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Understanding Child Abuse & Neglect. Prepared by: The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Lisa Lauxman and Bob Peterson Design & Layout: Teresa M. Noon. The University of Arizona Extension Youth Protection Policy Key Points.

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understanding child abuse neglect

Understanding Child Abuse & Neglect

Prepared by:

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development

Lisa Lauxman and Bob Peterson

Design & Layout: Teresa M. Noon

the university of arizona extension youth protection policy key points
The University of Arizona Extension Youth Protection PolicyKey Points
  • Any youth participant in an Arizona Cooperative Extension educational program is entitled to a safe environment.
  • Employees and volunteers are entitled to information related to the laws pertaining to child abuse and neglect and sexual offenses.
  • Employees and volunteers will receive training in order to take steps to ensure that neither they nor children are in situations that place them at risk under various Arizona Statues related to child and sexual abuse.
  • The Child Protection Act of 1993 requires States to enact legislations requiring background checks of all employees and volunteers working with youth
the university of arizona extension youth protection policy
The University of Arizona Extension Youth Protection Policy
  • Arizona Revised Statues require any person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused or neglected may report to Child Protective Services (CPS).
  • The following persons are required by law to report: Any physician, hospital intern or resident, surgeon, dentist, osteopath, chiropractors, podiatrist, county medical examiner, nurse, psychologist, school personnel, social worker, peace officer, parent, counselor or any other person having responsibility for the care and treatment of children.
  • A person making a report or providing information about a child is immune from civil or criminal liability unless such person has been charged with, or is suspected of, the abuse or neglect in question.
the effects of abuse
The Effects of Abuse

The long-term affects of child abuse or neglect can be devastating. They can include substance abuse, psychological problems, and suicide. Reporting suspected abuse or neglect can help to stop the destructive process and start the healing process.

Any mandatory reporter who suspects that a child is suffering from any type of abuse or neglect, is legally required to report that suspicion to appropriate authorities.

note of caution
Note of Caution

Research shows that there are a number of symptoms exhibited by children that may indicate abuse or neglect.

*The presence of a single indicator does not automatically mean that abuse or neglect has occurred. However, it does warrant your attention.

what is child abuse
What is Child Abuse?

Is rarely a single physical attack, but rather a pattern of abuse that repeats over time.

Occurs when a parent or other person willfully or maliciously injures or causes a child to be injured, tortured or maimed, or when unreasonable force is used upon a child.

Abuse and neglect can be physical, emotional and sexual.

characteristics of child abuse and neglect
Characteristics of Child Abuse and Neglect

Abused and neglected children are found in families at all...

  • Economic levels
  • Racial and ethnic backgrounds
  • Geographic locations.

People are more likely to behave in ways that can hurt children or lead to child abuse and neglect when they neglect to take good care of themselves.

risk factors leading to abuse
The stress of poverty or unemployment

A lack of social support to help parents do a good job of parenting

Conflict and/or violence between spouses

A child (or children) who has special needs, is hard to comfort of challenging to rear

Abuse alcohol or other substances

Are highly vulnerable to the stress of caring for children

Have low self-esteem and feel isolated

Use more physical punishment than positive guidance

Risk factors leading to abuse:
physical abuse

is any non-accidental injury to a child under the age of 18 by a parent or caretaker.

Non-accidental injuries:

beatings, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation or immersion in scalding water, with resulting bruises and welts, broken bones, scars or internal injuries

Physical Indicators:

Unexplained fractures/dislocations

Unexplained bruises and welts

Unexplained burns

Other unexplained injuries may include lacerations, abrasions, human bite marks or pinch marks, loss of hair or bald patches, retinal hemorrhage, or abdominal injuries

Physical abuse
physical abuse behavioral indicators
Physical AbuseBehavioral Indicators:
  • Requests or feels deserving of punishment
  • Afraid to go home and/or requests to stay in school, day care, etc.
  • Overly shy, tends to avoid physical contacts with adults, especially parents.
  • Displays behavioral extremes (withdrawal or aggressiveness).
  • Suggests that other children should be punished in a harsh manner
  • Cries excessively and/or sits and stares.
  • Reports injury by parents
  • Gives unbelievable explanations for injuries.
what is emotional abuse two levels
Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect is the consistent failure of a parent or caretaker to provide a child with appropriate support, attention and affection.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the chronic pattern of behaviors, such as belittling, humiliating and ridiculing a child.

What is Emotional Abuse?Two Levels
emotional abuse physical behavioral indicators
Eating disorder

Sleep disturbances, nightmares

Speech disorders, stuttering

Failure to thrive

Developmental lags

Asthma, severe allergies or ulcers

Habit disorders, such as biting, rocking, head-banging, thumb-sucking in an older child

Poor peer relationships

Behavioral extremes, overly compliant or demanding, withdrawn or aggressive

Self-destructive behavior, remaining oblivious to hazards and risks

Chronic academic underachievement

Emotional AbusePhysical & Behavioral Indicators:
what is child neglect
What is Child Neglect?

