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According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, child abuse and neglect is one of the nation’s most serious concerns.  During 2008, an estimated 772,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect:  71% neglect, 16% physical abuse, 9% sexual, 7% psychological abuse. Per state, you may be required to report child abuse or neglect, such as: teachers, day care providers, EMS, coaches, camp staff.  Locations in which this can occur, includes, but not limited to child care centers, schools, religious institutions, recreational and athletic programs, camps, residential facilities, and even worst, at home.

Neglect – definition: despite available resources, the parent fails to provide food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and/or doesn’t seek medical attention when needed. Indicators: child looks undernourished, often hungry or lethargic, isn’t sleeping well, chronic injuries to lack of supervision – including being harmed by other people, lack of hygiene, inappropriately dressed for the weather, poor ability to relate to others, poor self-esteem, attachment difficulties, social problems, inability to say no to inappropriate requests.

Physical – definition: any act, regardless of intent, results in a non-accidental physical injury to a child. This often occurs when a parent is frustrated and strikes, shakes, or even throws a child.  Physical abuse occurs when a parent/adult burns, bites, or cuts a child, possibly even twisting of limbs. Indicator: Questionable bruises, possibly on the face or on the mouth, torso, back, buttocks, or thighs. Burns on soles, palms, back or buttocks, submersion burns from dipping the child into hot water, stove to burns, rope burns. Questionable fractures: nose, face. Questionable cuts, scrapes to: face, eyes, genitalia. There is a difference between corporal punishment/discipline and physical abuse. Abuse and accidental differences: accidental cuts and scrapes usually occur in boney areas, less likely in soft tissue areas.

Sexual – definition: any illegal sexual act upon a child. This is a complex type of abuse with significant implications for the child victim. Sexual abuse often does not have physical signs or behavioral indicators. It is emotionally confusing for the child. This includes incest, rape, indecent exposure, fondling, child prostitution, child pornography. Indicators: acknowledgement of age inappropriate knowledge of sexual behavior, expressions of an unknown fear of a person or place, avoiding of an adult, nightmares, guilt, shame, anxiety, mood swings. Take reports serious.

How to respond – indirect disclosure, disguised disclosure, disclosure with strings, be available to listen, don’t promise you won’t tell anyone else.

Report these situations to a local child protective service office.