The most recent numbers from the 2014 Children’s Defense Fund’s Annual State of
America’s Children shows that 1,825 children are abused each day. Multiples of that are
neglected during the same time period. National estimates of child deaths from abuse and
neglect totaled 1,640 deaths in 2012. This equates to four deaths per day – more or less. This is
too many. One is too many.
New Hampshire has adopted a Child Protection Act. Within this Act, an abused child
and a neglected child are defined.
An abused child is a child who has been sexually abused; intentionally physically injured,
psychologically injured so that the child exhibits symptoms of emotional problems generally
recognized to result from consistent mistreatment or neglect; or physically injured by other than
By contrast – a neglected child is a child who has been abandoned by his parents,
guardians, or custodian; who is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as
required by law, or other care or control necessary for his physical, mental, or emotional health,
when it is established that his health has suffered or is very likely to suffer serious impairment;
and the deprivation is not due primarily to the lack of financial means of the parents, guardian or
custodian. Finally, a neglected child includes a child whose parents, guardian or custodian are
unable to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child because of incarceration,
hospitalization or other physical or mental incapacity.
The Act provides for Protective Custody when a child’s health or life is in imminent
danger. When this occurs, a police or probation officer may remove the child from the home
without the parent’s consent and place the child in protective custody.
Child abuse/neglect cases begin with a petition and summons. All parties of interest are
served to include parents. There are usually three stages to the proceedings. the first stage is
preliminary in nature. During this stage, the evidence is tested to see if there is probable cause to
sustain a petition. The second stage is called the adjudicatory stage. This stage is equivalent to
the trial – is there sufficient evidence to prove abuse or neglect? If there is, we move on to the
third stage, which is the dispositional stage. In this stage, the child is placed and conditions are
set for the child’s return.
Abuse and neglect cases can be very emotional. They have the capacity to be very
contentious. On one occasion, when I was representing a father accused of abusing his daughter,
one of the attorneys in the case attacked my client. They were quickly separated and we moved
on to a verdict; nevertheless, that illustrates how tense everyone can get.
The New Hampshire Attorney General has published an excellent report entitled
Guidelines for New Hampshire School Employees -Recognizing and Reporting Suspected Child
Abuse and Neglect. There are many mandatory reporters. School officials are but one type.
We all wish child abuse and neglect didn’t exist but I suspect we will never be able to
eradicate it altogether.