What to Do About Child Abuse in Arizona
The Child Protection Service provides services to protect children and young adults from significant harm that is caused by abuse or neglect within the family unit. It ensures that these minors receive services that will allow them to deal with the impact that these negative factors have on their lives, so they can heal. The agency focuses on the well being and development of those who have been abused or neglected and teaches them to live happy and productive lives.
Professionals who are in authority of children are legally responsible to report abuse and neglect to the Child Protection Service. This includes doctors, nurses, police and school teachers. Though not legally obligated to do so, any person who suspects a child or young adult is being abused or neglected should submit a report to the Child Protection Service in their area. The Protection worker will then investigate the situation and assess if the child or children are in harm’s way.
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Signs of Child Abuse
People who have authority over children and young adults know the indicators of abuse and neglect. When any of these factors are present, the person should take appropriate measures immediately.
Behavioral Signs of Neglect
Behavioral signs of neglect are:
- Showing little or no emotion when hurt
- Fear or wariness of parents
- Inappropriate age-related sexual behaviors
- Alcohol or drug abuse at a very young age
- Trying to be in control of every situation that involves them
Physical Signs of Neglect
- Poor hygiene
- Excessive bruises
- Bleeding from the vagina or anus
- Sexually transmitted disease
- When a child discloses that they have been abused. Young children typically do not lie about being hurt. If a child expresses that they have been hurt in some way, listen carefully and report the incident. The life you save, either physically or emotionally, could be a child’s.
Responding to Disclosure
Every situation of disclosure is different. First, assure the child that you believe them and that the abuse or neglect is not their fault. Then, talk to the child and gather facts and other pertinent information.
- Make note of the disclosure and record your observations. Sign and date the entry.
- Continue to observe the child’s behavior and any physical indicators of abuse or neglect. Sign and date each entry.
- If you are a person of authority over the child, talk to colleagues and your supervisor. Have they noticed the same signs of abuse or neglect? Compare notes and discuss strategies.
- Develop a plan. Brainstorm on what steps you should take to protect the child from harm.
- Talk to child care agencies. Contact Child Protective Services, the regional Department of Human Resources, and any other agency that protects children from abuse and neglect.
- Talk to the child often. Be his confidante and respect the child’s need for confidentiality and privacy. Reassure the child that what’s happening is through no fault of their own. This can’t be said often enough. Children always feel that abuse and neglect are caused by something they’ve done.
Every person has a moral responsibility to report child abuse or neglect. Mandated notifiers such as teachers, principals, doctors, nurses, and police have a legal responsibility to report a child’s need for protection. The responsibilities of mandated notifiers are as follows:
- If you don’t feel comfortable reporting abuse or neglect, it is the responsibility of your boss or supervisor. All cases of suspected abuse and neglect must be reported, by law.
- Mandatory notification always takes precedence over codes of professional ethics. For instance, if your job mandates that client information is confidential, the responsibility to report abuse and neglect takes precedence over confidentiality.
Contact your local Child Protection Service immediately to report the child abuse, if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected. When you phone, ask to speak to someone in Intake. Once the Protection worker is on the phone, provide the following information:
- The child’s name, age, and address.
- Why you suspect abuse or neglect.
- The reason you are calling at this time.
- Your assessment of any immediate danger to the child or young adult.
- Description of behavior, disclosure or injury.
- Your knowledge of important factors about the family.
- Knowledge of cultural information. Is an interpreter needed?
- Disability needs or services.
- Any other information that you think is pertinent to the situation.
Even if you don’t have all of this information, it is imperative you notify the proper authorities. The Intake worker will help you through the process. You should also be aware that some people in a special relationship to the child have a legal obligation to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse.
When Child Protective Service visits the family, it may cause a crisis. Stay involved. Your responsibilities are as follow:
- Being supportive of the victim. Let him know you are there is he wishes to talk.
- Participating in conferences and meetings.
- Continued monitoring of the victim to observe behavior or physical indications of abuse or neglect. (Make notes, date, and sign.)
- Providing written reports and observances to Child Protection workers and the courts.
- Testifying in court, if necessary. Though no one likes to have to testify in court, it is mandatory for those in authority and a moral duty for citizens.
- Helping the family to make the transition from abuse and neglect to a safe environment for the victim. This will take both time and patience.
Parental Support for Abuse Prevention
Child abuse prevention is the combined responsibility of the family, community and the State or Province. A range of services is available to families and children who need the support of agencies. Most governments have a support network in place to help families and children who are coping with child abuse and neglect. Be sure the victim and their family know what services are available. A child custody attorney may be able to help you or someone else to obtain custody of the child to protect the child from further abuse or neglect.
It is your responsibility, either mandated or moral, to report child abuse or neglect if the victim is a minor. Do your part to stop child abuse and neglect today. If you know a child who is a victim, report the abuse or neglect today.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.