In Oklahoma, a mandatory reporter includes every person with reason to believe that a child under the age of eighteen (18) is a victim of abuse or neglect. So by law, this includes all of us – you, me, every single adult with concern for a child’s safety.
We often explain that it’s not your job as a concerned citizen to prove abuse, nor should you try. If you’re concerned about the safety of a child, make a report. Child Protective Services and Law Enforcement, often in partnership with Ray of Hope, are trained to investigate the safety and well being of children in our community.
If a child directly discloses abuse, you are obligated to make a report to OKDHS (1.800.522.3511), or if a child is in immediate danger, always call 911. But sometimes, there are warning signs or red flags that may also warrant a report to the authorities. While the symptoms listed below may not be indicative of abuse, they may be reasons for concern. Several of them together could be reason to make a report.
When you call the child abuse hotline, they’ll want to know the name and age of child and where that child can be located. They will also want to know when you last saw the child and what you observed that was concerning. The following information divides abuse and neglect by category and the symptoms associated with that particular type of maltreatment. It may be helpful in determining if you need to make a report.
Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. This can also include failure to protect them from a known risk of harm or danger.
- Poor growth or weight gain.
- Eating a lot of food in one sitting or hiding food for later.
- Lacks needed medical, dental or psychological care.
- Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
- Indicates there is no one at home to provide care.
- Exposure to domestic violence.
- Allowing known sexual offender or abuser to live in the home.
Physical abuse is the non-accidental physical injury of a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
- Child has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes.
- Injuries that don’t match the given explanation.
- Unexplained absence from school.
- Seems frightened of caregivers.
- Reports an injury by an adult caregiver.
Sexual abuse is anything done with a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or older child. This may include non-touching offenses such as exposure to pornography or adult sexuality.
- Sexual behavior or knowledge that is inappropriate for the child’s age.
- Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain.
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a sexually transmitted disease.
- Statements that he or she was sexually abused.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs when an individual buys, trades or sells sexual acts with a child.
- Branding or tattooing.
- Older boyfriend or male friend.
- Acquires large amounts of cash or receives unexpected gifts.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth.
- Delayed or inappropriate emotional development.
- A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school.
- Loss of previously acquired developmental skills.
- Reports a lack of attachment to a parent or caregiver.
Sometimes the warning signs can be seen in the behavior of the parent or caregiver, rather than in the child. Some things to watch for might include:
- Shows little concern for the child.
- Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child and describes child with negative terms, such as “worthless” or “evil”.
- Severely limits child’s contact with others.
- Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries or no explanation at all.
If you want an in-depth training on how to recognize and report abuse, give us a call at Ray of Hope at 918-337-6177. We’d be happy to come for a lunch and learn at your office or a quick presentation to your Sunday School. If you know of a group of people working with kids, we’d love to be a part of helping them learn to recognize and report abuse. As adults, it is our responsibility to protect the kids in our community – expanding your knowledge expands our community’s safety net.