Child abuse, neglect, and trauma are global problems; it is not just an issue in the United States. Abuse has been defined as when “a person willfully or unreasonably does, or causes a child or young person to do, any act that endangers or is likely to endanger the safety of a child or young person or that causes or is likely to cause a child or young person (a) any unnecessary physical pain, suffering or injury; (b) any emotional injury; or (c) any injury to his or her health or development” (Chan, Elliott, Chow, & Thomas, 2002, p. 361). Trauma can come in many forms, such as “witnessing domestic parental or community violence or warfare or experiencing severe loss in natural disasters” (Westby 140). The United States has concluded that violence and/or neglect is one of the most serious problems affecting children today. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40 million children below the age of fifteen experience abuse and neglect requiring health and social care. At any given time, 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as eight years, are in armed conflicts in more than 30 countries. In Central and Eastern Europe, 1.5 million children live in orphanages that provide minimal care. Two million children are exploited through prostitution and pornography (UNICEF, n.d.). In the United States, reports of child abuse and neglect have been increasing by approximately ten percent a year since 1976 (Children’s Defense Fund, 1999). Although fewer parents are reporting a belief in the use of corporal punishment, a 1995 survey in the United States showed that five percent of parents admitted to disciplining their child by hitting the child with an object, kicking the child, beating the child, or threatening the child with a knife or gun. Violence and neglect can have severe implications for children’s development even when it does not lead to obvious physical injury or death.
“Violence and neglect affects children’s health, their ability to learn, and even their willingness to go to school” (Westby 140). All 50 states have passed laws mandating the reporting of child abuse and neglect under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, Jan. 1996 version). All states require that certain professionals such as health care providers, mental health care providers of all types, teachers and other school personnel, social workers, day care providers, and law enforcement personnel report suspected child abuse and neglect. Eighteen states have broad statutes that require “any person” to report.
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