory summary of "Child
Maltreatment". It is extremently important not only to know "all sides" of
an issue, but to know the history of development. Here we are today, but in
reality in the US, and as early as 1839 the philosopy of "parens
patriae" was suggested.
Child maltreatment is the general term used to
describe all forms of child abuse and neglect. There is no one commonly
accepted definition of "child abuse and neglect." The federal government
defines child abuse and neglect in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment
Act as "the physical and mental injury, sexual abuse, negligent treatment,
or maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person who is
responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate that
the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened."2 Each
state provides its own definition of child abuse and neglect.3
Child maltreatment encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and
emotional abuse, which can be defined as follows:
Although it is difficult to accumulate precise statistics for child
maltreatment nationally, a methodology has been developed for
accumulating incidence of child maltreatment from the states.8
Once thought to be a problem involving only a few thousand children a
year, child maltreatment has since been identified as nothing less than
a national emergency.9 The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Children's Bureau reported the following incidence of
child maltreatment for 2003:10
There are approximately 1 million substantiated cases
of child abuse and neglect in the United States each year and millions more
reported cases.12 Child maltreatment is not a recent
phenomenon, nor is it unique to certain nations and cultures.13
It appears children have always been abused and neglected.14
A number of studies of the history of child maltreatment have begun with the
now familiar quote by psycho-historian Lloyd De Mause:
History seems to bear out De Mause. Evidence of
infanticide (the practice of intentional killing of a child condoned by
parents and society), for example, exists in much of ancient history.
Infanticide had been an accepted procedure for disposing of undesirable
children.16 Robert Ten Bensel notes evidence of infanticide in
7000 BC with the finding of remains of infants interred in the walls at the
city of Jericho. Siculus, a Greek historian of the first century, reported
the putting to death of weak, infirm and those who lacked courage. A second
century Greek physician instructed midwives to examine children and dispose
of the unfit. The Roman Law of Twelve Tables prohibited the raising of
defective children. Infanticide, which existed as late as the 19th century
in parts of Europe, was justified in two ways. First, because children were
considered parental "property," parents, as property owners, were entitled
to destroy that property. Second, infancy (historically -- birth to age
seven) was by definition a period of time before the right to live vested.17
Illegitimacy is another historical cause of child maltreatment. Many
societies outlawed illegitimacy, and illegitimate children were ostracized,
abandoned and killed.18
It is difficult to say when the modern child
protection movement began. The famous case of Mary Ellen in 1874 is
important but misunderstood. Although this first Juvenile Court was founded
in 1899, early juvenile courts were not focused on protecting maltreated
children as much as they were concerned with keeping the streets free of
poor and vagrant children. The events which most likely gave rise to our
current child protection systems were the battered child research and
writings of Dr. Henry Kempe in the early 1960s and the passage of the
federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. The following is a
list of historical events that give rise to our current system.
, the Pennsylvania court issued the Ex
decision judicially affirming the
role of the government to "care for" society's children.
In 1874, 10 year old Mary Ellen was removed from her home for
cruelty and provided protection by the New York Court system. The
case is connected to the founding of the New York Society for
Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which gave rise to the founding
of similar societies. By 1900, 161 cruelty societies existed in the
In 1860, French physician Ambrose Tardieu conducted a study of 32
children whom he believed died of child abuse. Tardieu's findings
described medical, psychiatric, social and demographic features of
the condition of child abuse as a syndrome.
The first juvenile court was founded in Cook County, IL in 1899 with
exclusive jurisdiction of minors.
