We also work to increase general awareness of abuse and what to do if you suspect it.
Recognizing Abuse & Neglect
The Protective Services Team at Lurie Children’s is actively involved in teaching professionals, parents and other concerned persons how to recognize child abuse and neglect. As the video below illustrates, bystanders often have an opportunity to help stop child abuse.
For children who have already fallen victim to child maltreatment, the most important factor is that someone can identify and stop the abuse. Below are some of the signs and symptoms for three major types of child maltreatment.
A physically abused child may have frequent, unusual or unexplained injuries, and may sometimes tell you that an adult is abusing them. It is not your job to investigate. Report the child's story to Child Protective Services and leave the investigation to them.
Suspicious injuries that may indicate child abuse include:
Frequent accidents or injuries
Any unexplained injury
Many bruises, or bruises in an infant or child who is not walking yet
Bruises in unusual places, such as on or behind ears, on the neck, abdomen or on the back of arms or legs
Burns or bruises showing the pattern of an object
Frequent or unexplained broken bones
Broken bones in an infant or a child who is not walking yet
Human bite marks
An injury that obviously requires medical care but the parent delays seeking medical care
Suspect Physical Child Abuse
If the child:
Reports the injury is from a parent or adult caregiver
Wears clothing to purposely conceal an injury or that is not seasonal, such as long sleeves and pants in the summer
Refuses to undress for gym or for required physical exams at school
Seems frightened by parents or caregivers
Is often late or absent from school
Comes early to school and seems reluctant to go home afterwards
Is overly compliant, withdrawn, gives in readily and allows others to do for them without protest
If the parent(s):
Takes the child to different physicians or hospitals for each injury
Gives inconsistent or vague explanations for the child's injuries
Describes the child as evil or bad
Has little or no interest in the child's well-being
Does not respond appropriate to the child's pain
Blames the child for their injuries
Consistently criticizes and has inappropriate expectations of the child
Be aware that parents and others who care for children may be caring and good caretakers under most circumstances, but given a particular set of circumstances, they may hurt a child.
Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of children may be easily hidden, but there are several warning signs. For example, some sexually abused children display inappropriate sexual behaviors with other children or adults. They may exhibit behavior changes, changes in school performance, problems sleeping or changes in appetite. Children who are sexually abused may complain of headaches, stomach aches or genital pain. While some sexually abused children tell people of the abuse, many do not (even as adults).
If a child describes sexual abuse or tells you they’re being abused, do not try to investigate and determine if they are telling the truth. Leave that to the professionals. Report the abuse immediately to Child Protective Services or to law enforcement. It is important that the child be evaluated by professionals who are experienced in evaluating child sexual abuse.
Suspect child sexual abuse if:
You witness inappropriate sexual behaviors between an adult and a child
A child demonstrates sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behaviors
Engages in sexualized play
Imitates sexual intercourse
If a child reports sexual abuse, don't ignore it. Report suspected abuse to the authorities.
Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. Nearly two-thirds of all reports to Child Protective Services involve some form of child neglect.
Neglect of a child can be the failure to provide any of the following:
Protection from harm
Attention to emotional needs
Medical neglect is when a parent or caregiver fails to seek out medical care for a child with a new or existing medical problem. If a parent initially brings a child for medical care, but doesn't follow through with a child's treatment plan or medications, this may also be considered medical neglect.
Supervisory neglect is when a child is left alone in inappropriate situations for the child's age and developmental stage. Some examples of supervisory neglect are an infant left in the care of a 6-year-old sibling or a 10- and 12-year-old left alone for a week while parents are on vacation.
What to Do
If you see abuse, stop it. Anyone can call DCFS and report abuse or neglect. Please call 1.800.422.4453 to report maltreatment. Unfortunately people frequently witness child abuse and are afraid to do anything about it. In fact, half of all people that witnessed child maltreatment said they did nothing.
Child Abuse Signs and Situations
The Protective Services Team is committed not only to identify and treat child victims of abuse and neglect, but also to help prevent future cases. We are committed to working with our community to prevent child abuse before it happens.
The Protective Services Team's goal is to strive that all children served by the hospital are in a safe and healthy environment by training professionals, parents and the community about the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Review the topics below to learn more.