While most of us want nothing but the best for our children, child abuse and neglect are too common. While the words abuse and neglect are often used interchangeably, each type of maltreatment is distinct. Abuse is the intentional maltreatment of a child and can be physical, sexual, or emotional in nature. Neglect, on the other hand, is the failure to give children the necessary care they need. The emotional scars of both types of maltreatment are often deep and no child deserves to be maltreated.
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, or if you think a child may have died from being mistreated, you must report what you know to the county Department of Social Services. This is the law( N.C.G.S. § 7B-301). Do not be afraid to report. As long as you are acting in good faith, you cannot be held liable ( N.C.G.S. §7B-309).
A listing of all 100 county Departments of Social Services can be found here.
The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect. It is important to note that any one of these things could mean anything or nothing. For example, there are many reasons a child may not want to go home on any particular day, or a child may be overly compliant when they are trying to please a favorite teacher. However, when you have a cluster of two or more of these, this should raise a red flag to at least talk to the child and/or parent, and at most call your local Child Protective Services. It is also important to remember that issues related solely to poverty are not considered child maltreatment issues.
- Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
- Displays overt sexualized behavior or exhibits sexual knowledge that is inconsistent with their age;
- Has not received medical attention for a physical injury that has been brought to the parents' attention;
- Has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes;
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
- Is overly compliant, an overachiever, or too responsible;
- Comes to school early, stays late, and does not want to go home; or
- Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes;
- Has bruises or marks in non-prominent, “fleshy” areas of the body (for example, inside of biceps or behind the knees);
- Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school;
- Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home from school;
- Shrinks at the approach of adults;
- Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver.
The Parent or Other Adult Caregiver:
- Shows little concern for the child, rarely responding to the school's requests for information, for conferences, or for home visits; denies the existence of or blames the child for) the child's problems in school or at home; asks the classroom teacher to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves; sees the child entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome;
- Demands perfection or a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve;
- Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury;
- Describes the child as "evil," or in some other very negative way;
- Is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs and that abuse is having an adverse impact on the child;
- Uses harsh physical discipline with the child; or
- Has a history of abuse as a child.
- Begs or steals food or money from classmates;
- Lacks needed medical or dental care;
- Lacks age appropriate adult supervision ;
- Lacks clothing appropriate for the weather;
- Reports family violence in the home;
- Reports use of illegal substances or excessive use of alcohol by parents or caregivers (for example, to the point the parent passes out);
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs; or
- States there is no one at home to provide care.
The Parent or Other Adult Caregiver:
- Appears to be indifferent to the child;
- Seems apathetic or depressed;
- Is involved in an abusive domestic relationship;
- Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner; or
- Is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs.
Asking for help is a sign of strength. Call Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina at 1-800-CHILDREN. They can put you in touch with someone who can offer support and help. Or contact your:
- Family Physician or Pediatrician
- Mental Health Center
- Health Department
- 1-800-4-A-CHILD a National Child Abuse Hotline)
Twelve Alternatives to Lashing out at Your Child
The next time everyday pressures build up to the point where you feel like lashing out -- STOP! Try any of these simple alternatives. You'll feel better... and so will your child.
- Take a deep breath... and another. Then remember you are the adult.
- Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your child is about to hear.
- Press your lips together and count to 10... or better yet, to 20.
- Put your child in a time-out chair (remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.)
- Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry: is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
- Phone a friend.
- If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
- Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
- Hug a pillow.
- Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
- Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
- Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD
The county Department of Social Services has a team of people who assess reports of suspected child abuse and neglect.
If someone has made a report because they are concerned about the safety of your child, you may be visited by a social worker from the county Department of Social Services. These professionals are required by law to assess any report of child maltreatment. That means they need to talk to your child, talk to you, and perhaps to teachers, neighbors or others who are close to the family. The worker has the right to talk to your child without your permission. However, the worker will only exercise this right if the worker deems that the child's safety warrants it.
Remember that the worker is only trying to make sure your child is safe. Honesty and cooperation will make the process easier. Often the parent is offered needed support.
Most of the time children reported to CPS are not removed from their homes. Children are placed away from their parents only when it becomes necessary to protect them from harm.
You can get more information about procedures and your rights from North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 7B. For additional information please refer to Janet Mason's Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in North Carolina (second edition, 2003)
We strive to keep this information as accurate as possible. If information on this page needs to be updated, please Email us.
Page Modified 10/15/2012