American Judges Association



Jane M. Spinak

Date of this Version



Court Review - Volume 58


Used by permission.


The federalization of child protection policy and the family court began with the so-called discovery of child abuse by Dr. C. Henry Kempe in 1962. Dr. Kempe and his colleagues labeled the emerging documentation of physical abuse of children under three as “battered child syndrome” and provided an explanation for injuries that had previously been inadequately or inconsistently explained. The country was shocked by Kempe’s findings, spurring the federal Children’s Bureau to propose model child-abuse-reporting laws.1 By 1966, only four years after Kempe’s hospital study, all fifty states had adopted legislation to regulate child abuse; by 1968 all states had adopted mandatory child-abuse-reporting laws, first for physicians but soon expanding to teachers and other professionals working with children.2