In 1912, as a result of President Roosevelt's 1909 White House
Conference on Children, Congress created the United States
In 1921, Congress passes the Shappard-Towner Act, which established
Children's Bureaus at the state level and promoted maternal-infant
In 1944, the Supreme Court of the United
States confirmed the state's authority to intervene in family
relationships to protect children in Prince v. Massachusetts.20
In 1946, Aid to Dependent Children was added to the Social Security
In 1946, Dr. Caffey, a pediatric radiologist in Pittsburgh,
published the results of his research showing that subdural
hematomas and fractures of the long bones in infants were
inconsistent with accidental trauma.21
In 1960, New York was the first state to adopt the Interstate
Compact on Placement of Children. ICPS is a uniform law now adopted
by all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It
established orderly procedures for the interstate placement of
children and fixed responsibility for those involved in placing
In 1962, following a medical symposium the previous year, several
physicians headed by Denver physician C. Henry Kempe, published the
landmark article The Battered Child Syndrome in the Journal of the
American Medical Association. Through the article, Kempe and his
colleagues exposed the reality that significant numbers of parents
and caretakers batter their children, even to death. The Battered
Child Syndrome describes a pattern of child abuse resulting in
certain clinical conditions and establishes a medical and
psychiatric model of the cause of child abuse. The article marked
the development of child abuse as a distinct academic subject. The
work is generally regarded as one of the most significant events
leading to professional and public awareness of the existence and
magnitude of child abuse and neglect in the United States and
throughout the world.22
In 1962, in response to The Battered Child, the Children's Bureau
held a symposium on child abuse, which produced a recommendation for
a model child abuse reporting law.
In 1966, the United States Supreme Court decided Kent v. US. The
Court held that a "waiver" or "transfer" hearing was a critically
important proceeding and that a juvenile has a statutory right to
avail himself of the juvenile court's exclusive jurisdiction.
In 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States issued the In re
Gault decision guaranteeing constitutional protection to children
accused of crimes.
By 1967, 44 states had adopted mandatory reporting laws. The
remaining six states adopted voluntary reporting laws. All states
now have mandatory reporting laws. Generally, the laws require
physicians to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse. Reporting
laws, now expanded to include other professionals and voluntary
reporting by the public, together with immunity for good faith
reporting, are recognized as one of the most significant measures
ever taken to protect abused and neglected children. Reporting is
recognized as the primary reason for the dramatic increases seen in
cases of child abuse and neglect.
In 1971, the California Court of Appeals recognized the Battered
Child Syndrome as a medical diagnosis and a legal syndrome in People
In 1974, Congress passed landmark legislation in the federal Child
Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA; Public Law 93-273; 42
U.S.C. 5101). The act provides states with funding for the
investigation and prevention of child maltreatment, conditioned on
states' adoption of mandatory reporting law. The act also conditions
funding on reporter immunity, confidentiality, and appointment of
guardians ad item for children. The act also created the National
Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) to serve as an information
clearinghouse. In 1978, The Adoption Reform Act was added to CAPTA.
In 1984, CAPTA was amended to include medically disabled infants,
the reporting of medical neglect and maltreatment in out-of-home
care, and the expansion of sexual abuse to include sexual
In 1974 the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) was
created to serve as an information clearinghouse.
In 1974, Congress adopted the Juvenile Justice Delinquency
Prevention Act (42 U.S.C. 5601) and Family Education Rights and
Privacy Act (Public Law 93-568). The Juvenile Justice Delinquency
and Prevention Act required Congress to provide the necessary
resource, leadership, and coordination to develop and support
juvenile delinquency prevention programs. FERPA required state
educational agencies to comply with certain privacy and access
rights regarding education records.
The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) was founded
In 1977, the NACC held its first National Children's Law Conference.
The ABA Center on Children and the Law was founded in 1978.
In 1978, the NACC produced the first issue of its quarterly journal
In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA; Public
Law 96-608; 25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.). After a series of hearings,
Congress concluded that Indian children were removed from their
families inappropriately. ICWA provided that federally recognized
Indian Tribes and Native Alaskan Villages had jurisdiction over
child welfare cases, and created new litigation standards for state
court cases involving Indian children.