Neglect is the chronic failure of a parent or caretaker to provide a child under 18 with adequate food, clothing, medical care, protection and supervision.

child neglect physical behavioral indicators
Height and weight significantly below age levels

Inappropriate clothing for weather

Child abandoned or left with inadequate supervision

Untreated illness or injury

Lack of safe, sanitary shelter

Lack of necessary medical and dental care

Begging or stealing food

Falling asleep in school, lethargic

Poor school attendance, frequent tardiness

Chronic hunger

Dull, apathetic appearance

Running away from home

Repeated acts of vandalism

Reports no caretakers in the home

Assumes adult responsibilities

Child NeglectPhysical & Behavioral Indicators:
what is child sexual abuse
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
  • Child sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child or adolescent for the sexual gratification of another person. It includes behaviors such as intercourse, sodomy, oral-genital stimulation, verbal stimulation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, fondling, and involving a child in prostitution or the production or pornography.
  • Incest is sexual abuse that occurs within a family. The abuses may be a parent, step-parent, grandparent, sibling, cousin or other family member.
child sexual abuse physical indicators
Child Sexual AbusePhysical Indicators:
  • Somatic complaints, including pain and irritation of the genitals
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Pregnancy in young adolescents
  • Frequent unexplained sore throats, yeast, or urinary tract infections
  • Behavioral Indicators
  • Excessive masturbation in young children
  • Sexual knowledge or behavior beyond that expected for the child’s developmental level
  • Depression, suicidal gestures
  • Chronic running away
  • Frequent psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, backaches, or stomachaches
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Avoidance of undressing or wearing extra layers of clothes
  • Sudden avoidance of certain familiar adults or places
  • Decline in school performance
the characteristics of child sexual abuses
The Characteristics of Child Sexual Abuses
  • More non-biological care takers ( like step or adoptive parents, baby-sitters, boyfriends or girlfriends) sexually abuse than do birth parents or relatives
  • More males than females sexually abuse
  • Children are sexually abused more often by people they know than by strangers
responding to a disclosure
Responding To A Disclosure:
  • It is important to respond in a calm, supportive and appropriate manner. Build trust and insure confidentiality
  • Children will find it difficult to tell someone about abuse or neglect that is occurring to them. Many times children will wait a long time before disclosing.
  • If the person reacts with disgust or doesn’t believe them, they will stop disclosing the events.
how to respond
How to Respond
  • Be on the same eye level as the child; be tactful and have no barriers between you and the child
  • Assess the child’s safety needs and the urgency of the situation
  • Find out what the child wants from you
  • Validate the child’s feelings
  • Believe the child and be supportive
  • Assure the child that you care, you are still their friend and they are not to blame
how to respond20
How to Respond
  • Let the child know what you will do
  • Be calm, don’t react with disgust, etc.
  • Tell the child you are glad that they told you
  • Tell the child you will try to get them some help
  • Tell the child you will have to tell someone whose job it is to help kids with these kinds of problems
  • Don’t interrogate or interview the child
  • Do not project or assume anything; let the child tell his own story; leave out your own assumptions
how to report
How to Report

Follow this process to avoid further abuse to the child and to legally protect yourself:

  • Document any incident or discussion that leads you to suspect the abuse.
  • Utilize form “Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect Report” and be sure to include the date, time, and description of the incident.
  • File the confidential report with your county office, where it will be placed in a locked file.
more on how to report
Do not investigate; it may jeopardize the child’s safety as well as any legal action pending as a result of the abuse (Nelson and Clark, 1986).

Try to keep emotion out of it and give factual information about what you have observed or heard

Remember your goal is to help the child to be safe as well as be safe yourself.

Think clearly and objectively about making a report

It is essential that concerns about child abuse or neglect be treated with strict confidentiality.

You may need to discuss your concerns with another person however, this can and should be done without using the family or individual names. Also, hold the conversation where other will not be able to hear your discussion.

More on How To Report
support in reporting
Support in Reporting
  • Your Extension office is there to support you. An Extension faculty member will be present if you request support in reporting.
  • You must report if you have reason to believe that child abuse and/or neglect is occurring.
  • Verbal reports are acceptable.
  • Cooperative Extension keeps your written report to protect you and Cooperative Extension.
behavioral guidelines
Behavioral Guidelines

Work cooperatively with youth, families, other volunteers, Cooperative Extension faculty and staff and others in a courteous, respectful manner demonstrating behaviors appropriate to a positive role model for youth. Any type of harassment or hazing cannot be tolerated. Keep the best interests of youth and families as a priority.

