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May 29, 2008

Wikipedia: Child protection

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Child protection is used to describe a set of government and private services designed to protect children and encourage family stability. These typically include investigation of alleged child abuse (including child sexual abuse and neglect (“child protective services”), foster care, adoption services, and services aimed at supporting at-risk families so they can remain intact (“prevention services” or “family preservation services”). Especially in poorer countries where the government infrastructure is much weaker many Non-governmental organizations, for example Casa Alianzain Central America.

Most children who come to the attention of child welfare social workers do so because of any of the following situations, which are often collectively termed child maltreatment or child abuse:

  • Neglect (including the failure to take adequate measures to protect a child from harm)
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse

The United States government’s Administration for Children and Families reported that in 2004 approximately 3.5 million children were involved in investigations of alleged abuse or neglect in the US, while an estimated 872,000 children were determined to have been abused or neglected and an estimated 1,490 children died that year because of abuse or neglect.


Historical origins

The concept of a state sanctioned child welfare system dates back to Plato’s Republic. Plato theorised that the interests of the child could be served by removing children from the care of their parents and placing them into state custody. To prevent an uprising from dispossessed parents:

“We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together, and then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.” [1]

International comparisons

United States

In the United States, the federal government provides some broad definitions for abuse and neglect and individual states develop their own guidelines for defining and responding to allegations of abuse/neglect. Most states recognize and define physical and sexual abuse and neglect. Many states also recognize emotional, medical, and educational neglect. The Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed in 1997, specifies that states must provide for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children who have been found to be abused or neglected. The Adoption and Safe Families Act ASFA requires concurrent planning in all instances in which a child is removed from a home because of maltreatment. It also requires that a permanent placement be made or planned within fifteen months of removal. In addition, in the U.S. child welfare system, when a child is freed for adoption, there are incentives to encourage families to adopt the child. For example, subsidies are provided until the child is eighteen in certain circumstances, such as an older child, special needs child, etc. The subsidy rate varies, depending on the needs of the child.


Child Protection services are a provincial responsibility in Canada. Usually the responsibilities are stated within an act of a provincial legislature of provincial parliament. This then empowers the government department or agency to provide services in the area and to intervene into families where child abuse or other problems are suspected. The government agency that manages these services has various other names in different provinces, e.g., child and family services, childrens’ aid. There is some consistency in the nature of laws, though the application of the laws may vary across the country.

Children may be “apprehended” by social workers because of child protection concerns, which then usually requires some form of legal agreement with the parents or guardians, or via a court order, to keep the children in “care”, initially as “temporary wards” (terminology varies). At some point, if the parents or guardians do not meet requirements to resolve the child protection issues, longer term orders for keeping the child in care may be made by a court or by agreement with the parents. Many province have “family courts” which focus on such issues, in addition to other “family law” issues like divorce. In some provinces, First Nations communities have taken on some responsibilities for providing such services. Some parts of child protective services are contracted out or provided by private agencies in some provinces, e.g., child adoptions.


A child in suitable cases can be made a Ward of Court and no decisions about the child or changes in its life can be made without the leave of the High Court. The United Kingdom has a comprehensive child welfare system under which Local Authorities have duties and responsibilities towards children in need in their area. This covers provision of advice and services, accommodation and care of children who become uncared for, and also the capacity to initiate proceedings for the removal of children from their parents care (‘care proceedings’). The criteria for the latter is ‘significant harm’ which covers physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. In appropriate cases the Care Plan before the Court will be for adoption. The Local Authorities also run adoption services both for children put up for adoption voluntarily and those becoming available for adoption through Court proceedings. The basic legal principle in all public and private proceedings concerning children, under the 1989 Children Act, is that the welfare of the child is paramount. In recognition of attachment issues, social work good practice requires a minimal number of moves and the 1989 Children Act enshrines the principle that delay is inimical to a child’s welfare. Care proceedings have a time frame of 40 weeks and concurrent planning is required. The final Care Plan put forward by the Local Authority is required to provide a plan for permanence, whether with parents, family members, long-term foster parents or adopters. Nevertheless, ‘drift’ and multiple placements still occur as many older children are difficult to place or maintain in placements. The role of Independent Visitor, a voluntary post, was created in the United Kingdom under the 1989 Children Act to befriend and assist children and young people in care.


