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By Meghan McCann

The nation's first case of child abuse was criminally prosecuted in what became known as the Mary Ellen case in 1874. By the mid 1960s, 49 states passed child abuse reporting laws.

A century after that case, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was enacted in 1974 and marks its 40th anniversary this year.

CAPTA required that all states establish procedures to investigate maltreatment and provides federal funding to states, tribes, tribal organizations, public agencies and nonprofit organizations to further the “prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment” of child abuse and neglect. By 1975 the first child protective service agencies (CPS) were established.

In response to and in commemoration of CAPTA, the Children’s Bureau and the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect developed “The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” an online publication looking back at the evolution of child protection laws in America.

Meghan McCann is a policy associate with NCSL’s Children and Families Program.

Email Meghan.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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