We hear in the news time and again of parents crossing the line from abuse to murder. And while not everyone is a mandated reporter, many of us want to know what we can do when we suspect or witness abuse.
Many people hesitate to report abuse to DFCS because they worry a child will be worse off in “the system” than in the abusive home. And while this is an understandable concern (there are many reports of children being taken from their homes), it is more common for DFCS to leave children in their homes while parents take classes to learn the parenting skills they need to become better parents. Likewise,whether or not you’re a mandated reporter, making the choice to report suspected abuse could not only save a child’s life, it could provide a family with the tools and resources they need to move from abuse to connection.
First, let’s take a closer look at what does not constitute abuse according to U.S. law. 31 nations fully ban corporal punishment, and there is a growing body of longitudinal research which shows the deleterious affects of spanking on a child’s physical, mental and emotional health.
- 30% of American parents begin spanking when their child is under a year old (LINK)
- 50% of all toddlers are spanked three or more times a week (LINK)
- Over 90% of all toddlers are spanked at least once (LINK)
- Over 88 million Americans are physically abused as children (LINK)
- Parents who believe in spanking are 4 – 7 times more likely to abuse their children (LINK)
- Most physical child abuse begins with physical punishment (LINK)
(Research Links from StopSpanking.Org)
But the physical punishment of children is legal in the United States, both in homes and in schools. So, unless there are bruises, sores, or multiple breaks, spanking is not considered abuse. Please consider offering emotional support and positive encouragement to these families, and continue to spread the word on peaceful alternatives to the physical punishment of children.
- Bruises, Cuts, Repeated Breaks
- Deprivation of Food or Shelter
- Domestic Violence in the Home (between adults)
If you know of a child who shows signs of being physically abused, who is deprived of food or shelter, or who is witness to domestic violence between adults in their homes, you can report them to your local Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS). Click HERE to find your state child abuse and neglect reporting numbers.
You can also call Childhelp®, a national crisis, counseling, and referral service that is staffed 24/7 with professional crises counselors. All calls are anonymous, and you can talk to someone about your suspicions as well as about any negative reaction you may be having about witnessing or reporting abuse.
- Childhelp National Hotline 1-800-422-4453 (1-800-4-A-Child)
- Social workers
- School personnel
- Health-care workers
- Mental health professionals
- Child care providers
- Medical examiners or coroners
- Law enforcement officers
- Persons working with high-risk groups