Sometimes, something just doesn’t feel right.
Maybe a child you know has started to act funny — pulling away from you, like they’re hiding something. Maybe they’ve stopped eating, playing or enjoying things they used to love. Or maybe you see a child you don’t know who seems dirty, hungry, scared or overly anxious.
It’s normal to want to help. But the question is how?
First things first. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you must report it to Florida Department of Children & Families via its hotline at 1-800-962-2873 or online here. You don't have to leave your name if you're not a mandatory reporter by law, such as a teacher, child-care worker, doctor or nurse.
NOW, SOME BACKGROUND
Child abuse has devastating consequences for our community. In Palm Beach County, nearly 1,450 children were abused or neglected in recent years — 47 percent were younger than 5 and 83 percent younger than 13.
Besides the immediate dangers, the long-term consequences of abuse/neglect are mind-boggling. Children who experience abuse and neglect are:
- 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
- 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
Additionally, two of every three people in treatment for drug abuse report being abused and neglected as a child.
WHAT DOES CHILD ABUSE/NEGLECT LOOK LIKE?
- Unexplained bruises, welts, burns or fractures
- Unkempt or malnourished appearance
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep
- Discoloration or scarring of genital area, sexually transmitted diseases
- Repeat urinary tract infections
- Abrupt changes in behavior (clinginess, aggressiveness, withdrawal, depression, anxiety)
- Fear of a person or place
- Discomfort with physical contact
- Molestation of other children
- Suicidal tendencies
HOW TO GET HELP
Lastly, it’s important to remember that caring for children is hard work. If you'd like guidance managing your emotions and feelings as a parent or caregiver, these organizations can help:
- Community Partners of South Florida: 561-841-3500, ext. 1087
- Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County: 561-616-1222
- BRIDGES: 561-740-7017