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Recognizing Child Abuse
Authors: Saraswathy Ramamoorthy with Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D.,CFLE

As a child care provider, you have a lot of opportunities to get to know the children’s families well. Some parents will talk to you informally during drop-off and pick-up times. Parent conferences and other scheduled events give you a chance to interact one-on-one with the parents. At times, some parents might approach you for advice or suggestions about issues related to their child. Other parents might share information about changes in their family life with you. Also, children love to talk about their families. They like to share information about what goes on at home, with you and with the other children. Most of the times, you learn a lot about the parents simply by observing how they interact with their children. You will be able to recognize potential situations of child abuse simply by being attentive. Conversations with the parents will also give you clues about how the parent feels about their child.

The presence of child abuse or neglect may be indicated if the parent constantly:
     • Blames or criticizes the child. For example – “Can’t you ever pay attention to what I tell you?”, “ I told you never
       to do that” etc
     • Sees one child as being very different from the siblings. “Her big sister and brother never gave me any trouble.
       She’s just too much trouble.”
     • Sees the child as bad, evil or a burden. “She has a mean streak in her”, “He’s just like his father and his father
       was very evil.”
     • Finds nothing good or special about the child. “Some children are such a pain. Mike is one of them”, “Barbara
       has nothing good going on for her, she’s just too ordinary.”
     • Seems unconcerned about the child. “Did she get hurt? Well, she should be more careful”, “Can we talk about
       this another time, I’m just too rushed today.”
     • Misses appointments with you to discuss the child.
     • Misuses alcohol or drugs.

It is important to keep in mind that one or two incidents of the above examples do not indicate child abuse. Child abuse may happen when a parent continuously displays such behavior towards the child.

When you know the child and the family well, you are in a better position to decide if there is a situation of child abuse. The more you observe the family and interact with the parents, the better you will be able to decide if the problem is child abuse or something else. You will need to decide if the problem is temporary or permanent. Be cautious and careful in making such decisions.

Remember that as a child care provider, you do not need to prove that a child is being abused before reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities. All you need to have is a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused. If you have worries, you should report to Child Protective Services (CPS). They have a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week hotline: 1-800-800-5556. Check your phone book for a local number if you cannot connect to the hotline. You can also report to Prevent Child Abuse Indiana at (317)-634-9282 or 1-800-244-5373.

Go to: 
Helping parents and children in difficult situations
           • Talking to a child who has been abused
           • Talking to parents about child abuse

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

Please feel free to link to, print off, redistribute, or reprint
  any of these materials as long as the original credits remain intact.

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