Essay, Research Paper: Child Abuse Laws

Legal Issues

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Child abuse is a social problem that affects millions of children each year. Not
only does child abuse have multiple societal repercussions, but also individual
repercussions that produce lifelong scars. There are many forms of child abuse;
sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional. Some of the facts presented in this
paper will be painful to absorb. That does not change the fact that these
problems must be addressed. It has been reported that one out of three girls,
and one out of seven boys are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of
18. The most prevalent form of child sexual abuse is now recognized to be,
incest. A study that showed approximately 27% of the women in every state of the
union, and 16% of the men said they had been sexually abused as children. Child
Abuse Laws Child abuse. Two words that should never have to be seen side by
side. Yet, child abuse is very much a reality in this world. Unfortunately, to
wish otherwise would be the same as to wish for a perfect world. We must do the
best that we can as a society with the power of laws on our side to help the
innocent young victims of child abuse. We have a responsibility as human beings
to do all that we can for these children. Some of us fulfill this responsibility
by promoting awareness, some by donating time, money, or services, some by
getting laws passed, and some by enforcing laws that protect children from all
kinds of abuse. The purpose of this study was to research child abuse from all
angles to try to understand what we as a society may be doing wrong & also
what we may be doing right to help the young victims of child abuse. To look at
all types of studies & compare them & try to break them down to better
understand them. The first things that should be understood are; the
characteristics of the offenders, the types of offenses, & some of the
societal issues that are listed as possible causes of child abuse. Studies show
that the characteristics of sexual abuse offenders are; dependent, inadequate
individuals with early family histories characterized by conflict, disruption,
abandonment, abuse, and exploitation. In 1997, over 3 million children were
reported for child abuse and neglect to child protective service agencies in the
U.S.. These figures have gone up from year to year approximately 1.7% per year.
Since 1985, the rate of child abuse fatalities has increased by 34%. Of these
fatalities, 78% were children under the age of 5. 38% were under one year of
age. The top 6 causes of child abuse listed were: 1. Drug addiction 2. Poverty
3. A violent society 4. A lack of community ties 5. A family history of violence
6. Lack of parenting skills. METHOD The information obtained in this research
paper was drawn mostly from various internet web-sites. I read all of the
pertinent issues related to this topic. All sides of the issue were accounted
for. For example; stories, facts, & figures as they are told by adults, the
children, law enforcers, law makers, the accused, the falsely accused etc. This
information then had to be sorted out according to what was fact, and what was
opinion. I was looking mostly for law related issues, and I received a lot of
other valuable pieces of information along the way. I pieced the information
together in a way that I felt would make sense to a reader who was trying to get
a good general understanding about child abuse laws. LITERATURE REVIEW /
CONCLUSIONS AND FINDINGS One valuable source of information pertained to the
American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (established in 1978).
Its mission was to try to help improve children's lives through advances in law,
justice, knowledge, practice, and public policy. Its work includes such jobs as;
strengthening laws, policies, and judicial procedures affecting children, and
increasing public awareness of law and justice related to children. The center
has also taken on such projects as, removing barriers to the termination of
parental rights and helping courts to improve child protection case handling
practices. They also pledged to work to establish clear standards for attorneys
in the representation of children, parents, and child protection agencies in
child abuse and neglect cases. Also, to persuade legislature to strengthen the
representation of children, parents, and child protection agencies in child
abuse and neglect cases. According to the ABA Division of Media Relations and
Public Affairs, in 1995, 3.1 million children were reported to child protection
agencies as being abused or neglected. That was double the number reported in
1984. Of the 3.1 million children reported, 996,000 children were confirmed
after investigation to be abused or neglected. A study released in 1996 by the
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services suggests these totals are drastically
understated. The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect found that
2.8 million children were believed to have been actually abused or neglected in
1993. In addition, the study found that the number of children nearly quadrupled
between 1986 and 1993. While the number of children reported to be abused or
neglected has increased each year, the number of reports investigated has stayed
about the same for each year. Several sources show (in approximate measures)
that the following types of abuse reported to be broken up in the following way:
The Volunteers for Children Act of 1998 was an amendment to the National Child
Protection Act of 1993. The Volunteers for Children Act was signed into law by
President Clinton as Public Law 105-251. Under this act, organizations and
businesses dealing with children, the elderly, and the disabled would be able to
use a national fingerprint based criminal history check to screen out volunteers
and employees with relevant criminal records. Also under this amendment, if a
volunteer or employee of an organization sexually molests a child in his care
and if it can be shown that he/she had been previously convicted of a relevant
crime, the organization may be held liable under the legal theory of
"negligent hiring". This act also demands that if a current or
potential volunteer or employee has a relevant criminal history, he or she must
be prevented from having unsupervised access to children, the elderly, or the
disabled. Such a person must not be placed in a position where he or she may
easily victimize again. It is said that an employer has a clear duty to use
"reasonable care in hiring" and retaining employees who are competent
and fit for their positions. The question is then raised to the definition and
scope of "reasonable care". What is considered reasonable is usually
determined with each separate case, as the circumstances surrounding each case
will vary. It is said that the liability of the employer will not be based
solely on his or her failure to investigate the criminal history of the
applicant, but on the total circumstances surrounding the hiring. It will have
to be determined if the employer exercised reasonable care in hiring or not.
