A few weeks ago, another Prevent Child Abuse America Chapter, PCA Arizona, posted this blog post about shifting the focus from a mandated reporter to a mandated supporter. According to Maryland law, mandated reporters, which include health practitioners, educators, human service workers, and police officers, are required to notify the Child Protective Services (CPS) or other appropriate law enforcement agency when there is a reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected. But, PCA Arizona’s wonderful “mandated supporter” concept reminded us how important it is to not only know what to look for and how to report child abuse and neglect, but to try and prevent it from happening in the first place.
Claire Louge, from PCA AZ said in the recent blog post “call me a dreamer, but I think the world is waking up to the fact that we can’t stop a problem just by dealing with its consequences. We’re having historic discussions right now about how to solve problems by addressing their roots.” The Family Tree provides the support and education to families and professionals everyday to help stop child abuse and neglect before it starts. To Claire’s point, The Family Tree focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences, like growing up in a house with domestic violence or substance abuse. We train professionals on how to identify trauma and ways to work to build resilience against it. Many of the parents we see in our classes were victims of childhood trauma themselves and need to heal from their own past experiences, so they do not pass the stress onto the next generation. In our parenting classes, we address topics like conflict prevention, problem solving and non-corporal discipline techniques. We also spend time talking about self-care and how it is important to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy to care for your children properly.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have seen a decline in reported cases of child abuse, but experts say child abuse is likely increasing with the added stress families are facing. Today, we want to focus on encouraging everyone in our community to be an advocate and supporter for one of the most vulnerable groups; children.
Child abuse affects children of every age, race, and income level. It often takes place in the home and comes from a person the child knows and trusts—a parent, relative, babysitter, or friend of the family. Often abusers are ordinary people caught in stressful situations: young mothers and fathers unprepared for the responsibilities of raising a child; overwhelmed single parents with no support system; families placed under great stress by poverty, divorce, or sickness; parents with alcohol or drug problems.
A first step in helping or getting help for an abused or neglected child is to identify the signs and symptoms of abuse. There are four major types of child maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.
Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or proper supervision.
- The child shows signs of malnutrition or begs, steals, or hoards food.
- The child has poor hygiene: matted hair, dirty skin, or severe body odor.
- The child has unattended physical or medical problems.
- The child states that no one is home to provide care.
- The child or caretaker abuses drugs or alcohol.
Physical abuse is intentional injury inflicted upon a child. It may include severe shaking, beating, kicking, punching, or burning that results in marks, bruising, or even death.
- The child has broken bones or unexplained bruises, burns, or welts in various stages of healing.
- The child is unable to explain an injury, or explanations given by the child or caretaker are inconsistent with the injury.
- The child is unusually frightened of a parent or caretaker or is afraid to go home.
- The child reports intentional injury by parent or caretaker.
Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act with a child by an adult or older child. It includes fondling or rubbing the child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and using the child for prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- The child has pain or bleeding in anal or genital area with redness or swelling.
- The child displays age-inappropriate play with toys, self, or others.
- The child has inappropriate knowledge about sex.
- The child reports sexual abuse.
Emotional abuse may occur when a parent fails to provide the understanding, warmth, attention, and supervision the child needs for healthy psychological growth.
- The parent or caretaker constantly criticizes, threatens, belittles, insults, or rejects the child with no evidence of love, support, or guidance.
- The child exhibits extremes in behavior from overly aggressive to overly passive.
- The child displays delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development.
One thing The Family Tree has always believed is that child abuse can be prevented. We need to come together as a community now more than ever to be part of the solution and support Maryland’s children.
What to do if you suspect Child Abuse or Neglect:
Reporting abuse or neglect can protect the child and get help for the family. Any concerned person can and should report suspected child abuse. A report is not an accusation; it is an expression of concern and a request for an investigation or evaluation of the child’s situation. If you suspect a child is in a dangerous situation, take immediate action. Your suspicion of child abuse or neglect is enough to make a report. You are not required to provide proof. Investigators in your community will make the determination of whether abuse or neglect has occurred. Almost every State has a law to protect people who make good-faith reports of child abuse from prosecution or liability.
If you believe a child is being abused or neglected call your local Child Protective Services agency. Numbers can be found by clicking the button below.
When calling to report child abuse, you will be asked for specific information, which may include:
- The child’s name and location
- The suspected perpetrator’s name and relationship to the child (if known)
- A description of what you have seen or heard regarding the abuse or neglect
- The names of any other people having knowledge of the abuse
- Your name and phone number
The names of reporters are not given out to families reported for child abuse or neglect; however, sometimes by the nature of the information reported, your identity may become evident to the family. You may request to make your report anonymously, but your report may be considered more credible and can be more helpful to CPS if you give your name.
Together, we can prevent child abuse and neglect!
If you need support, please call our Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337