Child abuse refers to the maltreatment of young children, which results in several social, emotional and psychological problems. In the United States, the problem was first identified as a major issue when in 1962 C. Henry Kempe conducted a survey and found out that in eighty-eight hospitals, there were some 302 children who had suffered some injury as a result of abuse and were termed “battered”. This for the first time brought the problem to the forefront though there had been some other studies before this too. The public was aware that child abuse was present but that it was present in epidemical proportions was it came to know with the publication of the research by Kempe.
The children were found to be suffering from multiple injuries and since then the government got involved in order to take some concrete measures to prevent child abuse in the country. By 1966 all the states passed legislation to safeguard the rights of the children and to offer support to “battered children”. Due to this there was an avalanche of reports highlighting child abuse from every corner of the country. Initially only the physicians were the main source of such reports because they were the ones dealing with battered young patients but after eventually more and more people started coming forward and now the prominent sources include teachers, nurses, counselors, and the general public.
In 1998, according to data from the Administration on Children and Families, there were some 2,806,000 referrals of child abuse or neglect and these complaints were made to the local agencies. After investigation, it was found that out of that number, 903,000 cases were confirmed and these children were confirmed victims of maltreatment. This translates into a rate of 12.9 per 1,000 children in the United States. The biggest form of maltreatment was found to be neglect as 53.5 percent of the total confirmed cases were victims of this. Physical abuse was the second most common form of maltreatment of children with 22.7 percent cases while sexual abuse claimed 11.5 percent cases.
When the neglect and abuse took serious forms, it can result in the death of the child too. In 1998 some 1,100 died of neglect, which is a rate of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 children.
In almost three quarters of cases of abuse, the perpetrators were found t be parents.
The sources of these cases and reports were various people though professionals were found to be the most common source. 53.1 percent of all reports came from professionals “including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, child care providers, social service providers, and law enforcement officials.” The rest of the cases were reported by family members or others community members.
Usually after the referral, the child protective agency would investigate to find out if abuse actually took place and if it did then help is provided to the child. In most cases simple treatment and services are sufficient but in some cases the abuse may be referred to juvenile or family courts in order to permanently resolve the problem. In extreme cases of abuse, the cases are taken to criminal courts too. Out of the 903,000 children who suffered abuse in the year 1998, most (409,000) received services in some form while 144,000 children had to be placed in foster care.
Perpetrator is the person who maltreats a child while he or she is in a care-taking relationship. It was found that in the reported cases, most perpetrators were women as they were involved in 61.3 percent of the incidents of abuse. It was also found that most female perpetrators were younger than male perpetrators falling under the age of 30. 41.5 percent of the female perpetrators were below 30 while 31.2 of the males were in the same category. In majority of cases the perpetrators were found to be parents. In 87.3 percent of all the cases, the perpetrator of a parent and out of that it was mostly the female parent. For physical abuse, most perpetrators were women; while for sexual abuse, it was the male parent who was found guilty.
The cases of chills abuse are common in our country, though the rate of abuse cam down in 1999 compared to what it was the previous year; the decline is not very significant. Though in 1974, Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247), which determines the framework for current federal efforts in the prevention of child abuse, the reports still pour in from all corners of the country. It is important for the family and community members to prevent child abuse when they notice it taking place, because while federal agencies would want to help, there are several cases, which go unnoticed because of community’s apathy.
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