Sometimes in determining these types of cases, the court will look at the
"sensitive-nature" of the position at hand. When an employee is being
hired for a sensitive occupation, it is important that the employer fully
investigates that person. A mere lack of evidence may not be sufficient to
discharge the obligation of the employer to exhibit "reasonable care in
hiring". The principle of reasonable care in hiring also applies to the
selection of volunteers, since the purpose of this rule is to assign
responsibility for injuries to third persons. A notable case out of Virginia
deals directly with the issue of liability for the negligence of a volunteer. In
"Infant C. v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc." (391 S.E. 2d 322(Va.1990)),
a child and his parents sued both the national and local Boy scouts office for
negligently selecting and retaining a volunteer scoutmaster with a criminal
record for sexually assaulting scouts in another state, who allegedly molested
the child plaintiff. The courts inquiry turned on the selection process itself
and found that the evidence supported the jury's determination that the national
organization did not participate in selecting the scoutmaster. Accordingly, the
appellate court affirmed that portion of the jury's verdict dismissing the claim
against the national Boy Scouts of America organization, while it held the local
branch liable for $45,000. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
was also known as the Mondale Act of 1974. The intent of Congress was to provide
incentives to the states if they would set up programs targeting child
protection research, identification, prosecution and treatment regimens. Once
the states complied with the provisions outlined under CAPTA, the National
Clearinghouse for Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) allocated matching monies to
these same states. CAPTA is responsible for establishing NCCAN. NCCAN is a
primary federal agency with responsibility assisting states with child abuse
prevention, treatment, and resources. CAPTA also provided for the creation of
mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect by social workers, police
officers, teachers, doctors, etc., as well as the creation of anonymous tip
hotlines and abuse registries. These registries, or computer database storage
centers, hold accused records for several years - guilty or not, criminally
charged or not. This is one of the main criticisms that opposers have to this
act. "Megan's Law" stemmed from what was perhaps one of the most well
known cases of child abuse in history. It took effect officially on January 22,
1996. The intent of this law was, and still is, to allow the public to protect
themselves and their children from sexual predators. This law allows the public
to view pictures and information on convicted sexual offenders. The law also
allows police agencies to proactively put out bulletins/announcements to the
public to warn them of certain sexual predators that may be living or moving
into their cities or neighborhoods. "From this day forward, every offender
on parole or probation and every offender sentenced to parole, probation, local
jail and state prison will have to register his whereabouts with the
State." said Governor George Pataki of New York on 1-22-96. "For too
long, children have mercilessly died at the hands of vicious child predators-
Megan Kanka, Sara Ann Wood, My Ly Nghiem, and Polly Klass," said Senate
Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos. "Parents will finally have this crucial
information they need to protect their children from societies sickest
individuals." (www.meganslaw) Megan's Law is an effective tool that parents
and law enforcement can use to help prevent future tragedies. Under the law, an
offender is required to register with the states Division of Criminal Justice
Services within 10 calendar days of being released from prison. The offender is
required to verify a home address annually for a period of at least 10 years. An
offender who is determined to be a high-risk offender must also personally
verify a home address with the local police every 90 days. Failure to register
is a crime. A first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, a repeat offense is a
class D felony. The law also provides that an offenders case be reviewed by a
Board of Examiners. The board makes a recommendation to the court as to the
offenders' "degree of risk of repeat offense and threat to public
safety." Depending upon whether the risk is low, moderate or high, the
offender will receive a Level One, Two or Three designation. The court makes the
final designation as to risk. Under the statute, the level of risk determines
the amount of information that can be released to the public. With a Level One
designation, the police are notified of the offenders' presence in the
community. A Level Two designation allows the police to disseminate general
information about the offender to the public. A Level Three designation
authorizes the release of specific information about the offender, including his
exact address. The North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry
gives law enforcement an additional tool to help solve violent and brutal
crimes. It helps prevent children (and the public) from becoming victims. The NC
registry was established in January 1996 due to the General Assembly's enactment
of Article 27A of Chapter 14 of the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS
14-208.5). This law requires a person who is a resident of N.C. and who has a
reportable conviction to maintain registration with the sheriff of the county
where the person resides. If the person moves to North Carolina from outside the
state, the person is required to register within 10 days of establishing
residence. The following bills are some of those sponsored by a group called
Protect Our Children based out of California in 1998: California State Assembly
Bills AB1078 (Cardoza)- This bill will allow schools to post "Megan's
Law" information, and be exempt from any liability charges. They are in the
hopes that with the liability issue taken care of, that this will encourage
schools to get this vital information out to parents. AB2386 (Bordonaro)- This
bill will prevent court ordered, "forced" visitation in cases where a
parent is convicted of first degree murder of the child's other parent. Similar
legislation has already been adopted in other states. It is commonly referred to
as "Lizzies Law". On August 3, 1995, 3-year old Lizzie Thompson
witnessed her father brutally murder her mother in Massachusetts. Her father was
convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. He then
asked the courts to force his daughter, Lizzie, against her wishes, to visit him
in prison twice a month and to phone him once a week. This is appalling that a
child could be forced into visits under these circumstances. There is much to be
said about the lasting effects of child abuse. It shouldn't hurt to be a child,
yet children continue to be victimized every day. Statistics show that the
abused child all too often grows up to be an offender. It is so important that
we do everything possible to break this cycle. Bibliography1.
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