Child abuse is harm to, or neglect of, a child by another person, whether adult or child. Child abuse happens in all cultural, ethnic, and income groups. Child abuse can be physical, emotional - verbal, sexual or through neglect. Abuse may cause serious injury to the child and may even result in death.
Signs of possible abuse include:
- Unexplained or repeated injuries such as welts, bruises, or burns.
- Injuries that are in the shape of an object (belt buckle, electric cord, etc.)
- Injuries not likely to happen given the age or ability of the child. For example, broken bones in a child too young to walk or climb.
- Disagreement between the child's and the parent's explanation of the injury.
- Unreasonable explanation of the injury.
- Obvious neglect of the child (dirty, undernourished, inappropriate clothes for the weather, lack of medical or dental care).
- Fearful behavior.
Emotional - Verbal Abuse
- Aggressive or withdrawn behavior.
- Shying away from physical contact with parents or adults.
- Afraid to go home.
- Child tells you he/she was sexually mistreated.
- Child has physical signs such as:
- difficulty in walking or sitting.
- stained or bloody underwear.
- genital or rectal pain, itching, swelling, redness, or discharge
- bruises or other injuries in the genital or rectal area.
- Child has behavioral and emotional signs such as:
- difficulty eating or sleeping.
- soiling or wetting pants or bed after being potty trained.
- acting like a much younger child.
- excessive crying or sadness.
- withdrawing from activities and others.
- talking about or acting out sexual acts beyond normal sex play for age.
Abuse can happen in any family, regardless of any special characteristics. However, in dealing with parents, be aware of characteristics of families in which abuse may be more likely:
- Families who are isolated and have no friends, relatives, church or other support systems.
- Parents who tell you they were abused as children.
- Families who are often in crisis (have money problems, move often).
- Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Parents who are very critical of their child.
- Parents who are very rigid in disciplining their child.
- Parents who show too much or too little concern for their child.
- Parents who feel they have a difficult child.
- Parents who are under a lot of stress.
If you suspect child abuse of any kind, you should:
- Take the child to a quiet, private area.
- Gently encourage the child to give you enough information to evaluate whether abuse may have occurred.
- Remain calm so as not to upset the child.
- If the child reveals the abuse, reassure him/her that you believe him/her, that he/she is right to tell you, and that he/she is not bad.
- Tell the child you are going to talk to persons who can help him/her.
- Return the child to the group (if appropriate).
- Record all information.
- Immediately report the suspected abuse to the proper local authorities. In most states, reporting suspected abuse is required by law.
If you employ other providers or accept volunteers to help you care for the children in your facility, you should check their background for a past history of child abuse or other criminal activity. Contact your local police department. Many states require that child care providers have background and criminal history checks.
Dealing with child abuse is emotionally difficult for a provider. As a child care provider, you should get training in recognizing and reporting child abuse before you are confronted with a suspected case. If you suspect a case of child abuse, you may need to seek support from your local health department, child support services department, or other sources within your area.
*reproduced from a CDC guide to intentional injuries.
Child Abuse Internet Resources:
- Child Abuse and Incest Support: About.com guide to articles, sites and other resources about child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Child Abuse: Child abuse affects many children of all ages. Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse and what to do if you suspect that a child is being physically, emotionally or sexually abused.
- Child Abuse Prevention Network: "the Internet Nerve Center for professionals in the field of child abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse and neglect are our key areas of concern. We provide unique and powerful tools for all workers to support the identification, investigation, treatment, adjudication, and prevention of child abuse and neglect."
- End Child Abuse: "a community of people dedicated to breaking the cycle of child abuse and neglect, serving and strengthening children and families."
- National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information: The Clearinghouse is a national resource for professionals and others seeking information on child abuse and neglect and child welfare.
- Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents: An Overview: "In the past two decades, there has been growing recognition of the prevalence of domestic violence in our society. Moreover, it has become apparent that some individuals are at greater risk for victimization than others. Domestic violence has adverse effects on individuals, families, and society in general."
- Parenting the Sexually Abused Child: This article will provide you with some basic information about child sexual abuse as well as some special considerations for parents who adopt these children.
- How to Report Suspected Child Abuse: If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you should call your local Child Protective Services (CPS) agency or the CPS agency in the State in which the abuse occurred. We have listed below the toll free numbers for the States that have them.