April is Child Abuse Prevention Month: The Warning Signs and Duty to Report
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to re-educate and learn about how child abuse and neglect has become a national crisis as well as how to effectively support a child in recovery from abuse.
In the U.S., 7.2 million referrals are made to Child Protective Services each year. A perpetrator of child abuse can extend to any caregiver or person who holds responsibility over a child including a child of an older age. However, parents are the most common perpetrators of child abuse with an estimated 91% found responsible in cases of abuse with 77% of deaths of children involving at least one parent. Child abuse includes physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse with no one category of abuse taking precedence over another. All forms of abuse have a significant impact on a child’s development and safety. Children who experience abuse in the home are involved in a consistent cycle of trauma that impacts their physical health, cognitive development, and can cause deterioration in their mental health manifesting in anxiety, depression, self-harm, or suicidal ideation.
Children commonly spend the majority of their day in a school environment rather than in the home. This means that school personnel and staff have an increased chance of recognizing signs of child abuse or neglect in their interactions with students. Parents and caregivers often manipulate their relationship with the child to keep them silent about abuse. Signs that indicate abuse may be occurring include:
- Bruises, injuries at various stages of healing, or experiencing pain when sitting/standing
- A difficulty connecting with peers or adults at school
- Avoiding contact or avoiding speaking about a specific person or place
- Feelings of shame, guilt, or an increased level of anxiety
While each state has its own legal definition of child abuse, identifying early warning signs in your classroom can be the first step in recognizing a child in need of protection. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (otherwise known as CAPTA) is the federal guidance that defines child maltreatment as serious harm caused to children by parents or primary caregivers.
As an educator, you have a legal duty as a mandated reporter to refer to your local or state CPS agency any suspected child at risk of abuse or neglect. All referrals are kept confidential and ensure a child receives due process to be evaluated on whether it is safe for them to remain in their home or whether they are currently in crisis. Mandated reporters are not required to provide proof that abuse, or neglect has occurred. Their responsibility is first and foremost to the child’s welfare, there is no penalty for reporting a concern that comes back as unsubstantiated after investigation.
How Impero supports child abuse prevention
Impero EdAware, our digital student portfolio, allows you to track minor to major concerns that can help you understand whether a student in your school or school district is currently suffering from abuse or neglect. With five concern categories that include well-being, child protection, and first aid, a child is able to have school officials intervene to allocate the best support possible for a child’s welfare. In compliance with federal and state legislation, Impero EdAware helps you to build a child’s story for a full picture of their experiences at school and in the home.