The following post discusses child abuse which is a difficult topic to address. If at any time you feel triggered reading through this material, please contact The Family Place Utah’s Emergency 24/7 Hotline at (435) 752-8880.
In 2019 there were over 10,000 substantiated cases of child abuse in Utah, 383 of those cases were located in Cache County. The state of Utah is a mandatory reporting state, meaning that if we suspect abuse we report it. That is not just for non-profit agencies, educators, and coaches, this is for ALL citizens of Utah.
Signs of abuse
There are four different types of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. Most adults can identify signs of physical abuse, such as bruises and visible marks, but it is important to keep in mind the other signs of abuse taking place. If you notice a child’s personality and self- esteem start to change drastically or perhaps there are sudden changes in their behaviors such as unusual fears, you may have encountered a case of abuse.
Neglect can be difficult to identify because it is not about being abundant with wealth.
As a caretaker, we want to be able to meet our child’s everyday needs, food, clothing and shelter. Shelters will look different for every family, where one family has a private room for each child, another may have siblings sharing a room. Identifying neglect is being able to differentiate between a caretaker who is actively working on providing needs versus ignoring what is required for a child to thrive.
Filing a child abuse reports is never an easy decision. An important factor to consider is that a child may not fully understand that they are being abused since it could be a common occurrence within their household. Since all kids are prone to bumps and bruises, you may want to get more information before making assumptions. You could ask open-ended questions such as “What happened to your arm?” or “How did you get that cut?” Phrasing the question in this way allows for the child to give you their full response without the chance of a question leading to a prompted answer. To help ensure that the child feels at ease when opening up to you, talk with the child in a safe space, such as a comfort corner.
The reporting procedure can be a daunting process, especially if you are feeling unsure about reporting. ChildWelfare.gov provides helpful information for who to call and what steps to take if you suspect child abuse or maltreatment.
When faced with this difficult situation, it is important to approach the situation with a level head and a focus on strengthening their family, not making big accusations. For some situations, it may be best to take some time to talk with the children or family and collect additional information. However, if they are in immediate and serious danger, call 911.
Perhaps there is a cultural difference at hand, and you do not want to jump to conclusions. An important factor to keep in mind is that acceptable behaviors in one culture may be considered abusive in another. It is important that as a society we become aware and make the effort to understand other cultures norms while advocating positive child welfare. Let’s say that you are in a store and notice a child crying and the mother not paying attention, would you think the child was being neglected? It is important to understand that you are only seeing a snapshot of a child’s experience and there are many factors involved. When you suspect child abuse, having an honest, respectful conversation with the caregiver can go a long way. When bringing up concerns, present facts only, not assumptions. Here is a good example of how to address a concern with a parent:
“Hey, I noticed that Tommy had diaper rash this morning.”
“Yes, he’s recently developed a rash to this ingredient, and it turned out to be in most diaper creme. The doctor said it will lessen in a few days.”
You brought the concern up to the parent and received more clarity on the situation.
Families at Risk
As a parent, there are a significant number of stressors we often face in our everyday lives: a long day at work, money problems, or even family issues. We would never imagine becoming abusive or negligent, we are most likely stressed because we are trying to provide for our families in the best way we can. It is a harsh reality that if preventative factors are not put in place, we could be potentially placing ourselves in a situation where abuse could happen. So what exactly could we do, as a caregiver, to strengthen ourselves so we can strengthen our family?
Families come in all shapes and sizes with different cultural backgrounds; it’s one of the many reasons families are so beautiful. We also recognize that it is a difficult to raise a family after a day of frustration and stress. If you find yourself in a position where you may harm your child, find a safe place for your child while you seek the assistance you need. The Family Place Utah offers 24-hour crisis care for families in need along with parenting classes and counselling services. We want to make sure that you as a parent have all the resources you need to increase your parenting skills and be able to help you work through any of challenges you are facing.
The Family Place Utah’s mission is to strengthen families and protect children. We want to give every family the best possible tools available to ensure a loving, healthy family dynamic.
Because each one of us has the ability to create positive childhoods that will last a lifetime! It only takes one person to make a difference.