Health and Family Services Cabinet
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month; Report suspected abuse and neglect to (877) KYSAFE1
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 4, 2012) – April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) are reminding citizens that reporting suspected child abuse or neglect is the law.
“Protecting our children should be everyone’s number one priority, and during the month of April, we are raising awareness about the warning signs of child abuse and how to report it,” Gov. Beshear said. “The Cabinet works year round to educate our families and investigate every aspect of abuse. Together, we can make Kentucky a safer place for all our children.”
Kentucky law states that those who suspect child abuse or neglect must report it to the local office of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) or law enforcement.
“Keeping kids safe is everyone’s responsibility,” said Teresa James, acting commissioner of DCBS. “Our staff takes every report seriously.”
Reporting is simple, and it’s anonymous. DCBS has changed its centralized, toll-free reporting hotline to an easy-to-remember number: (877 KYSAFE1.
Calls are routed to one of eight regional intake offices and from there are assigned to the appropriate county and staff for investigation.
Jim Grace, assistant director of the DCBS Division of Protection and Permanency, said that in 2010, there were approximately 47,000 child abuse and neglect reports in Kentucky.
Grace said many children were the focus of multiple reports.
“Rarely does abuse or neglect 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 in 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 removal through a court 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 employee will work with families to assess strengths and needs and determine what services are available 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 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 of the child 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 may 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. For example, if a child is not appropriately clothed for the season, the family may be referred to a clothing bank.
“We are committed to helping families by addressing the problems that can cause stress and lead to abuse and neglect,” he said.
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’s partners in prevention.”
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.
PCAK offers a toll-free hotline – (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.
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