Do Your Part: What to Do When You Suspect Child Abuse
Here’s what you can do if you suspect that a child is being abused at home.
Child abuse is an issue more prevalent than many realize. Did you know that a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds? In fact, over 4 million child maltreatment referral reports are received every year.
Child abuse has significant negative impacts on our economy and society. These incidences are tied to mental health disorders, addictions, sexual and reproductive health issues, lost productivity, health care costs, child welfare expenditure, criminal justice expenditure, and more.
In some states, it’s legally mandatory to report all suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities. Here’s what you can do if you suspect child abuse:
Understanding the Signs of Child Abuse
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g) defines child abuse and neglect as “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
There are different types of child abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
Here are some signs you should look out for:
- Bruises, burns, welts, and other injuries that can’t be explained, show marks with patterns (e.g., belt, hand), and are at different stages of healing.
- The child may be afraid to go home, avoid physical contacts, wear clothing that doesn’t match the weather (e.g., long sleeve shirts on hot days to cover up bruises) and withdraw from social interactions.
- Bloody, torn, or stained underwear and pain or itching around the genitals that cause problems with sitting or walking.
- Uncharacteristic speech problems or delays in learning and emotional development.
- Displaying extreme behaviors, such as acting overly demanding, rebellious, or obedient.
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches, with no clear cause.
- Stunted growth, poor weight gain, and failure to receive the necessary medical or dental care.
What to Do If You Suspect Child Abuse
If you suspect child abuse, you should act immediately to avoid further harm being inflicted on the child:
- If you’re not entirely sure if a child is abused, talk to him/her and keep track of the symptoms to uncover patterns. You can also alert the child’s teachers and healthcare provider.
- In some states, mandatory reporters (e.g., teachers, physicians, counselors) are required by law to report child abuse, while in other states, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it.
- Report any suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities, such as child protective services (CPS) in the state where the child resides.
- Seek help by calling the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4-A-CHILD (1.800.422.4453).
If you suspect a child is being abused at home and need further advice on what you can do to report the case and protect the child, you can contact a family law attorney to help ensure that you’re following the correct procedures.
Steve has been writing legal-centric articles for several years now. Joining Herrig & Vogt, a group of lawyers educated in family law, in 2019 as the Content Marketing Manager has offered him to expand on his writing in personal injury, family law, and much more. Steve strives to offer the public advice on various laws covering a variety of practices.