The first child protective agency in the world was established in 1874 when a little 10-year-old girl, Mary Ellen McCormack, explained to the court how her mother beat and abused her. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children began as a result of her story. She became known as “the child who put a face on abuse.”
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 requires reporting of all child abuse cases. All states have statutes that define child abuse and require that all abuse must be reported. To begin to investigate questions of neglect and child abuse, the state must have probable cause , which is a reasonable belief that something improper has happened. Many states list personnel who are required by law to make an immediate report of any suspected child abuse. These personnel include teachers; health professionals such as physicians, emergency room staff, physician assistants, nurses, and medical assistants; law-enforcement personnel; daycare personnel; and social service workers. Questionable injuries of children, including bruises, fractured bones, and burns, must be reported to local law-enforcement agencies.
The term battered child syndrome is sometimes used by healthcare professionals to describe a series of injuries, including fractures, bruises, and burns, done to children by parents or caregivers. This is not a legal term but, rather, a description of injuries ( Figure 7.1 ). Signs of neglect such as malnutrition, poor growth, and lack of hygiene are reportable in some states. In a Minnesota case, the court ruled that the Minnesota Board of Psychology acted correctly when it revoked the license of a psychologist who failed to report the sexual abuse of a child (In re Schroeder, 415 N.W.2d 436, Minn. Ct. App. 1987).