In Australia, child protection is the responsability of the individual States and Territories. An example of how the various States manage this can be seen through the work of the Queensland “Commission for Children and Young People and the Child Guardian [2]- an independent body that is not influenced by any Government department but monitors the implementation of State legislation, known as the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000(the Act) some of the Act’s characteristics include:A requirement for background checks for all people working (paid or voluntary) with children (The “Blue Card”) and a requirement for every organisation, of any kind – working with children to have an active (child safety) risk management program in place.

Again using Queensland as an example, Govt. and Non Govt. agencies are involved in working to keep children safe. Simplisticly, through the Department of Child Safety, the Govt takes legal responsability to respond to children identified as being at risk. However, support services are mostly delivered by Non Govt. agencies. Specialist services such as children’s sexual assault services and Domestic Violence services partner with the Police, the Dept. of Child Safety and other non Govt. organisations – to respond to children who are experiencing abuse, including being exposed to Domestic Violence.

The National Practice Standards for working with children exposed to Domestic Violence identify that exposing children to Domestic Violence is a form of Child Abuse in itself. Therefore many Domestic Violence services, such as the program delivered by Najidah provide safety, accommodation and support to parents and children, leaving a violent relationship. The Najidah program then links with a vast range of other community services to ensure that Parents and children are supported in a manner that empowers them to reconstruct their lives in a non violent setting. Known as a “whole of community response” the Najidah program involves up to 30 different organisations in the support of each family and has been acknowledged as national best practice[1].

New Zealand

In New Zealand, where 15% of children are born ‘at risk’ children are protected from “witnessing adult violence.” The NZ authorities note: “children will not openly disclose that they are being traumatised.” [3]

Effects of early maltreatment on children in child welfare

The National Adoption Center found that 52% of adoptable children (meaning those children in U.S. foster care freed for adoption) had symptoms of attachment disorder[citation needed]. A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants studied exhibited signs of disorganized attachment.[2][3]

Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing psychiatric problems.[4][5] Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.[6][7][8] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[9] as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.[10][11]

Children who have experienced such early chronic trauma often require extensive and specific treatment to address multi-dimensional problems experienced by these children.

Disproportionality & Disparity in the Child Welfare System

In the United States, data suggests that a disproportionate number of minority children, particularly African American and Native American children, enter the foster care system.[12] National data in the United States provides evidence that disproportionality may vary throughout the course of a child’s involvement with the child welfare system. Differing rates of disproportionality are seen at key decision points including the reporting of abuse, substantiation of abuse, and placement into foster care. [12] Additionally, once they enter foster care, research suggests that they are likely to remain in care longer.[13] Research has shown that there is no difference in the rate of abuse and neglect among minority populations when compared to Caucasian children that would account for the disparity.[14] The Juvenile Justice system has also been challenged by disproportionate negative contact of minority children.[15] Because of the overlap in these systems, it is likely that this phenomenon within multiple systems may be related.

Attachment disorder

Main article: Attachment disorder

Attachment disorder refers to the failure to form normal attachments with caregivers during childhood. This can have adverse effects throughout the lifespan. Clinicians have identified several signs of attachment problems. Attachment problems can be resolved at older ages through appropriate therapeutic interventions.

Reactive attachment disorder

Main article: Reactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder, sometimes called “RAD”, is a psychiatric diagnosis (DSM-IV 313.89, ICD-10 F94.1/2). The essential feature of reactive attachment disorder is markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts, which begins before the age of five and is associated with gross pathological care.

Treatment for Children with early chronic maltreatment experiences

See also

  • Adoption
  • Adoption and Safe Families Act
  • Attachment disorder
  • Attachment in children
  • Attachment theory
  • Child Abuse
  • Child protective services
  • Community practice
  • Domestic Violence
  • Foster care
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Reactive attachment disorder
  • Social work

Websites (accessed 8/4/06) (accessed 8/4/06) (accessed 10/19/06)

This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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