Many of us remember “back in the day,” when a parent could swat their children on the backside with their hand, a switch or a belt. Even in schools, teachers instilled fear in their students by displaying a paddle on the classroom wall to remind the students of the potential punishment for misbehavior. Schools today have largely abandoned corporal punishment in favor of time-outs, a trip to the principal’s office, a telephone call home or a one to three day suspension. In homes across the United States, however, the debate continues. Is spanking an appropriate punishment for misbehaving children or is it child abuse, plain and simple?
Know Your State Laws
The legal aspect of this subject vary widely from state to state, getting even more confusing as you consider the various settings for children such as schools, day care centers, parent’s home, grandparent’s home and on and on. State laws tend to be somewhat vague on the subject of corporal punishment, providing only the most general of guidelines as to whether spanking is prohibited and under what conditions such as setting or person administering the spanking. So far states have not implemented tight restrictions on a parent’s right to discipline their child through spanking. On the other hand, should the spanking last any length of time deemed unreasonable or should excessive force be used, then you could find yourself dealing with the local child protective services and could even face criminal charges.
Facing an Investigation
Once an investigation is launched by a child welfare agency, there are many factors which will be taken into consideration. How old the child was at the time of the spanking, the child’s size and general health and whether or not the child suffers any sort of disability will all be considered. Should the “spanking” leave obvious bruises, welts, scars or wounds of any type then the spanking could definitely be considered abuse. By the same token if an object such as a wooden spoon, paddle or belt be used, then the characteristics of that object will be taken into consideration. If the parent administered the spanking with an open hand, yet still left marks, then child abuse may be determined. If an investigation of alleged child abuse is opened, the parent could find themselves in serious legal trouble with their entire lives being torn apart. The child protective services agency will interview the child, the parents, the reporting witness, teachers, day care providers, grandparents and anyone and everyone else who has had any opportunity to witness the parent’s interactions with the child.
If You’ve Been Accused
If you find yourself the object of such an investigation, don’t hide your head in the sand, believing it will all turn out okay. An investigation into alleged child abuse is extremely serious and it is imperative that you immediately seek legal counsel to ensure your rights are safeguarded and that the child protective services agency does not violate procedure in their zeal to prove you an unfit parent. Should the agency determine you have abused or neglected your child legal counsel becomes even more crucial. There will be an extremely limited window of opportunity after such a finding in which your attorney could demand a review from the agency and the courts of the finding of abuse. A finding of this nature will remain on your record and could prevent you from obtaining employment in a variety of areas and could also prohibit you from seeking professional licensure or, in some cases, even from taking out student loans to further your education. This is not to mention the social stigma you could face in your community should you be accused of child abuse. At the very first sign you are aware of that you might be investigated for child abuse because of a spanking, contact the most experienced criminal attorney possible and don’t talk to anyone until you’ve talked to the attorney.