The Child Protection movement began 1873. At that time there were laws protecting animals but none protecting children. It so happened that a mission worker named Mrs. Etta A. Wheeler, met a little girl named Mary Ellen. She discovered that Mary Ellen was severely beaten. She had been adopted by a couple when she was under two years and was nine was Mrs. Wheeler met her. She lived in an tenement in New York, cruelly beaten, often left alone and locked in an inner room. The residents of the tenement were aware of the abuse but didn’t know who to make a report to.
Mrs. Wheeler decided to make a report to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was an odd request, but the Society decided to take the case. Eventually the young girl was removed from the home, and her abusers were sent to jail.
When people found out that there was a mechamism to help abused children the complaints multiplied. A separate society called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was born.
Click here if you want to read more about Mary Ellen.
California’s first reporting law dates back to 1963; by 1966 all states had child abuse reporting laws that provided definitions, procedures, a list of mandated reporters and liability for failure to report.
Click on Prevalence of Child Abuse.