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Child Endangerment Policy: Overview


Generally, child endangerment can present in four different forms, namely emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. To begin with, physical abuse entails spanking a child using improper objects such as a paddle or a belt; intense pinching that leaves a mark; burning a child, for instance using a cigarette, a lighter, the stove burner, or an iron; biting to leave a mark or damaged skin; and pushing against the wall or punching, kicking, choking or knocking the child to the floor (LaMance, 2010).

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Sexual abuse, most commonly present as one or more of the following events. These events include when a person fondles the child’s genitals; presents pornographic pictures or material to a child, and takes a nude picture(s) of a child. Emotional abuse comprises events such as calling child names that are actually mean; belittling the child, for example by telling him or her that s/he is stupid, worthless or “a mistake”. In addition, it also concerns discouraging the child by telling them that they seemingly cannot do anything right or are never good enough. Again, it involves telling the child that they wish they had never been born (2010).

Neglect, on the other hand, entails several episodes. These episodes include leaving the child hungry and/or thirsty often. Secondly, it may concern leaving the child without medical care. Thirdly, it includes leaving the child without warm clothes during winter or cooler clothes during summer. Fourthly, involves leaving the child home alone when s/he is incapable of taking safe care of him/her self. Lastly, it may involve locking the child in a room for many hours or days (2010).

Social learning theory and child endangerment

According to Bandura and Ribes-Iniesta (1976: p. 204), individuals do not inherit violent propensity, instead they forge them based on three principles. He argued that persons, particularly small children, learn aggressive reactions by watching others directly or via the media and the surrounding. Further, he asserted that many persons misconceive that aggression usually results in reinforcement. Siegel (1992: p. 171), argues that such reinforcements can take the form of decreased tension, financial gains, gaining appreciation of others, or developing self-esteem.

Based on the Bobo doll research, the children emulate the aggression of the grown-ups for the expected gain associated with it. Bandura and Ribes-Iniesta (1976, p. 206-208), claimed that early detection of aggression in children could help thwart them from future criminal mentality. Moreover, he argues that aggression in children is a product of family member relations, the environment, and the media reinforcement.

Ethical/moral issues arising from child endangerment policy

In 1985 Harris claimed that professionals concerned with child abuse and neglect are prerequisites to keep track of the latest findings in research and practiced knowledge that relates to this domain. Alternatively, they are obligated to seek advice or opinions of experts in the field when making decisions on matters about the abused children and their families.

He further asserts that any professionals involved in the practice of child protection from abuse, are recommended to further education in order to be at par with the latest development in this field. This education deals with an understanding of the child’s family, community traditions, and the legislature available that deals with violation of children’s rights. Besides, it also deals with the structure of professional resources including obstetrics, psychiatry of childhood, pediatrics, economics, social works, adolescent and adulthood, moral education, social planning, and their historical aspects.

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In circumstances that demand an action, numerous challenges are encountered by the experts involved. Nevertheless, the most obvious issues project when a child suffers the following events; has been afflicted with injuries, has been sexually defiled or neglected and where usually the outcome of these events is a matter of evidence. This situation demands the interaction of all the above relevant professionals in the course of seeking justice on behalf of the child, or in planning for him/her [plus the siblings]. This arrangement concerns his/her urgent health condition and safety [incase s/he continues or is restored to life with the family], and her/his general future (Kempe & Helfer, 1972; Helfer & Kempe, 1976; & Kempe & Helfer, 1980 as cited in Harris, 1985).

Most often than not, child endangerment may be a matter of suspicion and may be characterized by a lack of evidence. Such events may augment anxiety among professionals which cannot be easily resolved relative to the events when the problem is obvious. In this circumstance, consultation and dissemination of information between the professionals are paramount (Hallett & Stevenson, 1980 as cited in Harris, 1985).

Another issue that may arise from this policy, may occur when child protection is based on the protocols of the Department of Health and Social Security (1974; 1980, as cited in Harris, 1985), whereby the parents who have not been abusive will as well be subject to inquiry. In this scenario, the ethical characteristics of interaction between professionals may be doubted and subsequently be claimed that they were unethical.

