Child Abuse and Neglect = Child Maltreatment
Child care providers must be aware of several things regarding the issue of child abuse and neglect. It is important to know the signs to watch for, how to prevent it, and how to report it. Another word for child abuse and neglect is child maltreatment.
Child maltreatment involves 4 types:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional maltreatment
Children are sometimes maltreated by their parent or guardian or other adult known to the child (such as a caregiver). Some risk factors for adults are:
- Psychological well-being and intellectual level of the adult
- History of maltreatment in the adult
- Attitudes toward children and child-rearing practices and family beliefs about child-rearing
- Some personality characteristics of the adult such as a short temper
Not all children are at the same risk. Children under the age of 3, for instance, are at greatest risk. Here are the child risk factors:
- Age - Children between birth and 3 years of age are at greatest risk for all types; Teenagers are at a greater risk for sexual abuse
- Chronic illnesses
- Difficult temperaments
Child maltreatment is not always obvious. Learning common warning signs can help you catch the problem early. However, not all warning signs mean abuse is happening. For more on the different signs of abuse and neglect go to Prevent Child Abuse Indiana’s website to read more.
When it comes to prevention, caregivers can do a lot to keep child abuse and neglect from happening or continuing. Caregivers should work at maintaining a good, trusting relationship with families. This gives families the sense that they can come to you for help, as well as gives you an understanding of how the family deals with things on a daily basis. Caregivers should also observe children carefully and document any suspected abuse or neglect, as well as immediately report what they observe if something is a concern. Caregivers should learn to recognize stress in families and intervene with helpful support.
As a child care provider you can do a lot to help prevent child abuse and neglect. Here are 6 protective factors that you can foster:
- Nurturing and attachment – adults who feel attached to their children are less likely to maltreat them.
- Knowledge of child development - Knowing how children are expected to behave at certain developmental levels can reduce parental frustration and stress, thus reducing the chances of child abuse.
- Support for families - When families are struggling, it is time to intervene with concrete support. This can be as simple as providing them with phone numbers for resources, or making them aware of what is available when times are tough.
- Less social isolation – adults who feel they are part of a social support system are less likely to maltreat their children. Provide a place for families to socialize with others as part of your program.
- Positive attitude - Encourage parents to seek support and take a positive attitude in times of stress.
- Good social skills - Make sure your program includes plenty of opportunities for children to develop their social skills. Children should never be blamed for abuse or neglect, but children who have good self-regulation and other social skills are less likely to be maltreated. Caregivers should also teach children how to recognize abuse and neglect and help them have confidence to report it to trusted adults.
Child care administrators/owners should do the following things:
- Work with state agencies to complete all required pre-employment screenings and checks.
- Interview candidates carefully and ask the right questions about past work history.
- Check references for all potential staff before hiring them.
- Maintain safe adult-child ratios at all times throughout the program, and set up program policies and environments so that children and caregivers are never isolated from the view of others.
- Assure that staff members are never one-on-one with a child where no one can see them.
- Assure that children and school-agers should not have the opportunity to spend one-to-one time unsupervised or isolated from view either (children can also be maltreated by other children).
- Provide pre-service and in-service training for all staff, especially child development training and safe sleeping practices training for all who work with infants.
- Mandate that all suspected abuse or neglect is reported, including any abuse by other staff.
There is also something important you need to consider as you care for young children - sometimes child care providers also need help in dealing with children. Sometimes children make you angry and you can’t control your response, or sometimes you might feel disconnected from a child in your care. If you ever recognize abusive behavior in yourself, call 1-800-CHILDREN or 2-1-1 (if you are in Indiana). You can also call 1-800-4-A-CHILD to find help in your local community.
Suspected child maltreatment:
It is important to reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault. Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his or her own words what happened. Don’t ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story. Avoid denial and remain calm. Finally, take action. Start the process for documenting and report the suspected abuse or neglect.
Who must report suspected child maltreatment? You are responsible for making the report... Any person who has a reason to believe that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect is required to report it. Privileged communication is not grounds for failing to report. This is one place where you are required to report regardless of your relationship to the child or the abuser. That means that anyone, such as a teacher, grandparent, or minister must report suspected child abuse or neglect when they become aware of it. Even if your program has internal policies that include the report being made by one particular person, it is still your personal responsibility to make sure the suspected abuse or neglect is reported to authorities. Here is a link to Indiana’s mandatory reporting law.
What if you’re not sure if the situation really is abuse or neglect? It doesn't matter, you must still report it. Experts will determine whether it is abuse or neglect, so you don't have to worry about that. You just need to make the report. Remember, any time you suspect child abuse or neglect, you MUST report it.
To report any suspected abuse or neglect, no matter where you live in Indiana you should call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
Child care providers MUST report child abuse and neglect, but REMEMBER...safety comes first! If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you try to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later after the initial professional intervention. Call 9-1-1.
If you would like more information or to take the Child Abuse Detection and Prevention Training for Child Care Providers, go to Training Central.