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In 2005, more than 3.3 million reports of suspected child abuse or neglect were reported to state child protection agencies in the United States. Those reports led to a finding of substantiated maltreatment involving nearly 900,000 children, or about 12 per thousand, including 1,400 child fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This entry reviews the general legal definition of abuse and neglect, the evolution of the role of the state in protecting children from maltreatment at the hands of their parents or caregivers, and the contribution of federal statutes to the shaping of state child protection policies. The entry concludes by highlighting the responsibilities state laws place on schools and educators to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

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