Protection of Abused Children, the Mentally and Physically Challenged, and the Elderly
The duty to protect children and others who cannot protect themselves is delegated to each state’s child and family protective services agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An entirely separate legal system that has its own state and Federal laws governs the operation of this protection system. The system is supposed to protect citizens who cannot protect themselves from harm. This is generally defined as children, the elderly, and those who because of mental incompetence (often defined as intellectually limited, neurologically impaired, or mentally ill) cannot care for themselves. In this chapter, we will attempt to explain the system, review definitions that vary from state to state and under Federal law, and discuss its benefits and drawbacks. One of the cornerstones of the protection system is the mandated reporting laws that require mental health professionals along with others specified in the statutes to report any suspicion that those covered by the laws are being harmed. The precise definitions are discussed here. As might be imagined, these reporting statutes also have their benefits and limitations. To make it even more complicated, the protection system must interact with the criminal justice system and the family law systems when there are cases that are filed in these divisions, also. In some districts, there has been a movement towards a Unified Family Court where all three divisions can come together and dispose of cases within the same family.
KeywordsDomestic Violence Child Abuse Child Sexual Abuse Physical Abuse Foster Care
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