Health and Family Services Cabinet
April Recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month; Reporting suspected child abuse or neglect is the law
Note to producers and reporters: Download an audio clip of Division of
Protection and Permanency Assistant Director Jim Grace discussing child abuse prevention at
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 10, 2008) – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the state agency responsible for child protective services is reminding Kentuckians that reporting suspected child abuse or neglect is the law.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) offers a statewide, toll-free hot line – 1-800 752-6200 – that citizens can call to make a report.
“Just picking up the phone could save a child from harm,” said Jim Grace, assistant director of the Division of Protection and Permanency in the CHFS Department for Community Based Services. ”If you see obvious abuse or even suspect it, you are obligated to report it.
“Reporting is our most important tool in stopping the mistreatment of children.”
Callers remain anonymous, and reports are confidential.
Last year, the cabinet received reports of more than 68,164 children being abused or neglected by a caregiver. About 32,627 were accepted for investigation, and 9,946 of those were substantiated.
Grace said many children were the focus of multiple reports.
“Rarely does abuse happen just one time,” he said.
After receiving a report, DCBS staff determines if the referral meets criteria for abuse. An investigation is conducted within 24 hours on most cases, but in cases where the child may be in immediate danger, a worker will investigate within the hour. Law enforcement may also become involved to investigate whether a crime has been committed or whether children need to be removed for safety. A judge makes the final decision about a child’s temporary removal through an emergency custody order.
If a family must be separated for the child’s protection, DCBS tries to reunite the family under better circumstances.
“Keeping families together is our goal,” Grace said. “We want children to return home to a stronger, safer family.”
Grace said a social services worker will work with families to assess strengths and needs and determine what services are needed from community partners.
“We try to teach families that abuse doesn’t need to be a part of their lives,” Grace said. “We can help remove the barriers that prevent parents from providing for their children’s well-being.”
Some reports aren’t accepted if they don’t meet criteria to warrant an investigation.
“If there is a question about whether a particular situation is abuse or neglect, we always prefer the person make the call and talk over what has come to their attention,” Grace said. “Our social service workers are experts who can help callers sort things out. They collect specific information that allows us to know whether we have the authority to investigate a specific incident.”
Grace said vital information to have when reporting abuse and neglect includes the child’s name, approximate age, address, parents’ names and location at the time the call is made. Specific information about why you believe the child is being abused or neglected and by whom, as well as the names and phone numbers of other people who might have information about the reported abuse or neglect, is also important.
If a child is in immediate danger, you should call 911 or local police, Grace said.
When the caller’s concerns do not meet DCBS’ criteria for abuse, the family may be referred to other agencies for needed resources. An example is if a child is not appropriately clothed for the season, the family may be referred to a clothing bank.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet’s community partners, is a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Kentucky's children through its outreach.
“Abuse and neglect are associated with short- and long-term consequences that affect not only the child and family, but also society as a whole,” said PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred. “PCAK gives parents and caregivers expert guidance on child safety. We’re proud to be one of DCBS’ partners in prevention.”
PCAK offers a toll-free hot line -- (800) CHILDREN – that provides information and referrals to help prevent child abuse. Visit them online at www.pcaky.org.
Learn more about the cabinet’s efforts to prevent child abuse online at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/childsafety.htm.
PCAK suggests several tips to help prevent child abuse.
Child Abuse Prevention Strategies
— Never discipline a child when your anger is out of control.
— Never leave a child unattended, especially in a car.
— Learn the signs of physical abuse. Take note of bruises, cuts, burns or other injuries a child cannot explain.
— Teach children the difference between “good touches,” “bad touches” and “confusing touches.”
— When a child tells you he or she doesn’t want to be with someone, this could be a red flag. Listen to the child, and believe what he or she says.
— Be aware of changes in a child’s behavior or attitude, and inquire about it.
— Teach children what to do if you become separated while away from home.
— Teach children the correct names of his or her private body parts.
— Be alert for any talk that reveals premature sexual understanding.
— Pay attention when someone shows greater than normal interest in a child.
— Make certain that your child’s school or day care center will release him or her only to you or someone you designate.
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