CHARLESTON – Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman recently spoke about child abuse and neglect case law at Tufts University.
Kaufman, a graduate of the Medford, Mass., school, led the workshop between undergraduates and faculty on Nov. 10. The workshop, on child abuse and neglect case law, covered leading national cases from the West Virginia courts including the constitutional right of natural parents, and “the best interests of the child.”
Kaufman said he decided to speak at the workshop “because West Virginia’s issues and our state’s leading case law on child abuse is important” and “because the problems we have in West Virginia are certainly not isolated from the rest of the world.”
“The national news reported this week that one of 30 American children are homeless”, Kaufman said. “And in nearly every family, the needs of public transportation, education and gainful employment are sorely lacking.”
Kaufman’s workshop covered court improvement periods for parents, battered spouse syndrome, failure of parents to protect children, removal of children from their home and termination of parental rights when family preservation simply cannot be achieved.
Kaufman said students in pre-law, social work, psychology, child development, political science, anthropology and health care as well as law students from an area law school attended his lectures. He also gave a separate lecture to pre-law students on the court system and the selection process of trial judges in America, both elected and appointed.
Kaufman noted that 2013 data from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals showed 3,681 child abuse statewide, including 323 for Kanawha County. That is nearly triple the number in 2000.
“We have seen a huge, increase in child abuse cases; and an increase in the number of children per family that are subjects of these cases,” he said. “Family planning is almost non-existent with teenage pregnancies involved in abuse proceeding and teenage pregnancies and child birth have problems that are as serious in most of these cases as you can get.
“West Virginia, however, can be proud of the efforts the state courts have made in child abuse law. I felt it was important, at my own expense, to make further known what our courts have done in the child abuse arena.
“Children are our top priority, in our West Virginia courts, as they should be.”