Represent the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development program with pride and dignity. Obey the laws of the locality, state, and nation.

more behavioral guidelines
More Behavioral Guidelines

Comply with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. Make all reasonable effort to assure that 4-H Youth Development programs are accessible to youth without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

Recognize that verbal and/or physical abuse and/or neglect of youth is unacceptable in 4-H Youth Development programs; refrain from physical or verbal abuse. Incidents of reported, suspected or observed abuse should be reported immediately to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

more behavioral guidelines26
More Behavioral Guidelines

Treat animals humanely and teach 4-H youth to provide appropriate animal care.

Operate motor vehicles (including machines or equipment) in a safe and reliable manner when working with 4-H youth, and only with a valid operator's license and the legally required insurance coverage

Abide by the same rules as the youth regarding no use of alcohol, tobacco products and drugs at a 4-H Youth Development function nor allow youth participants under supervision to do so.

creating safety zones protecting yourself and children
Responsible adults automatically limit their physical exchanges with children, showing respect for children and at the same time maintaining warm, healthy affectionate relationships.

Be aware of children’s personal boundaries and respect them.

Adults should avoid being alone with one child.

In group situations, it is advisable to always have at least two adults present.

Never hit or strike a child—even in “play.”

Creating Safety Zones: Protecting Yourself and Children
more safety zones
Help protect everyone—have the children use the buddy system--- they don’t go anywhere without their “buddy.”

Hugs are okay if they are appropriate and if both people are comfortable with them. Take clues from body language of the child and simply ask “Is it okay for me to hug you?”

Encourage parents to join in your activities and to drop in when they can.

There is nothing magical nor mysterious about interacting with children; the best thing to do is use common sense.

More Safety Zones
scenario a
Scenario A:

In an after school program, a 10 year old girl, Daphne, has chosen all sad pictures for her contributions to a group picture. She tells you that she’s sad because her mom kicked her dad out of the house over the weekend and he won’t be living with her any more. She also tells you that dad gave her three $100 bills and he’ll give her more if she comes and sees him on the weekends. He tells her not to tell her mom. Daphne also tells you she has to baby sit her twin five year old sisters. Her mom works as a waitress from 1 PM till 1 PM. You can tell that the family has few resources based on the children’s clothing. Her sisters are also in the program and their behavior is that of 3 year olds not five year olds. You’ve not met Daphne’s parents, but can obtain info about them from the registration papers.

scenario b
Scenario B:

You work with school age children in a summer recreational/educational program. A new child, Nathan, joins the program. He is 8 years old and dresses in winter clothing despite being summer. He has a very strong body odor. His hair is not combed and is unkempt. He seems to be a happy child but doesn’t join in many activities. You notice him stuffing his pockets after the free breakfast. After 4 weeks of sporadic attendance, you don’t see him for 3 weeks. You’ve not met Nathan’s parents, but can obtain info about them ( address, ph#’s, etc) from his registration papers.

scenario c
Scenario C:

You are caring for a 2 year old, Nathan. He has round, crusty sores in between his fingers that you haven’t seen before. When you ask Nathan about them, he says “Hurt”. When you ask Nathan’s mother, she tells you that he caught his fingers in the door and they got


scenario d
Scenario D:

You work with pre-schoolers and President’s Day is a holiday when the center is closed. You post notes reminding parents two weeks before the holiday and have spoken with each of the parents to remind them. On the holiday, you stop by the center and find one of the 4 year old children, Sue, sitting by the door. It’s nearly noon and Sue tells you that she’s been there since morning and that Dad will pick her up before dinner time.

scenario responses
Scenario Responses


Professional’s Comments:

Need to check the facts in a discreet manner with a call to the mother. If true or not severely embellished, ask if she can find an alternative babysitting situation [No child is to be left alone unsupervised under age 12; that’s the law]. If mother can’t improve situation via church, after school program, neighbors, then let her know you will have to call CPS. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE MONEY...let CPS do that!


Professional’s Comments:

Start with a call to the family to check if the child is O.K. Let them know that other children are asking about him. DO NOT CHALLENGE. You don’t have a relationship and there is not reason for him to come back. Then, call CPS and report — neglect seems evident. This has probably been reported before.

scenario responses cont
Scenario Responses (cont.)


Professional’s Comments:

First, pinched fingers from doors don’t get round sores between the fingers. May be a burn from something. Child could be hurting self by rubbing fingers. Check with staff to see if any previous “sores” or injuries have been noted that appeared “questionable”. Call CPS. Child care workers must report suspicious injuries, neglect.


Professional’s Comments:

Call the police... that situation could be classified as abandonment as well as neglect. DO NOT TAKE HER HOME WITH YOU. You can call parents at work to let them know you have contacted the police.