April is child abuse prevention month. In the United States, Child Welfare employees work to ensure the safety of more than 3.5 million kids annually. In 2018, an estimated 1.9 million children received prevention services. 676,000 children were determined to be victims of abuse and neglect and of those 1,770 resulted in death. That is nearly 5 child abuse-related deaths per day.
There are likely many more cases that are not reported. Child abuse and neglect happen at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all regions and levels of education. Boys and girls are maltreated in equal numbers. Children less than 4 years old are at the greatest risk for severe injury and death from abuse.
The most common abusers are parents, other family members, or an unmarried partner of a parent. Children who suffer maltreatment are at higher risk for cognitive delays, emotional difficulties, harm to the development of nervous and immune systems, and increased health problems as adults.
It is important to recognize, help prevent, and report suspected child abuse and neglect because its lasting effects can impact us all. Small acts from everyone in a community can help save a child from harm.
The first step is to recognize child abuse. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or involve neglect of a child by someone who has responsibility for the child. It is common for more than one type of abuse to occur at a time. It is important to note a single sign does not mean maltreatment has occurred but if signs appear repeatedly or in combination a closer look at the situation may be warranted.
· Physical abuse involves non-accidental physical injury including but not limited to hitting, kicking, biting, burning, choking, shaking, and throwing. It often leaves bruising at different levels of healing, marks on the body consistent with objects or handprints, or unexplained bruises, black eyes, or broken bones.
· Emotional abuse involves withholding love, support, or guidance from a child. Emotional abuse is as strong a predictor of subsequent impairment in child development as physical abuse. The caregiver may appear unconcerned about the child. The child may show overly compliant or demanding behavior, be extremely passive or aggressive. They may speak of attempting suicide or they may report a lack of attachment to the parent.
· Sexual Abuse can involve engaging a child in sexual acts, exposing a child to sexual activities, indecent exposure, or exploitation of a child through pornographic material. The child may show signs of regression such as bedwetting, rocking, head banging, stranger anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, suddenly refuse to change clothes in the gym, or refusal to participate in physical activities.
· Neglect is failing to provide the basic needs for a child including food, clothing, shelter, proper hygiene, education, and medical attention. Neglect can also involve abandoning a child or putting a child in unsupervised or dangerous situations. The child may miss a lot of school, beg or steal from classmates or friends, or lack medical/dental care. They may have dirty clothes or clothing inappropriate for the weather.
The next important step is to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Call the state hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437). This hotline is available 24/7. If you see a child in a life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately. For prevention services, contact Family and Youth Initiatives at 719-530-2500 or visit our website at chaffeecountyfyi.org.