By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)
Local child abuse agencies in Onondaga and Oswego counties have each reported that instances of child abuse are on the rise. Research and history shows that when families and heads of households struggle economically, instances of child abuse and domestic violence increase. According to statistics compiled by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, there were 1,836 cases of child abuse found in 2008. That number increased significantly in 2009 to 2,091. Similarly, in Onondaga County, 4,602 cases of abuse were reported in 2008 but in 2009, that number increased to 5,271. These statistics do not include reports that were transferred to another department for investigation and do not include reports that were not investigated by local departments of social services.
Itâ€™s important to know what to do if you suspect child abuse in your own home or in a friendâ€™s or neighborsâ€™ home. There are several local and state resources available to help guide you in being an advocate for children who may be victims of abuse.
Know the signs:
Neglect is failure to provide for a childâ€™s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education or proper supervision. Signs include:
Â· Malnutrition or begging, hoarding and stealing food.
Â· Poor hygiene including matted hair, dirty skin or severe body odor.
Â· Unattended medical or physical problem.
Â· Child states no one is home to provide care.
Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act with a child by an adult or older child. It includes fondling or rubbing a childâ€™s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, indecent exposure and pornography. Signs include:
Â· Pain or bleeding in anal or genital area with redness or swelling.
Â· Child displays age-inappropriate play with toys, self or others.
Â· Child has inappropriate knowledge about sex.
Â· Child reports sexual abuse.
Physical abuse is intentional injury inflicted upon a child. It may include severe shaking, beating, kicking, punching or burning that results in minor marks, bruising or even death. Signs include:
Â· Broken bones or unexplained bruises, burns or welts in various stages of healing.
Â· Child is unable to explain an injury or explanations given by the child and caretaker are inconsistent with the injury.
Â· Child is unusually frightened of the caretaker.
Emotional abuse occurs when a parent fails to provide the understanding, warmth, attention and supervision the child needs for healthy psychological growth. Signs include:
Â· Parent or caretaker constantly criticizes, threatens, belittles, insults or rejects the child with no evidence of love, support or guidance.
Â· Child exhibits extremes in behavior from overly aggressive to passive.
Â· Child displays delayed physical, emotional or intellectual development or is afraid to go home.
Â· Child reports intentional injury by parent or caretaker.
Many of these occurrences can be the result of stress in a childâ€™s life as well, including divorce, death, illness or a recent move. However, according to MacMahon/Ryan, an Onondaga County-based local child advocacy center which assists families and children who have been abused, when the aforementioned symptoms appear repeatedly or in combination, there is often cause for concern.
If a child is in immediate danger, call 911. If you suspect child abuse, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720. Each county has its own local resources to help people with questions about child abuse. The Onondaga County Child Abuse hotline can be reached by dialing 315-422-9701; McMahon-Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 315-701-2985. In Oswego County, local police and skilled counselors work with the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County which can be reached by calling 315-592-4453 or 315-59-CHILD.
The state has several mandated reporters including childcare center workers, social workers, teachers, dentists, doctors, counselors, EMTs, nurses and counselors. Mandated reporters are required to report instances of suspected child abuse or maltreatment only when they are presented with reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment and submit a written report. Non-mandated reporters, which can be any concerned citizen, are not required to submit a written report and the source making the report will not be revealed to the suspected abuser.
For more information, visit the New York State Office of Child and Family Services at http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/prevention/faqs.asp; the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County at http://oswegocac.org/news-events/ or the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site at [email protected] or by calling 315-701-2985. On Sept. 11, the Child Advocacy Center will host its annual Blue Ribbon Ride against Child Abuse. For details, visit their web site. In April, McMahon/Ryan places pinwheels around the county to raise awareness about child abuse.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.