By: Christine Kutch
Clearfield County Children, Youth and Family Services
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The amendments to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) have expanded the scope of acts defined to be child abuse and the manner in which authorities respond to abuse allegations. The definition of abuse, as defined by the CPSL is intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing physical, mental or sexual harm or exploitation to a child by an act or a failure to act. This includes the neglect of a child and causing the death of a child by an act or a failure to act.
Physical abuse is usually at the hand of a parent, and is often the result of discipline that has exceeded healthy boundaries. To discipline positively and appropriately, American Humane encourages parents and other caregivers to use the following techniques:
- Discipline with love
- Listen and communicate
- Focus on the behavior, not the child
- Respond immediately
- Relate the discipline to the offending behavior in duration and severity
- Be realistic
- Remain calm
- Be fair
- Do not harm or injure
- Set boundaries
- Make it a learning opportunity
- Be consistent
- Be creative
- Develop rules and expectations in advance
- Use timeouts
- Reward or praise desirable behaviors
- Model desired behavior
- Encourage the child’s cooperation and understanding
- Develop behavioral contracts and incentive charts
It is not enough to warn children about the dangers of strangers. Between 80 – 90 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone with an existing relationship with the child and or family. The following 11 tips are from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with regard to the prevention of child sexual abuse:
- Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
- Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom) or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
- Ensure that organizations, groups and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
- Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
- Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “OK” and “not OK.”
- Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others, even in non-sexual ways.
- Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
- Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
- Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don’t do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
- If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.
If you need help managing your own behavior or want to learn better parenting techniques, the Clearfield County Children, Youth and Family Services can refer you to support services, classes or counseling.
To report a suspicion of child abuse, telephone the Pennsylvania hotline, ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 or Clearfield County Children, Youth and Family Services at 814-765-1541. Your report is anonymous. Your identity will be disclosed only to law enforcement officials and the district attorney’s office.
For more information about Child Protective Services in Pennsylvania, visit KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.
This safety message was brought to you by Clearfield County’s Safe Kids Coalition. Our local coalition is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children, the number one killer of kids in the United States.
For more information please contact Judy Patterson, Nutrition-Safety Advisor for Cen-Clear Child Services, at 814-342-5678, Ext. 2264. The coalition always welcomes new members and meets the last Tuesday each month at noon at Cen-Clear Child Services, 1633 Bigler-Philipsburg Hwy,, Philipsburg.