With children, small changes can indicate big troubles. From sudden fears to aggression, child abuse and neglect change children.
“We urge adults to pay close attention to children around them. Unexplained behavioral changes can signal a child or family needs help,” said Cindy Brown, MD, a child abuse pediatrician at Mission Children’s Hospital.
Whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual, child abuse is under reported. Recent data from Child Protective Services suggests western North Carolina has higher rates of neglect and child abuse than other parts of the state. Closely tied to untreated parental mental illness, addiction, the adult’s own abuse or economic hardship, this dark history can repeat itself. “Most often, abuse doesn’t stop unless it’s reported,” said Dr. Brown.
Signs of Trouble
- Sudden aggression, fighting or hurting animals
- Child’s injuries not matching the explanation
- Depression, withdrawal or mood swings
- Sudden struggles with school work
- Regression like sudden bed wetting or toileting accidents at school
- Fears of going home or of certain people
- Sudden fears of being touched, going to the bathroom or specific places
- Changes in how affection is shown
- Wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather
- Dirty clothing, malnourishment or changes in hygiene
- Caregivers verbally demeaning children, withholding affection or isolating children
The Child Safety Team
The Child Safety Team at Mission Children’s Hospital, led by board certified child abuse pediatricians, partners with local child protective services departments, law enforcement and mental health professionals at Mountain Child Advocacy Center.
The Child Safety Team is specially trained to gather information from and provide medical evaluation to hundreds of children when suspicions of neglect or abuse are reported. Care is coordinated with the child abuse experts at the Mountain Child Advocacy Center who provide evidence-based counseling and treatment.
What You Can Do
- Take note. Behavior changes can be a gauge of children’s home lives.
- Don’t wait. Immediately report suspicions of abuse to Child Protective Services.
“Abused children can make incredible recoveries when they are in loving, nurturing homes and get the therapy they need,” said Dr. Brown. For questions about our child abuse prevention and treatment, call the Mountain Child Advocacy Center, located at Mission Children’s Hospital Reuter Outpatient Center, at (828) 213-9824.
Cindy Brown, MD, is a child abuse pediatrician with Mission Children’s Hospital. (828) 213-1794