At a conference I attended this week I was reminded of the need to share this information with not only "professionals" but the every day citizen, ministry leader, pastor and parent. We may not all be legally held accountable to report, but morally and scripturally I think we should!
Proverbs 31:8 and Psalms 82:3-4 remind us that we as God's people are responsible to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the helpless.
So how does someone go about reporting something like this?
If you ever suspect or have evidence that a child is being physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused or neglected you should contact Child Protective Services (CPS) in your area. The Careline for Fresno County is 559-255-8320. You can also file a report and mail or fax it within 36 hours http://ag.ca.gov/childabuse/pdf/ss_8572.pdf. This is good to look over before you call in a report so you know what kind of information they need.
What is legally considered child abuse or neglect?
Here are a few indicators of child abuse given by the Fresno County Department of Social Services:
- The parent or caregiver is unable or unwilling to meet child's basic needs and provide a safe environment.
- The parent or caregiver tells you of homicidal thoughts/feeling towards a child
- Uses out of control discipline
- Berates, humiliates or belittles child constantly
- Has extreme unrealistic expectations of child
- The child displays sexualized behavior
- The child is fearful/ withdrawn or overly aggressive
These physical indicators can be bruises, burns, bite marks, cuts, head injuries, fractures, internal injuries.
Here are a few indicators of neglect given by the Fresno County Department of Social Services:
- The child is lacking adequate medical or dental care
- Child is often sleepy or hungry
- Is not appropriately dressed by season and has reoccurring poor personal hygiene
- The child has chronic lice (This is only in extreme cases where thee school or someone has contacted the parent or caregiver multiple times and nothing was done about it so the child has such severe lice that he/she has open sores on her scalp)
- There is no supervision for the child's age
An interesting fact about Fresno County- 98% of the cases of allegation are because of neglect. We are a city with one of the highest concentrations of condensed poverty.
Sometimes people feel that reporting on suspected abuse or neglect is "tattling" on these families and tearing them apart. I want to encourage someone like this to understand that a child's life could be at stake. We don't just report to remove children from families but to get them services they need and attempt to strengthen a family! The family that you are concerned about may be at risk and reporting them to CPS may allow them to get the help/support they need to parent.
So stand up and help families and children be safe!