Sadly, about 1,400 children die each year as a result of child abuse or neglect. About 3 million reports per year are made indicating child abuse, and of those, about 1 million proven to be an actual case of neglect or abuse. Wow! One out of every three calls made to report abuse actually causes the intervention needed for that child to begin to get help.
Eighty percent of abusers are the parents or some other family member of the victim. One out of three girls will be sexually abused or molested before the age of 18. The number is one out of five for boys.
This is astounding to think that this happens all around us and so many of us are oblivious to it. The obvious question is what can you and I do about it?
The most crucial help we can provide to these defenseless children is to know how to recognize and report abuse or neglect.
Here are some helpful guidelines I found on the Internet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Physical abuse is defined as non-accidental injury to a child that leaves marks, scars, bruises or broken bones.
Signs of physical abuse may include: Aggressive or withdrawn behavior, afraid of going home, stealing, lying, layered clothing, inexplicable fractures or bruises and repetitious pattern of burns, facial injuries or bruises.
Sexual abuse is defined as fondling, sexual intercourse, assault, rape, date rape, incest, child prostitution, exposure and pornography.
Signs of sexual abuse may include: Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior, abrupt change in personality, withdrawn, poor peer relationships, promiscuous or seductive behavior, sleep disturbances and regressive behavior.
Neglect is failure of parents or caretakers to provide needed, age-appropriate care, including food, clothing, shelter, protection from harm, supervision appropriate to the child's development, proper hygiene and medical care.
Signs of neglect may include: Hunger, poor hygiene, excessive sleepiness, lack of appropriate supervision, unattended physical problems or medical needs, abandonment and inappropriate clothing for weather conditions.
Emotional abuse is rejecting, terrorizing, berating, ignoring and isolating that is likely to cause serious impairment of the physical, social, mental or emotional capacities of the child.
Signs of emotional abuse may include: Failure to thrive, speech disorders, lags in physical development, habit or conduct disorders, sleep disorders or inhibition of play and overly aggressive or passive behavior.
You may want to keep this list handy or at least read through it a couple of times to become familiar with the information. It is highly important to remember that many children may show these signs or symptoms at one time or another even though they are in a healthy home setting. When there is a constant combination of signs of abuse or neglect, you need to take action. If, after serious consideration, you suspect abuse, you can make an anonymous call to (800) 4-A-CHILD, a national abuse hotline that will receive your call at any time.
Another problem related to abusive situations is the lack of available foster homes. This is a big job, but something for all of us to consider. Many children remain in very bad situations simply because the government has no available placement for them.
If you would like to find out more about possibly becoming a foster parent, visit www.fosterparenting.com.
Break out the tissues for this one, because it will also link you to www.adoption.com, where you can actually view photos of children available for adoption as well as read a summary of their background.
If you feel moved by this sad issue in our world, but cannot actually take in a child, then you may donate by calling (800) 422-4453, option 3. This number is also available to link you with a counselor if you or someone you know is in an abusive situation and would like help.
Most importantly, I want you to remember that if you see a child in an abusive or neglectful situation, I hope you will have the courage to make the call for that little one to get the help he or she needs. You may be their only hope.
Ruthie Davidson is a mother of four children, ages 5 to 10. She lives in South Daytona and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.