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States Abuse Reporting Hot Line is Tool to Protect Children

FRANKFORT The state agency that protects children has a reminder for people who may be unsure about reporting possible child abuse or neglect: When in doubt, make the call. If you suspect a child is being harmed or is at risk of harm, contact the local Department for Community Based Services office or the police. Its the law, said Lisa Durbin, manager of the departments Child Safety Branch in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The cabinet is emphasizing this message during April, which Governor Ernie Fletcher has proclaimed Child Abuse Prevention Month.

One of the most important things people can do to keep kids safe is to report abuse when they suspect it, Durbin said. Its easy, and its confidential.

The states toll-free, 24-hour abuse reporting hot line is (800) 752-6200. Kentuckians may also report to their county DCBS office, or if a child is in imminent danger, to local police or 911 operators.

Last year, the cabinet received reports of more than 67,000 children being abused or neglected. About 31,000 were accepted for investigation, and 9,966 of those were substantiated.

Some reports arent accepted if they dont meet criteria to warrant an investigation.If there is a question about whether a particular situation is abuse or neglect, we always prefer the person make the call and talk over what has come to their attention, Durbin said. Our social workers are trained to help callers sort things out. They collect very thorough information that allows us to know whether a specific incident can be investigated per statute or regulation.

Durbin said vital information to have when reporting abuse and neglect includes the childs name, approximate age, address, parents names and where the child is located at the time the call is made. Specific information about why you believe the child is being abused or neglected and by whom, as well as the names and phone numbers of other people who might have information about the reported abuse or neglect, is also important.

While the cabinets first priority is to protect children, another goal is to strengthen the families involved in abuse allegations.

In many cases, the cabinet works with families to overcome the barriers that prevent parents from caring for their children and keeping them safe, Durbin said.

Durbin recommended some simple things to help children, such as spending time with a stressed parent and offering to listen, giving parents a break by watching their kids for an hour, or offering words of encouragement to neighborhood kids.

The protection of children is everyones business, she said. We cannot do it alone. It truly does take a village to raise a child.

Child Abuse Prevention StrategiesChildhelp USA, a national, nonprofit child abuse prevention group, offers these tips for preventing and recognizing possible child abuse:

Never discipline a child when your anger is out of control.

Participate in your childs activities and get to know your childs friends.

Never leave your child unattended, especially in a car.

Teach your child the difference between good touches, bad touches and confusing touches.

When your child tells you he or she doesnt want to be with someone, this could be a red flag. Listen to them and believe what they say.

Be aware of changes in your childs behavior or attitude, and inquire about it.

Teach your child what to do if you and your child become separated while away from home.

Teach your child the correct names of his or her private body parts.

Be alert for any talk that reveals premature sexual understanding.

Pay attention when someone shows greater than normal interest in your child.

Make certain your childs school or day care center will release him or her only to you or someone you designate.

This story was posted on 2006-04-06 11:07:12
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