How to recognize and stop child abuse

By knowing the signs of child abuse and how to report it, people can protect the kids in their communities.

Children are one of the most vulnerable populations to abuse in Pennsylvania. Their small size and lack of experience makes them easy targets for adults to influence and harm. The last thing anybody wants to deal with is child abuse, but unfortunately it happens every day. Anyone who is looking out for their family or any kids in their community should be aware of what to look for and when and how to report it.

The signs of abuse

Abuse can take many different forms, including neglect, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or physical abuse. Anybody who regularly sees a child can observe for any of the following signs, which may be pointers to abuse:

· If a child's parents are ignoring medical problems, it could be a sign of neglect.

· A child who is malnourished may beg for food or try to steal it, as well as being fatigued or emaciated.

· Unwillingness to talk about what's going on at home can be a sign that a child is hiding that he or she is being abused, especially in combination with the other signs.

· If a child seems to flinch when being approached by an adult, he or she may be afraid of getting hit.

· Children who are aggressive towards others may be acting out what they are experiencing somewhere else.

· Bald spots, human bite marks, welts, and unexplained bruises may point to physical forms of abuse.

It is important to keep in mind that the presence of one or more of the above indicators does not necessarily mean abuse is happening.

Reporting child abuse

Those who are concerned about possible abuse in Pennsylvania can always refer to their local Children and Youth agency, which can assess a situation to better determine whether abuse is actually happening or not. Their aim is to help establish the most comfortable and safe setting for a child. A child may be relocated if he or she is deemed to be at continuous risk of harm. Both physicians and law enforcement officers have the authority to take protective custody if they deem it is necessary for a child to be kept away from a situation. If a Children and Youth caseworker wants to take custody of a child, he or she must first obtain approval from the court.

Anyone in Pennsylvania who has had to deal with a situation of child abuse, whether from a parent or other figure in the child's life, may want to pursue a modification of child custody or file a petition for protection from abuse. An attorney on the local area who practices Family Law may be able to help.