ABH Maryland

How To Watch For Signs of Child Abuse


How To Watch For Signs of Child Abuse

  • Children Mental Health
  • Family

Child abuse is a growing epidemic in the United States that can happen to any family. It does not discriminate between races, socioeconomic classes, or communities, and abuse can occur from birth through the teenage years.

With the coronavirus keeping most children at home, it has become harder to spot the signs of child abuse in a virtual environment. This also can keep children with their abusers, as parents are most likely to be the perpetrators of child abuse.

How Common Is Child Abuse?

In 2019, the latest year data is available, there were about 656,000 victims of child abuse nationally, or about 8.9 victims per 1,000 children. Of those victims, young girls and children under the age of 3 were most likely to be abused.

In the same year, an estimated 1,840 children died from neglect and abuse, or about 2.5 children out of every 100,000.

Across Maryland’s 1.3 million minors, 62,351 reports of potential child abuse were made in 2019. However, only about a third of those reports were monitored through the state’s Child Protective Services division.

“It definitely takes an entire village to keep children safe,” Ross DiEdoardo, director of CASA of Harford County, told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s not just the responsibility of social services. It’s not just the responsibility of law enforcement. It’s the responsibility of every single person in the community.”

What are the Signs of Child Abuse?

There’s a stark difference between child discipline and what is considered child abuse in Maryland. Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a minor constitutes abuse, but not all — or even most — abuse is sexual abuse or physical abuse. In 2019, about 60 percent of child abuse victims were neglected, whereas about 10 percent were physically abused and about 7 percent were sexually abused.

Children can also be verbally abused, emotionally abused, or mentally abused. Here are some tips for how to recognize child abuse in someone you know:

Changes in behavior: Children grow into themselves, but sudden and rapid changes in behavior, like anxiety, aggression, depression, and fear, could be reactions to child abuse and trauma. Be on the lookout for childhood signs of anxiety and depression, such as a loss of interest in their favorite activities, extreme feelings of sadness, unexplained pains, hostility, or restlessness.

Unexplained injuries: All kids get scraped and bruised from regular life, but unexplainable burns, cuts, and bruises are clear visible signs of potential child abuse. Even when explanations are given, they may be unconvincing and need to be looked into further. If you think something is wrong, say something immediately.

Fear of going home: A child’s home should be their ultimate safe space. If they’re adamant they should stay at school, a friend’s house, or a relative’s home, they may fear being alone with an abuser.

Changes in eating or sleeping habits: A routine is key for growing bodies. Sudden changes in eating, like refusing to eat at lunch or a new obsession with eating, could stem from abuse in the home. Similarly, children who are experiencing excessive nightmares during nap time or falling asleep in class could be struggling to get the rest they need.

Changes in school performance: When a straight A student begins struggling in class, or a social butterfly begins to withdraw from classmates, they could be dealing with child abuse at home.

Lack of personal care of hygiene: Neglected children are sometimes dressed in stained clothing or have dirt and food on their body. However, not all neglected children will have clear visible signs of abuse.

Risk-taking behaviors: As child abuse victims get older, they often begin experimenting with alcohol, drugs, and sex. This can happen for children who are still being abused as well as children who were removed from their abusers.

How To Report Child Abuse

If you suspect a child is being abused, call (800) 4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453) immediately. Most child abuse reports are made by teachers, police officers, and doctors, but they can be made anonymously.

To report child abuse in Maryland, call the Department of Human Services at (800) 332-6347, or your local department of social services.

If you are looking for treatment options for a child abuse victim in Maryland, contact us today to set up an appointment.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.