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Historical Evolution of Child Abuse Investigation

Intervening in family life carries the risk of irreversible damage despite the good intentions of those concerned. Investigating allegations of child abuse is an activity that is fraught with difficulty. It is extremely stressful for all concerned and the burnout rate among workers is high. Professionals have to make decisions, which are by no means certain nor in themselves risk free. However, the guiding principle of our work is that the needs of the child are paramount.

These two aims can come into conflict. Although in Hong Kong these principles have been articulated, there still exists a conflict between the rights of the child and those of parents. The continuing controversy over the possible introduction of legislation in prosecuting parents, who left their children unattended at home, is a good case in point. Even within professional groups, there are differing views on the perceived benefits or otherwise, of legislation which punishes delinquent parents.

Child abuse investigations serve two purposes: (a) criminal investigation-to evaluate the extent of harm and danger posed to a child; and (b) social service-to protect children and predict whether a child will be maltreated in the future. Risk assessments involve comprehensive examinations of the child’s well being, family resources, and living conditions (Pecora, 1991; cited in Costin et.

al, 1996 p. 67). Although a brief assessment of risk for abuse is conducted during an initial intake, risk assessments are considered an ongoing process and involve more elaborate methods introduced during the course of the investigation. The study aims to cover the historical analysis of child abuse investigation systems and how it affects current policies of child abuse.

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