Child Abuse

No matter how careful a parent is in selecting child care, there is always the risk of child abuse. It is possible for even babies to be abused or neglected. But how is a parent to know when and if their child is being abused? The fact is, there is no standard behavioral patterns for children who are abused or neglected. A child's reaction to such treatment is as individual as the child. There are however, some general signs that can alert a parent to abuse.

Behavioral Changes

    * loss of appetite;
    * a tendency to overeat;
    * even the onset of nightmares or bedwetting.

A parent should also be concerned if their child shows or expresses an intense dislike for the caregiver. It is not unusual for a child to feel anxious about being separated from the parent. The concern comes when the child, who has begun to throw tantrums or who cries heavily at the sight of the caregiver or the center, is acting in a way inconsistent with his or her normal behavior. This could indicate a cry for help.

Improper Care

The signs of improper care being given to babies and infants may be more difficult to detect. Babies have been left in their car seats for virtually the whole day receiving neither physical or emotional care. In a situation such as this:

    * A child may tire or become listless.
    * The child may become completely detached from his or her environment.
    * The child may show signs of developmental delays resulting from the lack of stimulation and affection.
    * On the other hand, a baby or infant may become more demanding of a parent's attention and affection.
    * Sleep patterns may become disturbed.
    * The child may develop a severe case of diaper rash, may vomit or become anemic.

Cuts, Bruises and Welts

Other signs of abuse may be more evident. Such is the case with unexplained cuts, bruises, burns or welts. A good provider will tell a parent when and how an accident occurred, and should provide an accident report of some sort. Anything out of a child's normal pattern for such accidents should be looked into.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse, every parent's worst nightmare, may show itself in any of the aforementioned signs. Other possible signs include:

    * torn or stained clothing;
    * abnormal walk;
    * an odd vaginal smell or discharge;
    * pain in the region;
    * possibly even trouble in swallowing;
    * and a knowledge of sex unusual for the age of the child.

The Parent's Role

What should a parent do if child or sexual abuse is suspected?

    * For the well being of the child a parent must remain calm, and should not, in any way accuse, or upset the child.
    * If the child is old enough, a parent should discuss the findings with him or her, then listen and be sympathetic, allowing the child as much time as is necessary to disclose what information he or she is willing or able to at that time.
    * A parent should take the child to their family doctor or pediatrician for a full examination.

The Doctor's Role

If the doctor or pediatrician confirms abuse, he or she will notify the proper authorities who will then take over the case. If a doctor is uncomfortable or unwilling to become involved in the situation, the parent should ask for a referral to another doctor or for the number where they themselves can report the abuse. And they must follow up on these referrals.<./p>

If for any reason a parent suspects their child is being neglected or abused, the child should be removed from the care immediately. To help eradicate child abuse, parents must improve their skills for detecting such problems. As Aristotle once said, "The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than on mere survival." For more information on how to recognize and report child abuse, contact your local ministry or social/community services office, located in the "blue pages" of your phone book.