What Child Care Providers Need to Know about Identifying Abuse and Neglect
Child care providers are often the first people to notice that a child is being abused or neglected. Because child care providers spend so much time each day with children, they are likely to notice physical signs of possible abuse, such as bruises or burns, as well as changes in behavior that might indicate abuse.
In order to help children who are being abused or neglected, child care providers can learn how to recognize the signs or symptoms of different types of abuse. There are four basic types of child abuse:
- Physical abuse is any kind of physical harm to a child that is not accidental. Physical abuse may include hitting, shaking, throwing or shoving a child.
- Emotional abuse is the intentional humiliation or belittling of a child. Emotional abuse may be hard to identify because it does not usually leave physical signs.
- Sexual abuse is any type of sexual behavior with a child. Sexual abuse includes fondling, rape, incest, child pornography and exhibitionism.
- Neglect is the failure to meet a child's basic physical, medical, emotional or educational needs.
These types of abuse are typically found in combination. A physically abused child often is emotionally abused as well, and a sexually abused child also may be neglected. Children may show physical signs of abuse, such as bruises or broken bones, or behavioral signs, including fear of a specific person or inappropriate sexual knowledge.
Many common signs of abuse are also signs of other stressors in a child's life. Signs of abuse most often happen in clusters. A child who shows a single sign may not be suffering abuse. It is especially important to pay attention when signs of abuse appear repeatedly or in combination.
Source: Washington State University Extension
Talking with Children about Suspected Abuse
Hearing a disclosure — a child telling you that someone has abused or hurt him — can be scary for child care providers. Many thoughts may run through your mind. You may be worried about the child and yourself, unsure of how to respond or what to say, or angry with the parent or alleged abuser. Responding to a disclosure of abuse or neglect is a big responsibility.
Being Sensitive Is Essential
Children often are reluctant to tell about abuse. In over 80 percent of abuse and neglect cases, the parents are the abusers. Many children love the person who is abusing them and just want the abusive behavior to stop. Because they love and care about the person, they may be reluctant to get the person in trouble. Many abusers tell children to keep the abuse a secret and frighten them with unpleasant consequences.
Children may start to tell someone about the abuse. If the person reacts with disgust or doesn’t believe them, the child may stop disclosing the events. Then the child may not tell anyone about it until he feels brave enough or has established a sense of trust with someone else. This may delay the child from seeking help.
Guidelines for Talking with Children about Alleged Abuse
If a child begins to tell you about possible abuse, please listen carefully. The following guidelines may help you respond to a child's report of abuse.
Source: Washington State University Extension.
Take a child's report seriously. If a child comes to you with stories of abuse, take those stories seriously. Tell them that you believe them and that you are going to contact people who can help. Take reports of sexual abuse especially seriously. It is rare for a child to lie about sexual abuse.
Help the child feel safe. Choose a place that is quiet, familiar, and non-threatening for your conversation. Make sure you can talk, uninterrupted, for as long as needed.
Show respect for the child. Allow them to share their injuries if they want to, but don't force them. Never press the child to remove clothes.
Manage your own reactions. Reporting abuse to an adult is scary for many children. Keep your reactions neutral. Don’t display horror or shock and don't show disapproval of parents or the child.
Choose your words very carefully. Ask open-ended questions and do not suggest answers. For example, it would be appropriate to say, “That bruise looks like it hurts. Tell me how that happened.” Stay away from statements like, “Did you get that bruise when someone hit you?” Listen more and talk less. Avoid “why” questions. Children usually have limited understandings about why they are abused and often feel it is their fault.
Avoid leading questions and statements. When talking to a child about suspected abuse or neglect, remember that the child may have to share the story with law enforcement professionals later. Avoid probing for answers or supplying the child with terms or information. Several major child sexual abuse cases have been dismissed in court because the adults who first interviewed the children inappropriately influenced or biased them.
Ask for only enough information to clarify whether you need to make a report. It is not your job to decide whether the child has actually been abused or neglected.
Planning Creative Art Activities for Multi-age Groups
Many child care providers work with mixed-age groups that include children of many different ages. Planning your child care curriculum to include creative art activities that are appropriate (and safe) for infants through school-agers can be challenging. Here are some tips for child care providers to choose creative art activities for multi-age groups.
Source: Washington State University Extension
Choose materials that appeal to different ages. Activities such as painting, drawing, and working with play dough are art activities that children of all ages can enjoy. Try using materials such as safe, non-toxic play dough; finger paint and large pieces of paper; large crayons and large sheets of paper; soap bubbles; chalk on different kinds of paper; and markers on aluminum foil.
Encourage age-appropriate exploration. Children of different ages may enjoy using certain art materials in very different ways. Infants and young toddlers may simply scribble with a crayon on a large sheet of paper. Preschoolers may use that same crayon and paper to practice drawing shapes or draw simple objects. Older children may create an elaborate picture.
Choose materials that are safe for all ages. Young children are likely to put things in their mouths, so make sure all art materials are non-toxic and safe for different ages.
Supervise well. Remember that young children are not good at sharing materials. The child care provider may need to sit at the table with children to ensure that the activity is well-supervised.
Create time or space for "big kid" art. Preschoolers and school-age children need changes to work with more complex materials that are not appropriate for infants and toddlers. Set aside a special area for older children to create art, or plan art activities for older children while younger ones are eating or napping.