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Child Abuse Investigation

Reports that are accepted by child protection agencies proceed through the child protection system, usually involving a series of actions required by state law. Specific interventions vary with local agencies. The roles of law enforcement agencies in child abuse investigations also vary across community standards. Some states require law enforcement officers be notified upon receipt of a report, while others require law enforcement involvement only when reported abuse is substantiated. Still other states immediately involve police only in certain types or conditions of abuse.

For example, states can require immediate law enforcement notification and a joint investigation with child protection workers for reports of sexual abuse only. When law enforcement officers are involved, it is the child protection agency’s responsibility to make these collateral contacts (Costin et. al, 1996 p. 69). Child protection investigations typically involve home visits by caseworkers who interview the parents, child, and alleged perpetrator. Individuals included in the report, such as children, parents, and siblings are usually interviewed.

Not obtaining interviews from persons included in the report is often officially acceptable assuming repeated failed attempts to contact these persons; In addition, teachers, school administrators, family members, neighbors, and others may be interviewed as a part of the investigation. Child abuse investigative interviews usually solicit information to answer specific questions regarding the alleged abuse. Investigation procedures are typically idiosyncratic to the circumstances of the report, the local agency procedures, and the individual style of the assigned worker.

Historical Perspectives In American history, the most notable scenario that can be found skirmishes against the social ill of child abuse but, largely, have abandoned children to the mercy of those who harm them. In 1865, the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals was founded but it was not until 1874 that the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children was founded. It was not until the 1930s with the passage of the Social Security Act that the federal government recognized an interest in protecting children from abuse. It was not until 1962 when C.

Henry Kempe authored the Battered Child Syndrome that physicians recognized child abuse as an independent diagnosis. It was not until 1967 that all 50 states passed mandated reporting laws. It was not until the l970s that these laws were expanded to include within their purview protecting children victimized sexually. Even then, though, the primary purpose of the laws was to intervene solely with social services (Waldfogel, 1998 p. 218). Although the prosecution of child abusers was not new, the l980s produced a dramatic increase in the number of cases brought to court.

Unfortunately, child abuse cases are so complex and so different from other crimes that the investigators and prosecutors courageous enough to pursue these cases often did so incompetently. As a result, there was a backlash’° and many prosecutors simply chose not to pursue child abuse cases unless there was clear medical evidence or a confession. For all practical purposes, this means that many parts of the country did not, and still do not, prosecute child abusers (Costin et. al, 1996 p. 69).

The handling of child abuse cases on the front lines reflects the view of child victims contained in academic literature. As noted by one commentator, prior to the mid- 1970s, the “legal, mental health, and medical literature contributed to a legacy of skepticism about allegations of rape and child sexual abuse. ” Although there continue to be “serious” academic articles perpetuating ancient myths about child victims, the shift in scholarship in the mid- 1970s was the forerunner of reforms on the front lines.

In 1985, the National District Attorneys Association took action to improve the quality of investigations and prosecutions by creating the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse with funding support from the United States Congress. The organization quickly became and remains the premiere trainer of child abuse investigators and prosecutors in the United States. In the past three years, for example, NCPCA has traveled to every part of this country and trained over 30,000 police officers, social workers and prosecutors.

Child Abuse Investigation (CAI) was initiated by the Child Protection Services (CPS); hence, the history of such procedure had revolved in accordance with CPS. Many transformations have taken place in the profession that is currently known as CIA (also called social welfare and human services). Having its roots in private charity work, this discipline eventually adopted many theories and clinical methods from psychiatry, psychology, and sociology (Robinson. 1930; Ehrenreich, 1985; cited in Waldfogel, 1998 p. 218).

Child welfare and the issues of child abuse became a major sub-field within social work in the first decade of the 20th century. The works of the CPS, the White House Conferences, and juvenile courts all contributed to the child welfare focus. Through the 1930s and 1940s, the Bureau for the Exchange of Information Among Child Helping Agencies (the forerunner of the Child Welfare League of America) and the American Association for Organizing Societies (which became the Family Service Association of America) attempted to define the professional domain of social work with child-related problems.

Their conflicts included debates over the identity of “children’s problems” versus “family problems” (Costin et al. , 1996; Hewins, 1922 Ward, 1922; Hutchinson, 1942; Berkowitz, 1943; cited in Schwartz et. al, 2000 p. 326). Such debates were not resolved and the confusion resulted in poor service delivery. Moreover, the field of social work had adopted the investigative procedures put forth by Mary Richmond (1917; cited in Schwartz et. al, 2000 p.

325) during World War I, but the introduction of psychoanalysis to the U. S greatly expanded the tenets of child welfare practices. Of course, this major occupational transformation did not necessarily increase social work’s responsiveness to maltreated children. Most troubled families did not seek help, nor did many seem to care to engage in the extensive “talking therapy” that is central to psychoanalytic method (Brown and Alexander, 2007 p. 137).

The Great Depression of the 1930s derailed the political agendas of social work organizations as public needs related to massive, abject poverty and homelessness outstripped the profession’s ability to provide relief. World War II turned government attention to the issue of child neglect, and the Lanham Act was passed to provide day care for children whose parents were called to the war effort. In the 1950, the prevailing conservative ideology prevented widespread social welfare intervention into family life (Schwartz et.

al, 2000 p. 322). These macro-level societal forces generally resulted in the diffusion and marginalization of the political and occupational agendas of the social work profession with respect to child welfare. Two major structural shifts have led to the way CPS operates today. First of all, social work practice has diminished as legal practices and priorities have assumed an increasingly dominant role; second, responsibility for child protection is no longer exercised mainly by the private sector but, rather, by the government.

The period from the mid-I960s to the mid-1980s might be called the years when CPS flourished (Dale, 1998 p. 51). There was a wide public consensus about the role, which CPS should play within society, and those who publicly opposed CPS were viewed as uncaring about children. Enough public support existed for CPS that even when federal spending for social services was cut back beginning in 1981, child abuse initiatives were the only child welfare programs, which regularly received legislative funding (Waldfogel, 1998 p. 214).

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