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Children's Rights

Child Protective Services

State service agencies to protect children enforce laws prohibiting child abuse. These laws vary from state to state but some common procedures exist. Usually, reports of suspected child abuse went to local police departments, but in the 1970s child protective service agencies took over this responsibility in about half the states. Some provided free telephone hotlines to report suspected abuse.

After receiving notification of possible abuse, the agency must investigate, intervene if necessary to protect the child from further abuse, and keep written records. The investigation, sometimes performed by the police, includes interviews with the child, parents, doctors, and teachers. Agency intervention or involvement can include placing a child temporarily in a detention home or in foster care.

In the late 1990s over 560,000 youths were in foster care at any specified time. Intervention can also include monitoring of a home situation and providing counseling if needed for the parents. The number of cases each child protective worker handles can be astounding. Investigations in 1998 found some 903,000 children were abused or neglected in that year or about 13 for every 1,000 children in the general U.S. population. This was only for cases that were actually reported; many incidents of child abuse are never reported at all. About 1,087 children died from child abuse in 1998.

In severe cases, an abused child is permanently removed from a home and put up for adoption. The protective agency is required to write a report of its findings, which may lead to criminal charges against the abusing person. Abuse findings go into computer databases that include information on both known child abusers and those suspected of abuse.

Having an easily available database of abuse reports has led to concern and opposition. Opponents claim such a system could include information on innocent persons whose reputations could be greatly harmed if they are labeled as child abusers. In 1984 the Victims of Child Abuse Laws group formed to assist people falsely accused of child abuse.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawChildren's Rights - Protection Of Children, Childcare, Child Labor, Kidnapping And Abduction, Forms Of Child Abuse