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United States Society Failing at Protecting Children from Abuse

Now You Know

You Know What to Do

Scope of the Child Abuse Issue

Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. It’s a widespread war against our children that we have the power to stop, and understanding the issue is the first step. Just how bad is the issue of child abuse in the United States?

Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children).

The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

Yearly, referrals to state child protective services involve 6.6 million children, and around 3.2 million of those children are subject to an investigated report. 2

Report child abuse within 24 hours when suspicion or  belief of a child suffering abuse.   Mandatory reporters are professionals who have frequent contact with children, generally those who work in health, mental health, education, law enforcement, child care, and social work, but we all have the responsibility to report when we suspect a child is being abused.

Child / Parent / Family Dynamics

Child abuse occurs in family systems, so when looking for signs of child abuse, do not only hone in on the child.  The parent and family dynamics may hold just as many, if not more signs than seen in the child alone.  Such as:

  • Parents who have unrealistic expectations of physical or academic performance for a child
  • Parents who were abused or neglected as children
  • Parents who look to their child to meet their own personal/emotional needs
  • Families blaming one child for all of their problems
  • Insistence of using physical discipline in school
  • Families who rarely interact with each other, seem cold and distant

Signs of Possible Physical Abuse

  • Extensive bruises, especially in area of the body that are not normally vulnerable (e.g., behind ears)
  • Bruises of different colors (which may indicate various stages of healing)
  • Frequent bruises around the head or face, the abdomen or midway between the wrist and elbow
  • Bruises in specific shapes, such as handprints, hangar marks, or belt buckles
  • Marks that indicate hard blows from an object, such as an electrical cord or other whip-like object that makes a burn around the body
  • Bruises on multiple parts of the body (which may indicate blows from different directions)
  • Unexplained internal bleeding that might be observed as discoloration under the skin or blood filled lumps
  • Extreme sensitivity to pain or complaints of soreness and stiffness or awkward movements as if caused by pain
  • Adult-sized, human bite marks
  • Burns, especially those that appear to be from objects such as cigarettes, irons, etc.
  • Injuries for which the explanation given is inadequate.

Signs of Possible Emotional Abuse

  • Extremes in behavior (maniacally happy or very depressed)
  • Withdrawn
  • Self-destructive, self-mutilating
  • Destructive behavior
  • Cruelty to others, including animals
  • Rocking, thumb-sucking that is developmentally inappropriate, or head-banging
  • Enuresis; wetting or soiling one’s self at an age that is developmentally inappropriate
  • Substance abuse
  • Physical manifestations, such as frequent stomachaches or headaches or unexplained weight gain or loss
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