14 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
of children’s rights. Perhaps Gault’s greatest impact was its conclusion that children in
delinquency proceedings have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel. 12
Unquestionably, Gault played an important role in the decision ten years later to create
NACC. Other equally important developments are also part of the story. Altogether, four catalytic
events led to NACC’s founding in 1977, including Gault. A critical event occurred five years
before Gault, when Dr. C. Henry Kempe made the medical “discovery” of the battered-child
syndrome – a finding by medical health professionals that explained injuries sustained by children
(usually multiple fractures of bones) as the consequence of child abuse. 13 As the long-time
executive director of NACC, Marvin Ventrell, explains it:
[A] medical discovery would transform the child protection component of
[juvenile] court. Denver physician C. Henry Kempe and several of his colleagues
wrote a landmark article, ‘The Battered Child Syndrome,’ which was published in
the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1962. In this article, the authors
exposed the reality that significant numbers of parents and caretakers batter their
children—even to death.
‘The Battered Child Syndrome’ described a pattern of child abuse resulting in
certain clinical conditions. It further established a medical and psychiatric model of
the cause of child abuse. The article, marking the development of child abuse as a
distinct academic subject, is generally regarded as one of the most significant events
leading to professional and public awareness of the existence and magnitude of
child abuse and neglect in the United States and throughout the world.14
Kempe and his colleagues’ work at the University of Colorado greatly influenced national
laws involving child abuse through the rest of the decade, inspiring the modern child welfare
practice of creating hotlines to field reports of suspicious child abuse activity and the creation of
mandatory child abuse reporting laws. 15 The third event, undoubtedly inspired by Gault, occurred
in 1974 when Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which
required states to ensure that children were represented in child welfare proceedings by a guardian
ad litem or an attorney in order to qualify for federal child welfare money. 16 The final event
happened in 1976 when Kempe helped bring Donald Bross to the faculty at the University of
12 Id. at 1448. The related idea that children (regardless of the kind of proceeding) deserve to be represented by
somebody who is not already a party to the proceeding, has captured the minds and hearts of most professionals in
law ever since.
13 See C. Henry Kempe et al., The Battered Child Syndrome, 181 JAMA 17 (1962).
14 Marvin Ventrell, From Cause to Profession: The Development of Children’s Law and Practices, 32 COLO. L. REV.
65, 68 (2003).
15 Id. As Marvin Ventrell reports, “In response to ‘The Battered Child Syndrome,’ the U.S. Children’s Bureau held a
symposium on child abuse, which produced a recommendation for a model child abuse reporting law. With Colorado
leading the way, forty-four states had adopted mandatory reporting laws by 1967.” See also ALAN SUSSMAN &
STEPHAN COHEN, REPORTING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT: GUIDELINES FOR LEGISLATION (1975).
1642 U.S.C. §5106 a(b)( 2)(B)(xiii) (2017) (CAPTA provided states with funding for the investigation and prevention
of child maltreatment, conditioned on states’ adoption of a mandatory reporting law. It also conditioned funding on
the appointment of a representative for the child in each child welfare proceeding.).