Child Abuse Laws in Arizona

Introduction to Child Abuse Laws in Arizona

Child abuse around the world is a major problem, especially in the United States. Each state has their own laws to govern child abuse, but that does not stop the 3.6 million reports of child abuse and neglect that were reported to state and local agencies in the United States in 2016.i Of those reports, 6.6 million children were involved because many reports included multiple children. While some people turn their head away from reporting child abuse, as per child abuse laws in Arizona, there are mandatory reporters who have to report the abuse if they suspect it is happening. Considering the rate of child abuse and neglect cases across the country, it may be time to revisit the laws currently in place.

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is defined generally as the physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse of a person who is under the age of majority.ii Actions toward a child the causes harm to them could result in criminal penalties for the adult.iii Child abuse laws walk a fine line between protecting children, but also allowing the parent to discipline and raise their children as they see fit.iv It is not unheard of for a child to receive a spanking or a slap on the hand for acting out. If a parent was reported for slapping their child’s hand, it is unlikely that an investigation would be lodged into these actions. On the other hand, if a parent punches their child in the face (and someone reports it) then an investigation could begin.

There are many people who believe that ANY form of negative physical contact with a child is child abuse, the law does not agree. Despite that, there have been studies completed that show children who are raised with corporal punishment can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury as well as mental health problems for the child.v

Brief History of Child Abuse Laws in Arizona

The first case of child abuse that went before a court was in the early 1870s with an orphan named Mary Ellen Wilson.vi Mary was living with a foster family, whose Mother was beating her and whipping her on a daily basis.vii The incidents became national news, but at that time, there were no organizations designed to assist with child abuse.viii For this reason, the American Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which was (and still is) an organization to protect animals.ix During the court proceedings, the attorneys from this organization pointed out the fact that laws to protect animals should not be greater than the laws the protect children.x The court convicted the foster mother of assault and battery and sentenced her to one year in jail.xi Because of this case, there was a public outrage over child abuse and in 1874 citizens formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.xii

In 1962 the public’s attention was drawn again to child abuse when a report came out indicating that child abuse was medically diagnosable. Within ten years of this report, every state in the United States had created a statute for what is referred to as “mandatory reporters”.xiii Mandatory reporters are professionals who are required to report child abuse, if they suspect child abuse has occurred.xiv In Arizona, under Arizona Revised Statutes §13-3620(A) the professionals that are considered mandatory reporters include:

  1. Any physician, physician’s assistant, optometrist, dentist, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, behavioral health professional, nurse, psychologist, counselor or social worker who develops the reasonable belief in the course of treating a patient;
  2. Any peace officer, member of the clergy, priest or Christian Science practitioner;
  3. The parent, stepparent or guardian of the minor;
  4. School personnel or domestic violence victim advocate who develop the reasonable belief in the course of their employment;
  5. Any other person who has responsibility for the care or treatment of the minor.xv

In 1974, a lot of progress was made toward protecting minors against child abuse. There were federal laws implemented, the Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act (CAPTA) was created, and funding began to create shelters and programs to help and protect children and recognize child abuse.xvi

The Progress of Child Abuse Cases

If child abuse is reported or suspected, an investigation of the child’s parent or guardian will typically be conducted quickly by the police department or other law enforcement agency.xvii This type of investigation could include the officer simply visiting the home of the child, or conducting full on interviews of the family members.xviii Other witnesses, such as doctors or teachers, may also be interviewed during this investigation.

child abuse laws in arizonaOnce the investigation is completed, child protective services or the law enforcement agency will determine whether the evidence they have collected amounts to child abuse.xix If the answer is yes, then child protective services will set in and intervention will begin.xx Depending on the case and specific allegations of abuse, the intervention will vary. Intervention could be a meeting between the parents and a social worker to discuss the incident, or it could be as extreme as removing the child from the home and beginning what is called a dependency hearing.xxi If a child is removed from the home, they could be placed with other family members, a foster home, or a group home. In extreme cases, the court may determine that a termination of parental rights is appropriate for the circumstances.

Child protective services maintains records regarding child abuse, which are kept in a central registry.xxii Depending on the state, some child care providers or adoption agencies have access to this registry and can review the information so they are aware of a history of child abuse. This could assist adoption agencies in placing the child is a more loving home that is aware of the child’s abusive past.

Conclusion to Child Abuse Laws in Arizona

Even though there have been great strides in implementing child abuse laws in Arizona and preventing child abuse, there are still 3 million reports of child abuse each year in the United States. Of those 6 million children involved, in 2012 there was a total of 1,640 reported deaths of children as a result of child abuse or neglect.xxiii The number did drop by 2014 to 1,580.xxiv Studies have shown that because of mandatory reporting laws, more cases of child abuse are reported each year.xxv So even though child abuse cases are only declining mildly over the years, the amount of cases that are brought to the polices attention is increasing which could mean more lives are saved.


i See National Child Abuse Statistics American Society for the Positive Care of Children (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://americanspcc.org/child-abuse-statistics/

ii See Child Abuse FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse.html

iii Id.

iv See Child Abuse Background and History FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse/child-abuse-background-and-history.html

v See Brendan L. Smith The Case Against Spanking American Psychological Report (Published April 2012) http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx

vi See Child Abuse Background and History FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse/child-abuse-background-and-history.html

vii Id.

viii Id.

ix Id.

x Id.

xi Id.

xii Id.

xiii See Child Abuse Background and History FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse/child-abuse-background-and-history.html

xiv Id.

xv See Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting – Arizona US Legal (Accessed March 3, 2017) https://criminallaw.uslegal.com/mandatory-child-abuse-reporting-arizona/

xvi See Child Abuse Background and History FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse/child-abuse-background-and-history.html

xvii See Child Abuse Cases FindLaw (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://family.findlaw.com/child-abuse/child-abuse-cases.html

xviii Id.

xix Id.

xx Id.

xxi Id.

xxii Id.

xxiii See National Child Abuse Statistics American Society for the Positive Care of Children (Accessed March 3, 2017) http://americanspcc.org/child-abuse-statistics/

xxiv Id.

xxv Id.