According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, last year 678,000 children were found to be victims of abuse or neglect nationwide. In 2018, there were about 4.3 million reports made to child protective services, involving the lives of 7.8 million children.
Those numbers are shocking. Even more shocking: Child abuse rates in Indiana are more than double the national average, trailing only Kentucky in this shameful department.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Here’s how you can play a role in helping to prevent child abuse and neglect.
How to report abuse or neglect
First things first: Indiana is a mandatory reporting state. If you suspect a child has been abused or neglected, you must, by state law, make a report. (If you wish, you can report anonymously.) Call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
When making a report, be as complete, accurate, and specific as possible. An intake specialist will ask you who was involved, what happened, when and where the incident happened, and other important questions to get the details. You can also find your local Department of Child Services (DCS) office, where you can make a report and connect with services. The DCS website has other helpful resources, as well.
Know the protective factors
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists six protective factors involved in reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect. They are:
- Nurturing and attachment
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Concrete support for parents
- Social and emotional competence of children
You should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse. The Children’s Advocacy Center has a helpful list of signs of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
Finally: This might be National Child Abuse Prevention Month, but unfortunately child abuse and neglect happen all year long. If you need help, get help. If you suspect abuse, make the call. It’s well past time to make child abuse and neglect history.