...and the historical development of protective services for children
In colonial United States there were cases of child abuse that were handled as early as the mid-17th century when a man was tried for murder. He had punished a servant boy so severely, that the youngster died. The man was sentenced to death. A few years later a servant boy was similarly beaten to death and the as punishment. The judge ordered the man's hands be burned and all his possessions be taken from him. Mistreatment of servant was common and in 1700.
The colony of Virginia passed a series of laws to protect young servants and apprentices against mistreatment. The laws concerning child abuse are relegated to the state and local governments, as opposed to the federal government. But the federal government has laws and agencies which give guidelines for states, as well as incentives for following these guidelines, in the form of money for state agencies that might the federal standards.
Child Abuse Statistics
There were 513,000 children in foster care in September 2005. Another source says 613,000. Foster care is a provision whereby children are placed with families to live, as a shelter from abuse, or for protection, or care. It is through administered through the state welfare agency, rather than the federal. Another source says: 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.
Child Abuse History: Foster Care System and Child Abuse
The state foster care system handles such cases until children reach the age of 18. At that time a child will no longer be eligible for the system. The actual foster care system may differ from state to state. Because no provisions are often made for children after they turn 18, 1/3 to of foster children will become homeless, after they are out of the system according to Pasadena Weekly, (www.pasadenaweekly.com article: Throw Away Kids). 6/22/06. In 1999 a federal law was passed that provided funding for children who had aged out of the system, but apparently, even after such provisions, it continues to be a problem.
The origin of modern foster care can be traced to the mid-1800s in New York City. In response to the large number of children living on the streets there, a minister Charles Brace, started a system known as Children's Aid Society or Placing Out System. In the mid to late 1800s, some 100,000 children were sent on trains to live in the mid-west in exchange for their work. The system appealed to Christian charity and to the need for farm labor. In this respect, although the children had a home, foster care started almost as a form of indentured servitude. It is said that in 1875 there were few laws for the protection of children.
Famous Child Abuse Stories: Mary Ellen Wilson
A well known story during that time period is of an 11 year-old girl named Mary Ellen. A church worker named Etta Wheeler, during a family visit, found Mary Ellen, the step-daughter of the woman casually entertaining Mrs. Wheeler, shackled to her bed and badly beaten. Too tiny and ill-formed for her 11 years, it was quite evident Mary Ellen was also grossly malnourished. Some of her scars were visibly healed over, giving a clear picture of long-term and sustained child abuse.
Mrs. Wheeler reported it to the authorities. There were no laws with which the case could be handled, in 1873 and even today in many countries what went on behind the closed doors of the family was considered no one's business but the family's.
So it was handled under cruelty to animals laws, for which there were established laws. In order for the parents to be prosecuted under the laws of the A.S.P.C.A., children had to be stated to be members of the animal kingdom. The A.S.P.C.A. did finally intervene. Her guardians were convicted and went to jail. The Mary-Ellen was removed from her abusive home and placed in foster care, where she thrived. She eventually married and had 2 daughters, one of whom she named Etta as a tribute to the church worker who rescued her. She lived to the age of 92.
History of Child Abuse Organizations
Charles Birtwell and the Boston's Children's Aid Society started what would form the basis for the modern foster care system. Unlike the Placing Out System, (where children were sent to farms in the mid-west for labor) it focused on the needs of the child, rather than the needs of the family with whom the child would be placed. It is much like the foster care system that is in place today with families being reimbursed monetarily for taking children in.
In 1959 Mass and Engler documented what became known as "Foster Care drift," where children in foster care were drifting from one family to another within the system. There was call to end this practice. In 1980 a law was passed PL 96-272 known as the Child Welfare Reform Act and similar state legislation such as the Child Welfare Reform Act, passed in New York State in 1979. Two of these reforms were:
1. The requirement of a review hearing every 6 months and
2. A dispositional hearing every 18 months.
3. Other federal requirements were a case plan, up to 50% of cases had no case plan.
In 1997 Revisions to the Social Security Act by the ASFA changed the 18 month time frame for hearings to 12 months. Tracking would be instituted so no children would get lost in the system, and States would be required to meet these federal requirements in order to receive funding. From the 1970s to the 1980s, the decade was known as the era of child welfare reform.
Court cases resulted in the need for a "Life Book" for each foster child, as well as background checks of history of abuse for foster parents. Corporal punishment also was not allowed by foster parents. In the early 1960s many of such abused children were being sheltered in juvenile detention centers and adult jails, so although the foster care system had imperfections and there were some abuses within the system, it was still better than the previous system.
Since that time, foster care has become the mode by which many such children have been cared for.
From the time in Boston that Charles Birtwell initiated the Children's Society, as well as today, part of the goal was to reunite children with their biological parents, if that was possible. Some foster care children still have attachments with their biological parents. At times, children do not stay with a single care foster care family for long periods of time, but shift from family to family, over a period of years, if they are in the system that long. Part of the rational may be, it is not desired that the child form deep emotional attachments with non-biological parents, or it may be a shortcoming of the system. In any case, it does effect a child emotionally not to have real roots with a single family.
Children's Child Abuse Laws Today
Today, it is legally mandatory to report child abuse. This includes both physicians and other professionals, as well as family members and others. 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.
While principal responsibility for addressing child abuse rests with states and local governments, the federal government does play an important supporting role. In 1974, Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247), establishing the legal framework for current federal efforts which focus on data collection and technical assistance to states. Such efforts are coordinated through the Children's Bureau, a division of the Administration on Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Pages Related to Child Abuse Information
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Child Abuse Causes
Child Abuse Laws
Child Abuse Organizations