The Latin term parens patriae roughly translates as parent of the country. As a legal concept, parens patriae authorizes the government to protect individuals who are legally unable to safeguard themselves. In the United States, parens patriae has had its greatest impact on the treatment and protection of children. It asserts that government has an active responsibility to intervene and protect children when parents fail. As a result, states have been empowered with the authority to act to ensure the best interest of a child and to prevent further incidents of harm. Through federal legislation and local laws, Child Protective Services (CPS) is a government-sponsored initiative to investigate, intervene, prosecute, and prevent child abuse.

Historical Underpinnings

The maltreatment of children extends throughout the course of American history. ...

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