Moreover, professional anxiety may arise when making decision whether a neglected child is eligible for legal protection by the government. Despite the nature or degree of abuse, in the course of seeking state intervention into the matter, an ethical issue about the rights of the guardian may present challenges to the weary professionals (Harris, 1985, p. 139).

In circumstances where children are products of legal marriage, both parents are guardians of their children until they attain 18 years of age. During the period prior to age 18, the parents are entitled to make decisions regarding medical matters on behalf of the child until s/he is past age 16. Nevertheless; in circumstances of separation, re-marriage, divorce, foster parenting and cohabitation, most children with health problems or those who have risked abuse, present at hospital or social service department without the company of their legal guardian. The illegal guardian is legally in no position to consent to health status assessment or management for the child (1985, p. 139).

Impact on child’s welfare/well-being

According to McDonald et al. (2002, p. 5), since the execution of the Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol [CERAP] in regard to children not under caring custody, a gradual and significant reduction in the recurrence of child abuse had been recorded.

In 1995, according to the records of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS], 3,315 children were neglected or abused within a space of 120 days after reporting to the department. A decrease to 1,123 was observed by 2001, representing a 53% decrease in the recurrence of abuse within a 120-day interval following report to the authority (McDonald et al., 2002, p. 5),

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Also, a decrease was evidenced within the initial year of execution of CERAP in 1996 when the recurrence frequency dropped from 3.18% to 2.72%, and an annual decline in the recurrence rate has continually been observed since 1996. The frequency of the recorded decline within 120 days were; 2.40%, 2.37%, 2.31%, 1.99% and 1.47% in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 respectively (McDonald et al., 2002, p. 5).

These desirable outcomes had sustained for six years and had augmented the practicality and reliability of CERAP protocol in recognizing and regulating factors that make children vulnerable to abuse, thus far. The tremendous impact on child protection has produced a huge decline in subsequent reports’ frequencies. Also, the number and incidence of children placed in substitute care had gone down (2002, p. 5).

Impact on family and society

Based on Cossman (2004), adults’ behaviors correlate with the children’s crush outcome. In reports of serious crush incidences associated with seatbelts use, drivers who used seatbelts depicted a probability of 39% – 44% of restraining their minor passengers as well. The findings of the 1997 study on child restraining by drivers conducted by the Society for Automotive Engineers, supported the prior observation (Edward & Sullivan, 1997).

Further, in 2003 a national analysis of lethal motor accidents performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found out that amongst the seriously injured children, those driven with unrestrained drivers were 2 – 2.5 times more highly probable to be unrestrained themselves (Starnes, 2003, p. 4). Most importantly, the correlation was yet higher for toddlers and infants, as was evident in another 2003 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which found out that infants were 3.7 times more probable to be unrestrained when the driver was himself unrestrained (Starnes, 2003).

The impact of child abuse on non-offending family members as well as friends, denoted as the secondary victims, has not been thoroughly researched. Thus most of the information available about the effect of child abuse had been gathered from childhood sexual abuse victims.


Child endangerment policy guarantees children protection from abusive parents or persons. The policy safeguards the child from incidence of aggression which predetermines their future behaviors. Thus this policy should be embraced as it helps reduce future generation crime incidence as well as ensure a morally stable society.

Reference List

Bandura, A., & Ribes-Inesta, Emilio. (1976). Analysis of Delinquency and Aggression. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, INC.

Cossman, R. E. (2004). Heath policy Brief: motor vehicle injuries and deaths among children in Mississippi: the role of DUI child endangerment law. MSU: Mississippi Health Policy Research Center; social science Research center;

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Harris J. (1985). Child abuse and neglect: ethical issues. Journal of medical ethics 11(3): 138-141. Web.

LaMance, K. (2006). Child Abuse- criminal lawyers. LegalMatch.

McDonald J., Goad J., Calica, R., Fuller, T., Garnier, P & Nieto, M. (2002). Illinois Child Endangerment Risk Assessment protocol: a report to the general assembly. Springfield: Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Council of Accreditation for Children and Family Services.

Starnes, M. (2003). The relationship between driver and child passenger restraint use Among infants and toddlers. Research Note. National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. DOT HS 809-559.p.2. Web.

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