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National Child Abuse Prevention Month




April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month with an aim to recognizing the importance of families and communities working together to protect children. Childhelp (www.childhelphotline.org/identify-abuse) puts it very simply: Child abuse is doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the first step to helping children who may be experiencing maltreatment is to recognize the signs. A single incident does not necessarily mean that abuse or neglect is occurring in the family, but if a sign is seen repeatedly or in combination with other signs, it may require a closer look at the situation.

The Children’s Code is Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes of 2023 which provides definitions of causes of harm to a child by a parent or caregiver. While there are many professionals who are designated mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, anyone can report if they have a reasonable cause to suspect maltreatment. Colorado law also states that investigating reports of child abuse shall take into account culturally accepted child-rearing practices of the culture in which the child participates {CRS 19-1-103 definition VIII (b)}. Reports to child protective services can be made anonymously. In an emergency, call 911 to ensure the immediate safety and medical treatment (if needed) of the child. If it is not an emergency, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 844-CO-4-KIDS (844-264-5437) where a certified call-taker is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect, as well as other situations included in the Colorado Children’s Code such as exposure to controlled substances or trafficking.

·         Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury caused by an adult responsible for a child.

·         Emotional (psychological) abuse consists of patterns of behavior that interfere with a child’s intellectual development and sense of self-worth. 

·         Sexual abuse is any activity that engages a child in sexual behavior or explicit conduct, including forcing a child to view sex acts or organs.

·         Neglect is the failure to provide adequately for a child’s basic needs, including physical, medical, educational, and emotional. Living in poverty does not equate with neglect, although conditions of poverty do make providing basic needs more difficult.

What am I looking for?

There are signs to watch for in children that may be specific to one category of abuse, for example, unexplained bruises or other marks may signify physical abuse. There are also many symptoms that overlap among different types of abuse, and children may experience abuse in multiple ways. The following is not a complete list of things to watch out for that could signify one or more types of abuse are occurring.

·         Child reports injury or sexual abuse, talks about taking care of siblings or says no one is at home

·         Child seems frightened of caregivers or other adults, seems anxious, withdrawn, watchful, or appears overly mature or child-like for their age

·         Lack of self-confidence, anxiety, phobias, eating or sleep disorders, anti-social or destructive behaviors like vandalism, running away, substance abuse, sudden changes to school attendance or performance

·         Untreated, unexplained, visible injuries in various stages of healing, aggression and/or violent outbursts toward peers, shows a tendency to abuse animals

·         Otherwise unexplainable health issues such as stomach aches, skin disorders, weight fluctuation, urinary, bowel, or vaginal problems

·         Frequent absence from school, hunger, lack of clothing appropriate to the weather, stealing or hoarding food, poor personal hygiene

You may notice things in the adult caregivers that are warning signs as well. If an adult responsible for a child shows a lack of concern for the child, uses harsh discipline, belittles or humiliates the child, is using or abusing substances, fails to provide age-appropriate supervision, abuses animals, or behaves in otherwise inappropriate ways, there may be cause for concern for the safety of the child.

It is important to remember that most families are doing the best they can and that is going to look different for everyone and through different life situations. One of the goals of Child Abuse Prevention Month is to recognize that child abuse is 100% preventable and relies on families and communities working together to develop protective supports and help families build resilience to life’s stressors. Let’s work together to make the safety and wellbeing of families a priority.

 

Information for this article was collected from these sources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Additional resources can be downloaded from their website www.childwelfare.gov

You can read the Children’s Code of the Colorado Revised Statutes 2023 at this link: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/olls/crs2023-title-19.pdf

For more detailed information, you can also download the Colorado Department of Human Services brochure Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect which is published in both English and Spanish Here

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