WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2012 — Child abuse, unfortunately, continues through our society. The United States ranks number one in the industrialized world for abuse-related child deaths. Five children die, every day, from abuse. This statistic, and the shocking truth that over 3 million children are abused in our country every year, comes from 2010 reports from the Department of Health and Human Services.
I am writing this article because I overheard a conversation last week about the duty clergy have to report suspected or known abuse of children. My issue is not the legal requirement, because much can be said about the pros and cons of the clergy’s dual obligations and I do not condemn nor judge where religious values prohibit or require conduct. The issue for me goes well beyond whether or not clergy should be required to report suspected or known abuse. It is, for me, a fundamental obligation of being a human being, a part of a society, and an imperative law, requiring numerous individuals, by virtue of their work, to report suspected or known abuse.
Child abuse has a shocking history. Children have always been abused by their parents and by other adults. In England, children were considered the property of their father, and the colonists brought those views here to America. Laws did not begin to protect children until the early 1870’s, when an orphan named Mary Ellen Wilson was suffering daily whippings and beatings at her foster home. Lawyers for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) took up her case, because there was nobody else to do so. The arguments used in the court case by these lawyers urged that laws protecting children should be at least as strong as those protecting animals. The foster mother was convicted and soon after, local citizens, outraged by what became known about the case, formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
In 1962, an article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it described both symptoms of child abuse and that child abuse was medically diagnosable. Within a decade, every state had “mandatory reporting” laws.
Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across every ethnic and cultural line, within all religions and at all levels of education.
A child, whose parents abuse drugs, or alcohol, is three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than a child from a non-abusing family.
The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States, for 2008, was $124 Billion.
I am writing this article to ask you to report suspected or known abuse. Early intervention is critical. State laws require certain people to report abuse, and there are always toll free hotlines available for anonymous reporting. No liability attaches to you for reporting abuse that turns out to be inaccurate.
Because of the nature of the work and the proximity to children, certain people are required by law to report suspected or known abuse of children. I provide the following “generally accepted” list to you here, to remind you of your obligation if your occupation is on this list and if, for some reason, you have any doubts about what you are required to do.
- Clergypersons (some states, some circumstances), Counselors, Day Care Workers, Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dentists, Doctors’ Office Staff Persons, Emergency Medical Technicians, Family Practitioners, Firefighters, Foster Care Workers, Hospital Personnel, Medical Examiners, Nurse Practitioners, Optometrists, Pediatricians, Physicians, Police Officers, Practical Nurses, Principals, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Registered Nurses, School Administrators, School Advisors, School Paraprofessionals, Social Workers, Surgeons, Teachers, Teachers’ Aides
I find it fascinating that attorneys who deal with children in various capacities are not required to report child abuse. The rationale, or from my viewpoint the excuse, would fall to concerns about attorney/client privilege, and to issues relating to actions or omissions that could adversely affect a client.
Here are some helpful telephone numbers:
Childhelp USA’s National Child Abuse Hotline
Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
Every professional who deals with children, and anybody with common sense, will tell you the following:
The effects of child abuse can be increased or decreased by key relationships in the child’s life. More than anyone else, including all measure of professionals or therapists, parents and caregivers can help children recover from abuse and its effects.
Please go give your children a hug, tell them you love them, and keep your eyes open. This crime ranks among the worst, and often a telephone call can do much to stop it and begin the process of reversing the effects.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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