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 the Florida Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE, which is run by the state Department of Children & Families. If you can’t get through on the hotline, you can report abuse or neglect online by clicking here. If you aren't a mandatory reporter by law, you don't have to leave your name.
Teachers, child care workers, doctors, nurses and others in similar roles are considered mandatory reporters. These professions are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. For a full list of mandatory reporters, click here.
NOW, SOME BACKGROUND
Child abuse has devastating consequences for our community. In Palm Beach County, nearly 1,450 children were abused or neglected in 2016-2017 – 47 percent of them 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 would like guidance managing your own emotions and feelings as a parent or caregiver, these organizations can help:
• The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
• The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida
• The Florida Department of Children and Families
• Palm Beach County Unites for Children