Professor : Lee
Child abuse in the United States is principally the responsibility of states and local governments. Each of the 50 states has enacted laws defining child abuse and maltreatment, determining when outside intervention is required, and establishing administrative and judicial structures to deal with maltreatment when it is identified.
According to data from the Administration on Children and Families, in 1998 there were an estimated 2,806,000 referrals of child abuse or neglect to relevant state or local agencies. These referrals resulted in an estimated 903,000 confirmed victims of maltreatment, a rate of 12.9 per 1,000 children nationwide. Of these, 11.5 percent suffered sexual abuse, 22.7 percent suffered physical abuse, and 53.5 percent suffered neglect. A quarter were victims of more than one type of maltreatment. Additionally, approximately 1,100 children died of abuse or neglect, a rate of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 children. Of all forms of abuse, about three quarters of the perpetrators were parents.
In most cases an initial report of abuse or neglect can come from anyone. In 1998, a little over half of all reports (53.1%) came from professionals, including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, child care providers, social service providers, and law enforcement officials. The remainder (46.7%) came from nonprofessionals, including family members and other members of the community.
After an incident has been reported, the appropriate child protective services agency will usually investigate and determine whether abuse or neglect has actually taken place. In some cases this will result in treatment or services. Other cases may be referred to juvenile or family courts for resolution. Extreme cases of abuse may be referred to criminal courts. Of the 903,000 children who were identified as victims of abuse in 1998, an estimated 409,000 received services of some kind and 144,000 were placed in foster care.
Unavoidable Controversies & Biases, n Historical Contexts: * When thinking about statistics on child abuse, it is helpful to know that the very idea of "child abuse" is historical development. * Only recently, and only in particular countries and cultures, has the abuse of children come to be seen as a major social problem and a main cause of many people's suffering and personal problems. * Of course children have been abused throughout human history. But for people to think about child abuse as we do now, to create legal definitions and government agencies that can remove children from their homes, and to conduct thousands of research studies on the effects of abuse - these are historically and culturally embedded developments. * Some believe that, for the first time in history, we are beginning to face the true prevalence and significance of child abuse. Others worry that many people have become obsessed with child abuse and deny any personal responsibility for their problems while "blaming" them on abuse and bad parenting. (I hold the former view, but also believe the latter has some validity.) * Clearly, then, some very large contexts and controversies shape debates about particular issues concerning child abuse. * Statistics on rates of child abuse and neglect are controversial. * All statistics on the incidence and prevalence of child abuse and neglect are disputed by some experts. (Incidence refers to the number of new cases each year, and prevalence to the percentage of people in a population who have had such experiences.) * Why? * Complex and subtle scientific issues are involved in studies that generate these statistics. * Even the most objective scientific research is imperfect. At least one or two methods used in any study must be chosen by researchers based on opinions and judgements, not just facts and logic. And even the objectively best methods available may still