tective services model derived from child abuse legislation, in contrast to the law enforcement model of domestic violence laws. Advocates of adult protection legislation argue that older adults are safeguarded by such means, and attempts can be made to improve their level of functioning while protecting them from harm. Similar to the foster care crisis pursuant to child welfare legislation, however, an overemphasis on adult protection poses the risk of increased placement of seniors in institutions. In the absence of evaluation findings, the value of adult protection legislation is considered below in light of similar measures accompanying child welfare and domestic violence initiatives.
State intervention for children was predicated on the assumption that alternative care by the state (i.e., removing children from abusive or dangerous family environments) was a benevolent intervention when families had failed or violated standards of care. Alternative care was assumed to remove the child from harm and provide a stable and therapeutic environment, as well as to provide a brief period for family rehabilitation. This view has been challenged more recently by the realization that not all interventions are beneficial and, in fact, can do more harm than good in some cases by introducing further victimization and disruption into the child’s life (Melton, 1990; Wolfe and Jaffe, 1991). Thus, confusion remains between the needs and rights of children and families.
The traditional response of the juvenile court system that emerged from child welfare legislation was, generally, to maintain or reunify the entire family, including the abuser. This policy became controversial, however, as authorities argued that often the best protection for abused children is to assist their mothers in keeping the abusive father away from both the child and the mother. Some courts now advocate reunification for only the nonviolent family members.
Wald and colleagues (1988) examined whether maltreated children benefit more from foster care or from home care. They found that improved services to families, such as counseling, health care, parent education and support, can help to keep abused and neglected children in their home residences, but not without significant costs. That is, children in both settings showed signs of emotional stress and adjustment difficulties that related to the dilemmas in their respective environments. At home, they had to deal with ongoing family disorganization and conflict, and in foster care settings children had to confront disruption and adapt to a new family system. Therefore, the impact of either placement must be evaluated not only in terms of the children’s personal safety, but also in reference to their social, emotional, and intellectual development (a similar argument often