Letter to the Editor: National Child Abuse Prevention Month

By BEN QUAM Guest Columnist

Parents and caregivers rely on their strengths, support and resources to help keep their families healthy and strong. There are times when families are in circumstances which make it difficult for them to provide the safe environment a child needs.

Reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect, or concerns for a child’s safety, could protect a child and connect a family with the help they need. It is important that people are able to recognize signs of child abuse and neglect.

Neglect can be failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, or necessary medical care.

It could be emotional, such as not providing for the child’s mental health needs, isolating a child for a long time or depriving a child of emotional attention.

Neglect can be educational, by not providing the child with the right educational opportunities.

Signs of physical abuse include unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes; or a child may have fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school. These injuries may be due to punching, hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, choking or biting and may be done with hands, belts or other objects.

Sexual abuse involves parents or caretakers using a child for sexual stimulation or exposing a child to other types of sexual activities.

Be aware if a child is frightened of their parents or caregivers and protests or cries when it is time to go home; or if they appear overly fearful of adults. Be aware of behavioral extremes of aggressiveness, or withdrawal.

If you see indicators that are concerning, be aware of the interaction between the child and parents or caregivers, or if a parent/caregiver has conflicting stories, or if the stories are not consistent with an injury. A child also may disclose they are being abused. Not all warning signs are definitive of child abuse or neglect.

However, if you have concerns about a child and are wondering if you should call the Division of Child Protection Services, you should. You never know if your call is the one that helps a child and their family. Call 1-877-244-0864.

Please help to prevent child abuse/neglect.


Ben Quam is the President of the Brookings County Child Protection Team.