When a child is abused, the parent or guardian is inflicting the most serious form of harm against the child. The child is forced to live in a dangerous and sometimes life-threatening environment. Thankfully, witnesses are able to contact Child Protective Services, where these children are rescued, and are able to permanently move to a safe environment where they are free from abuse, neglect, and harm.
How child protective services came to be
In 1875, the first form of Child Protective Services was formed by non-governmental societies. It was not until 1962, that the government finally became involved and created an organized child protective service for abused or neglected children.
In 1874, 19-year-old Mary Ellen Wilson was abused by her guardians. Etta Wheeler, a religious missionary, heard of her abuse and attempted to rescue the child from her environment. Wheeler reached out to Henry Bergh, the founder of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Bergh and his lawyer, Elbridge Gerry, found a way to legally to rescue Wilson. They later created The New York Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
With the government’s involvement in 1962, Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Protective services were available across the country, and over thousands of children were protected from abuse or neglect.
What are the guidelines for a reported case to be accepted?
- The victim must be under 18 years of age.
- The victim must be abused or neglected by a parent or legal guardian.
- The allegations must meet the standards of abuse or neglect.
Indicators of abuse or neglect
- Because accidental injuries only occur on one side of the body, an injury to both sides would be a sign of abuse.
- Frequent injuries including bruises, bite marks, grab marks and cigarette burns.
- If the child is unable to explain the cause of an injury.
- If a child is unattended to and from school.
- If the child is afraid to go home.
- Either passive (emotionless) behavior or destructive (aggressive) behavior.
- If the child is fatigued or malnourished.
- Poor hygiene, dirty or torn clothing.
- Frequent absence from school.
What happens when a case is accepted?
When a person reports child abuse or neglect, the State Center Registrar (SCR) for abuse and maltreatment views the report and decides whether it should be accepted or rejected. If a case is accepted, ACS assigns the case to a child protective specialist. Within 24 hours of notification, the specialist contacts the family of the abused or neglected child. The ACS then conducts a 60-day investigation including: viewing the family’s ACS history, visiting the home, contacting the witness of the abuse, and interviewing the guardians and the child.
If ACS finds no proof of abuse or neglect, then the case is closed. However, if proof is found, actions will be taken depending on the situation. If the child is in a low-risk environment, he or she will have voluntary protective services. If the child is in a high-risk environment, there will be voluntary or court-mandated services. Only when the child is in immediate danger, will he or she be placed in foster care.