Every April, Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to learn about the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it.


This year, 2020, poses a special set of risks as COVID-19 quarantine keeps families isolated at home, according to a news release from Pia Woods, staff chair/county extension agent at the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service.


Domestic abuse experts warn that the COVID-19 outbreak could lead to more abuse cases. Stress factors such as being confined, unemployment, economic instability and consumption of alcohol may place more stress on families during this pandemic.


Another concern is the availability of usual resources for domestic violence. Many services are shut down and shelters aren’t taking new clients right now. Therefore, the outbreak will also make victims more isolated and unable to get help, according to the release.


The latest statistics available (2017) indicate that there were 9,334 victims of abuse or neglect in Arkansas, a rate of 13.2 per 1,000 children. This abuse or neglect often takes place in the home at the hands of a person the child knows well. Although any form of abuse may be found separately, they often occur together.


MAJOR TYPES OF CHILD MALTREATMENT


• Neglect — failure to provide for a child’s basic needs;


• Physical abuse — physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child;


• Emotional abuse - any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth;


• Sexual abuse — any situation where a child is used for sexual gratification. Trafficking is a form of sexual abuse and includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.


IDENTIFYING SYMPTOMS


The first step in helping or getting help for an abused or neglected child is to identify the symptoms of abuse. The presence of a single sign of abuse does not prove that child abuse is occurring in a family, however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, one should consider the possibility of maltreatment.


Symptoms of the four major types of child maltreatment include:


• Neglect — signs of malnutrition, poor hygiene, unattended physical or medical problems;


• Physical abuse — unexplained bruises, burns, or welts, child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver;


• Sexual abuse — pain, bleeding, redness, or swelling in anal or genital area, age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, or others, age-inappropriate knowledge of sex;


• Emotional abuse — extremes in behavior, ranging from overly aggressive to overly passive, delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development.


DO SOMETHING


Anyone can and should report suspected child abuse or neglect. If a person thinks a child is being mistreated, they should take immediate action. Arkansans can report child abuse by calling the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 482-5964, or, in the event of an emergency, dial 911 or a local law enforcement agency. To report child exploitation, call the National CyberTipline, 800-843-5678, or visit CyberTipline.com.


When calling to make a report, the person will be asked for specific information, such as the child’s name and location, the name and relationship (if known) of the person they believe is abusing the child, what they have seen or heard regarding the abuse or neglect, the names of any other people who might know about the abuse, the name and phone number (voluntary) of the person making the report. People may choose to report anonymously. Reporting the situation may protect the child and get additional help for the family.


Details: Child Welfare Agencies https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/prevention_ch4_2020.pdf;


Arkansas Attorney General’s Office https://arkansasag.gov/search/?submit=submit&q=child+abuse;


Child Welfare League of America – Arkansas Statistics https://www.cwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Arkansas-2019.pdf;


Pia Woods, staff chair and a county extension agent with the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service, a program of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture,, 870-534-1033 or pwoods@uaex.edu or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UAEXJeffersonCo or on the web at uaex.edu/Jefferson.