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Psychology - Child & School Psychology | Child Maltreatment and the Law - Returning to First Principles

Child Maltreatment and the Law

Returning to First Principles

Levesque, Roger J.R.


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  • Presents a comprehensive and specific analysis of the nature of individuals’ rights within families
  • Examines the ramifications of the law’s profound attachment to the rights of family members
  • Addresses legal approaches to defining family harms as well as legal responses to harms
  • Looks at gaps and wide variations in legal responses

Dramatic cases of child abuse and neglect are featured with tragic regularity in the news. The stories vividly demonstrate both the urgent need for improved child protection services and the unwieldiness and ineffectiveness of the systems charged with the task. To complicate matters further, the original intent of child welfare policy is becoming increasingly obscured as legal responses to child maltreatment become more complex, intrusive, and even contradictory.

Fueled by a consistent narrative and a lucid ethical stance, Child Maltreatment and the Law analyzes the increasing role legal systems play in family life and traces rapidly evolving legal concepts as they apply to child protection. This unique volume helps readers:

  • Navigate the various layers of legal regulation – federal and state – involved in child protection and family life.
  • Identify variations and discrepancies in definitions of maltreatment and legal responses.
  • Critique the relationships and boundary disputes between the criminal and civil justice systems and agencies dedicated to children’s welfare.
  • Analyze controversies (e.g., removing children from maltreating families) and other prime areas for possible reform.

Child Maltreatment and the Law is a must-read for psychologists, developmentalists, sociologists, social workers, criminologists, and researchers focusing on family life as well as policymakers and advocates working within the legal system. The book is particularly useful for courses relating to child welfare law or child abuse and neglect.


"Professor Levesque has written the book on child maltreatment that we have all been waiting for. Unlike other books in the field which primarily approach the subject from the perspective of one discipline---usually sociology, psychology, or law--it is relevantly multi- and interdisciplinary: child psychologists and social workers cannot hope to make real headway in child maltreatment prevention without considering the complex legal and political implications of their work, projects, and proposals, just as those who work with the law cannot hope to create or administer responsible and effective legal responses to the problem without understanding what children and families need to be successful. It is because Levesque has devoted his professional life to understanding the intricacies of these inevitable ties that he is able to produce this wonderful work that is at once a map through unfamiliar conceptual and practical territory and a blueprint for the development of appropriately sophisticated reform efforts. I recommend it to anyone who works in this field whatever their discipline and beyond that to anyone who cares about the success of child maltreatment prevention policies and programs."

Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law

"In a tightly written yet comprehensive volume, Professor Levesque has masterfully provided one of the most thoughtful analyses to date of modern American responses to child maltreatment. Levesque offers valuable insights to a broad range of readers, rendering the material accessible to those new to the field, and--for those with expertise in the area of child protection--shedding new light on the perennial and intransigent problems that plague our nation's approach to child welfare. Levesque adeptly blends legal, social scientific, and policy-oriented perspectives, challenging traditional assumptions, and delivering an original, provocative, and highly satisfying treatment of the subject matter, maintaining a nuanced and balanced stance from the first page to the last."

Lois A. Weithorn, Hastings College of the Law, University of California

Content Level » Professional/practitioner

Keywords » Child abuse - Child development - Child maltreatment - Child protection - Child welfare - Children and law - Children and society - Family law - Juvenile justice - Neglect - Welfare policy - Welfare system - law - laws

Related subjects » Child & School Psychology - Criminology & Criminal Justice - Education & Language - Law - Psychology & Law - Social Sciences

Table of contents 

Introduction: The Nature and Limits of Child Maltreatment Law.- The Increasingly Curious Response to Children's Harms.- The Legal Regulation of Family Life.- Families, Child Welfare, and the Constitution.- Suitable Families and Parents in Law.- Legal Responses to Child Maltreatment.- Defining Maltreatment and Permitting Startlingly Broad State Intervention.- Removing Children From Maltreating Families.- Enlisting Criminal Justice Systems in Child Protection.- Shifting Rules Regulating the Role of Expertise.- Returning to Child Welfare Law's Foundations.- Rethinking Laws Regulating Child Protection.

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