First of all, I want to start right off by saying I am not an attorney. However, I worked for almost 10 years as a Child Protective Services (CPS) Caseworker investigating allegations of abuse and neglect, and testifying in Court. I have seen a lot of really bad things happen to kids. I have also seen a lot of good parenting, and parents who just need a little support and help. Spanking is one of the main questions people ask me about when it concerns CPS.
Some of the questions concerning spanking that I will address:
1. Is it legal to spank? 2. Just what is child abuse, or physical abuse (for the purposes of this article sexual abuse and neglect will not be addressed)? 3. Is it a good idea for the parent to spank their child?
Is it legal spank you child?
Currently, it is not against the law to spank your child in any of the 50 states in this country. Recently, spanking was back in the national headlines. California tried to outlaw spanking, but the State Legislature failed to gain enough popular support to pass the measure. In that case, there were some major concerns about over-riding the parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit – to do what the parent believes is in the best interests of their child. The other major issue with the legislation was how it was going to be enforced.
What is child abuse – or physical abuse?
Many parents want to know where the line is drawn legally. Is it just leaving a mark or a bruise on a child after spanking the child? Yes – leaving a mark or bruise on a child is the legal line that parents must not cross when spanking their child. However, CPS has some discretion when making its decision as to whether or not child abuse has occurred. Some key questions a CPS investigator would need to know:
A. How old is the child?
B. Where is the location of the injury?
C. What is the extent of the injury?
D. Could something other than child abuse have occurred?
Obviously, there are other types of physical abuse. Children are burned, suffer broken bones, and other internal injuries occur at the hands of parents and adult caregivers.
Is it a good idea for the parent to spank their child?
Some of the things that a parent should really think about when they are considering using spanking as a method of disciplining their child are:
A. Do I have a history of problems controlling my temper?
B. Am I under financial or emotional stress?
C. Do I have a substance abuse problem?
D. Was I a victim of abuse or neglect?
E. Is your child a previous victim of abuse?
F. Does your child have a history of behavior problems?
G. Is your child developmentally disabled?
These are just some of the contributing factors that lead to the physical abuse of a child. Spanking, as you can see, may not be illegal, but for some people, especially those who struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues, it’s a very bad idea. In these situations the CPS worker can refer the family to counseling to get help. However, it would be best if the family did not wait until CPS was involved and dealt with the problem themselves. Depending on the severity of the abuse, the age of the child, and whether or not the family had any previous history of abuse or neglect, CPS can take the family to Court. And going to Court is not a place where you want to be as a parent.