Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse

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According to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, Georgia is currently ranked 39th in the nation for child well-being, and Prevent Child Abuse America estimated that as of 2012 child abuse and neglect costs the state anywhere from $2 billion to $3 billion annually.

To help combat child abuse and neglect, certain laws exist to help ensure that abuse or suspected abuse is reported and done so in a timely manner.

Workers and volunteers who participate in child-related industries such as schools, medicine or even church groups with children’s programs were

recently invited to attend a free training session to help teach their staff the signs of abuse in children and what to do once those signs occur.

The event was taught by Maureen Oginga from Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and was hosted by the Spalding Collaborative on Wednesday at the Spalding County Extension office.

During the training session, attendees were instructed on the laws governing mandated reporting — the legally required notification of authorities when child abuse, exploitation or neglect is known or suspected. They were also taught the four types of abuse and warning signs, dos and don’ts for when a child discloses abuse and the procedure for reporting suspected child abuse.

Oginga said that a mandated reporter has 24 hours to make a report of suspected maltreatment and that in the state of Georgia, workers and volunteers who work with a child-focused organization are required to report suspected abuse to DFCS.

The four types of abuse are physical, neglect, sexual and emotional.

Physical abuse is any non-accidental physical injury of a child. Some signs of possible physical abuse include unexplained bruises and welts, unexplained burns, unexplained fractures or dislocations and bald patches on the scalp.

Children who have suffered physical abuse will often display behavioral signs as well, such as feeling that they deserve punishment or wearing inappropriate clothing as a means to hide injuries.

Oginga said that the second type of abuse, neglect, is the most common type. This can take the form of a child not having enough food, clothing or shelter. It can also be emotional or educational neglect. Some possible physical indicators of neglect are a child that is chronically hungry, has poor hygiene, or has a consistent lack of supervision. A few behavioral indicators are stealing food, constant fatigue or assuming adult responsibilities.

Sexual abuse, Oginga said, is most commonly perpetrated by an individual who is known to the victim and one-third of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by another child. She said that studies show that one in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

Some behavioral signs that sexual abuse may have occurred include inappropriate sex play or advanced sexual knowledge and promiscuity. Physical signs may include difficulty walking or sitting or the presence of a sexually transmitted disease.

The final type of abuse, emotional abuse, occurs when there is “excessive or aggressive parental behavior that places unreasonable demands on a child to perform above his or her capabilities.” The training materials provided during the class said this is frequently verbal abuse and that it typically occurs over a period of time.

This type of abuse can give rise to speech disorders, delayed physical development, antisocial or destructive behaviors or even neurotic traits.

Attendees learned that when a child discloses abuse, they should talk privately with the child, reassure the child and listen openly and calmy. It was recommended that they write down the facts and words as the child states them and to respect the child’s need for privacy. Then, the abuse or suspicion of abuse should be reported to a local child protection agency or law enforcement.

If you know of or even have “reasonable suspicions” of child abuse, you can make an anonymous report by dialing 1-855-GACHILD (1-855-422-4453). If a child is in immediate danger, dial 911.BY JENNIFER REYNOLDS STAFF WRITER [email protected]  Jun 13

If you missed the Mandated Reporter Training, You can do it on line.