April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month. Child abuse or maltreatment should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Abuse can be seen in many forms such as physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. Recognizing and reporting any signs of possible abuse could greatly help a child in need, possibly save his or her life. Knowing the signs are vital so you can help!
“Many adults do not realize they can report abuse. We must continue to educate the public on how to report abuse if they suspect it,” said Sabreniee Wright, Director of Canopy Children’s Solutions South Mississippi Child Advocacy Center (SMCAC).
Below are 10 signs of abuse or neglect:
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior
- Returning to earlier behaviors
- Fear of going home
- Changes in eating
- Changes in sleeping
- Changes in school performance and attendance
- Lack of personal care or hygiene
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
Once you know the signs and suspect that abuse may be present, it’s important to report the maltreatment. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. A report is not the same as making an accusation. Filing a report will simply provide an opportunity for assessments and investigations. Do not hesitate to report, you may be the only chance a child has for help.
Reach out to the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000 to file a report. If you see or suspect a child is in immediate danger, please dial 911.
When preparing to file a report, have the following information available:
- The victim’s name, address or location, school information, approximate age, race and gender.
- A description of the situation and marks or bruises that may be present.
- The person responsible for victim’s care, alleged perpetrator name(s), and witnesses to the situation.
- Any other relevant information that would expedite an investigation such as: manufacturing of drugs in the home, possession of weapons, or domestic violence.
How Canopy South Mississippi Child Advocacy Center Can Help?
Canopy SMCAC offers forensic interviewing to children when there are allegations of abuse, neglect, or violence. Without the SMCAC, a child experiencing abuse has to tell his or her story over and over again: to the police, a doctor, a social worker, an investigator, and a counselor. This places an incredible amount of undue stress on a child who is already traumatized.
“The SMCAC gives children a place where they can come and tell their story a single time. Following the interview process, the SMCAC brings together many services and resources under one roof in order to protect the child and effectively prosecute the abuser,” said Wright. “As a result, fewer children fall through the cracks of the judicial system, and more criminals are prosecuted.”
“The children trust us which is so important. I always keep that at the forefront,” continued Wright. “It’s important to keep the child at the center of the investigation.” Children are resilient and are able to overcome their past experiences. The SMCAC wants every child to have a future regardless of their past. It’s our aim to make sure we provide resources to achieve a better future for children.
ABOUT CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS For more than 100 years, Canopy has provided innovative solutions to many of Mississippi’s most vulnerable youth through a comprehensive continuum of behavioral health, educational, and social service solutions. Learn more at mycanopy.org or call 800.388.6247.
ABOUT CANOPY’S SOUTH MISSISSIPPI CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER: SMCAC provides forensic interviews and healing services for children involved in allegations of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or who may have witnessed a violent crime. Staff works closely with a multidisciplinary team including law enforcement and local prosecutors to help bring families justice and closure.
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