In 1980, Congress passed the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare
Act (Public Law 96-272; 42 U.S.C. 420) designed to remedy problems
in the foster care system. The act made federal funding for foster
care dependent on certain reforms. In 1983, the act was amended to
include "reasonable efforts." The reasonable efforts amendment
provided for special procedures before removing a child and
reunification strategies after removal. Important provisions for
case review were also included. The act and its amendment
essentially provided fiscal incentives to encourage states to
prevent unnecessary foster care placements and to provide children
in placement with permanent homes as quickly as possible. The law
also gave courts a new oversight role.
In 1981, Title XX of the Social Security Act was amended to include
the Social Services Block Grant to provide child protective services
funding to states. This became the major source of state social
In 1986, Congress passed the Child Abuse Victims' Rights Act, which
gave child victims of sexual exploitation a civil damage claim.
In 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of
the Child. The Unites States and Somalia have not ratified the
Convention. In 2002, the NACC adopted the Convention and declared
its support for ratification.
In 1991, Congress passed the Victims of Child Abuse Act, to improve
the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases.
In 1993, the NACC hired its first full time professional director
and began to define the association's mission and objectives.
In 1993, The NY Supreme Court Appellate Division, In re Jamie TT24
, found a constitutional basis for the representation of children in
In 1993, as part of the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act,
Congress provided funding for state courts to assess the impact of
the Adoption Act on foster care proceedings, to study the handling
of child protection cases, and to develop a plan for improvement.
Congress passed the Multi-ethnic Placement Act in 1994 (MEPA; Public
Law 103-382, 104-382). MEPA provided that adoption or foster care
placements may not be denied or delayed based on race, color, or
national origin of the individual, or the children, involved. The
overriding goals of MEPA were to reduce the length of time children
spend in out-of-home placement care and to prevent discrimination in
In 1995, the NACC adopted its first long-range operating plan,
expanding its program and adopting a public policy function.
In 1996, the NACC membership reached an all-time high of 2,200.
1n 1996, Congress replaced AFDC with Temporary Assistance to Need
Families (TANF). The goals of TANF were to provide assistance to
low-income families with children so they could be cared for in
their own home, promote job preparedness, reduce out-of-wedlock
pregnancies, and encourage the formation and maintenance of
two-parent families. Although TANF made few changes to federal child
protection programs directly, it affected child welfare services by
changing programs upon which it formerly relied.
In 1997, Congress Passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
(ASFA; Public Law 105-89). ASFA represented the most significant
change in federal child welfare law since the Adoption Assistance
and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The act included provisions for legal
representation, state funding of child welfare and adoption, and
state performance requirements. In general, ASFA was intended to
promote primacy of child safety and timely decisions while
clarifying "reasonable efforts" and continuing family preservation.
ASFA also included continuation funding for court improvement.25
In 1997, Congress amended the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA; Public Law 105-17). IDEA provided funding to
states to ensure that all children, regardless of disability, have
the right to free, appropriate public education.
In 1998, David and Lucile Packard Foundation awarded NACC its first
grant to study the association's development potential, followed by
a grant to conduct Strategic Planning for a broad-based association
In 1998, the NACC received the Meritorious Service to the Children
of America Award presented by the National Council of Juvenile and
Family Court Judges.
Congress passed the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act in 1999
(Public Law 93-568). The Act provided funding and services for youth
who have "aged out" of the child welfare system.
In 2000, Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement
Act (CAPEA; Public Law 106-177). CAPEA focused on improving the
criminal justice system's ability to provide timely, accurate
criminal-record information to agencies engaged in child protection,
and enhancing prevention and law enforcement activities.
In 2001, Congress reauthorized the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless
Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento; Public Law 100-77) as part of the No
Child Left Behind Act. McKinney-Vento provided emergency assistance
for homeless children and youth. The Act required that such youth be
given a free and appropriate public education, and required schools
to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in
In 2001, the NACC was awarded a grant from the U.S. Dept. of HHS
Children's Bureau to create a national program to certify lawyers as
specialists in child welfare law.
In 2001, the NACC adopted Recommendations for Representation of
Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases.
In 2004, the ABA recognized child welfare law as a legal specialty
and designated the NACC as the certifying agency.