Child Abuse & Neglect Intervention Procedures

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  • 0:04 Child Abuse
  • 0:36 Maltreatment
  • 1:42 Child Neglect
  • 2:34 Legal Obligations
  • 3:05 Professional Obligations
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

When child abuse or neglect is suspected, educators must take action. In this lesson, we'll discuss the procedures for intervening when child abuse or neglect is suspected.

Child Abuse

Brandon is a boisterous fifth grade student. He is the class clown and tends to bully other students. Frequently, Brandon shows signs of bruising and other injuries; however, he always has an excuse or an explanation for how he got them. Is Brandon the victim of child abuse? What would you do if Brandon was your student?

Brandon is demonstrating both physical and behavioral signs of child abuse. Child abuse occurs when children are harmed through maltreatment, which can be intentional or unintentional.

Maltreatment includes all forms of child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse or neglect. Physical signs of maltreatment include things that we can see such as bruises, cuts, broken bones or the inability to sit or stand. Behavioral signs of maltreatment include a child's conduct that may indicate abuse, but are usually tougher to spot.

Brandon's tendency to act out in class and bully other students are examples of behavioral signs of maltreatment. Some other behavioral signs to look for include any sudden changes in behavior, withdrawal from usual activities, inappropriate sexual behavior or a refusal to go home.

It is very important to note that the presence of any of these physical or behavioral signs does not prove that the child is a victim of abuse because they may result from other issues such as health problems, personal issues and learning disabilities or other factors. In addition, children who are the victims of abuse typically demonstrate more than one physical or behavioral sign. However, any sudden change in the physical appearance or behavior of a child warrants attention and care.

Child Neglect

Sara is a quiet and shy third grade student who frequently comes to school in soiled clothes and rarely has lunch money or the necessary supplies to succeed in class. Sara has had a nasty cough for months but has not visited a doctor. Is Sara the victim of child abuse? How would you respond if Sara was in your class?

Sara is the victim of child neglect, a form of maltreatment or child abuse. Child neglect occurs when the basic care, food and safety needs of the child are not being met. According to the United States Child Welfare Department, neglect is the most common form of child abuse and is less likely to be reported than all other types of child abuse.

Now that we are familiar with the types of child abuse and their corresponding physical and behavioral signs, let's take a closer look at some intervention procedures for educators when abuse is suspected.

Legal Obligations

Both Brandon and Sara exhibit different signs of child abuse. So, what is the next step toward intervention when child abuse is suspected?

Educators have an obligation to report any suspected child abuse. This obligation is twofold. There is a legal obligation for educators to report suspected abuse. This means that educators who fail to report signs of child abuse can be prosecuted. Penalties for failing to report suspected child abuse include fines and potential jail time.

There is also a professional obligation for educators to report cases of suspected child abuse. The teaching profession is charged with educating and protecting the welfare of children. Therefore, educators who fail to uphold this professional obligation may lose their licenses to teach.

So, now that we know that reporting suspected cases of child abuse is a legal and professional obligation for teachers, how does a teacher go about reporting suspected abuse? Each school district has a different policy in place that dictates the process for reporting and intervening in cases of suspected child abuse, so make sure that you are aware of your school's procedures for doing so.

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