What if Child Maltreatment Were Childhood Leukemia?: Lessons from the Halls of the Hospital


This article examines lessons that can be applied to prevention, research, training, and clinical treatment in child welfare from analogous experiences in combatting childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Since the 1960s, childhood cancer researchers have been able to reach a 98% remission rate and 90% 5-yr survival rate with limited research, training, and treatment dollars. In contrast, child abuse fatalities and maltreatment reports have continued to increase. Although childhood leukemia is not readily associated with child welfare and child maltreatment, there are strategies, protocols, and lessons from the cancer arena that could disrupt the status quo of how we address child welfare. Use of childhood cancer research and treatment as a model could result in development of a child welfare system that is preventive in nature and better equipped to treat the multitude of family and community issues that contribute to maltreatment.

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Acknowledgment is made to Richard D. Krugman and Gary B. Melton for their assistance in preparing this article for publication.

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Correspondence to Patricia Babcock.

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I am the deputy director of a state child welfare agency. I have a grandchild who developed acute leukemia several years ago. My experiences led me to consider the nature and magnitude of the differences between the healthcare system’s approach to childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and the child welfare system’s approach to child maltreatment. Although I do not know of prior scholarship comparing treatment protocols, there are many lessons that can be learned from viewing child welfare through the lens of ALL.

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Babcock, P. What if Child Maltreatment Were Childhood Leukemia?: Lessons from the Halls of the Hospital. Int. Journal on Child Malt. 3, 35–44 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42448-020-00044-8

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  • childhood cancer
  • child maltreatment
  • child welfare
  • leukemia
  • Total Therapy