Picture it. The year is 1982. E.T. is the latest Spielberg film that has taken over the box office. Eye of the Tiger is a hit, playing on your Walkman. You’re excited to get home and watch the newest episode of your favorite TV sitcom, Family Ties.
During this time, a group of legislators are also working together to create the very first Child Abuse Prevention Week, which was June 6-12.
Child abuse and neglect had been on the rise for years, and they wanted to do everything they could to drop those numbers. Later in 1983, President Ronald Reagan officially proclaimed the month of April to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
We continue to celebrate April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month today. The month has adopted the color blue as its official color, and a pinwheel as its symbol. Communities band together to plant blue pinwheel gardens, participate in “Wear Blue Day,” and partake in memorial walks to honor the lives lost to child abuse and neglect, and help bring attention to the cause.
To honor National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we here at D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s think it’s important to not only teach others how to spot and report child abuse and neglect, but also how to help prevent it from occurring in the first place.
How to Spot Child Abuse & Neglect
One important thing to remember when looking for signs of abuse and neglect, is that it happens in every zip code. Many people think, “Oh, that doesn’t happen here.” But it does. Child abuse and neglect can occur in any family. When in doubt, report it. Here is a list of indicators of abuse and neglect. You can view more indicators on the MDHHS website.
Common Indicators of Neglect
- Lack of supervision
- Regular signs of hunger, inappropriate dress, poor hygiene
- Steals/hoards food, begs from classmates
- Unattended medical needs
Common Indicators of Physical Abuse
- Unexplained bruises (in various stages of healing), welts, loop marks, crescent-shaped bruising, marks on the body that appear to be in a pattern and not on the extremities of the body
- Bald spots or missing clumps of hair
- Unexplained burns/scalds
- Bruising behind the ears
- Self-destructive/self-mutilation behavior
Common Indicators of Sexual Abuse
- Pain, itching, bruises, or bleeding in genital area
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Extreme or sudden weight change
- Sexual behaviors or references that are unusual for the child's age
- Withdrawal, chronic depression
How to Report Child Abuse & Neglect
Reporting is often the step that causes anxiety for some. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re doing this with the best intentions. If you aren’t sure a child is being abused or neglected, it is best to report it, just in case. Here’s the steps to help you through the process.
To report suspected abuse or neglect in Michigan, you should call 855-444-3911. When reporting suspected abuse or neglect, it’s important to include as many details as you can and do it in a timely manner. It’s important to remember that you are only reporting though, and not to investigate any suspicions yourself.
Once you have reported suspected abuse or neglect, Child Protective Services (CPS) will review the report and decide to either reject it, investigate it, or transfer it to a different agency to investigate. You can find more information and resources reporting child abuse and neglect on the MDHHS website.
Due to their job, some people are “Mandated Reporters.” This means that if they suspect child abuse or neglect in any way, they are legally required to report it. Mandated reporters include teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses, and many more. You can view a list of professions who are mandated reporters on the MDHHS website.
Mandated reporters have to follow steps a little differently, they can also report suspected abuse or neglect via an online form. If you are a mandated reporter and would like more information on how to report, visit the MDHHS website.
How to Prevent Child Abuse & Neglect
If a child does experience abuse or neglect and needs a safe place to go, we offer the only emergency shelter for children in West Michigan – our KidsFirst Emergency Shelter. However, prevention is the ultimate goal.
At DABSJ, we have a variety of counseling services to help families stay healthy and safe together. One of our favorite sayings you’ll hear around the office is that we want to keep kids safe with their families, not safe from their families.
To see all the different services we offer to help children and families, click here.
We're All in This Together
Preventing child abuse and neglect is a community effort. The more we help each other access resources, and listen to those who need help, the more of an impact we can collectively make.
In 2018 alone there were 3,002 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Kent County. As a community, let’s do what we can to lower that number. Read up on indicators of abuse and neglect, become a mentor to help parents build their skills and introduce them to more resources, or become a foster parent and work alongside a family to help reunite kids with their parents or guardians. We’re all in this together.
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About Allyssa Murphy
Allyssa's journey in the nonprofit world began in 2016 when she started working as a marketing assistant at a small residential facility for foster children in Flint, Michigan. This is where her passion for advocating for children's rights began. She later joined the DABSJ team in 2017.
Her hobbies include planning vacations - but never taking them, game nights with friends, keeping up with the latest movies and TV shows, and visiting friends and family on the other side of the mitten.
Allyssa graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Nonprofit Administration. She also has an associate's degree in Media Arts from Mott Community College.
*Special thank you to Dan Berg, KidsFirst Emergency Shelter Program Manager, for reviewing this blog post.