Most of us have held an infant in our arms, marveling at the grip of tiny fingers, feeling impossibly soft skin and inhaling that signature baby lotion smell. Give the parent of a grown child just a second and they can feel their little child, snuggled in the crook of their arm, all over again.
Now, imagine such a child, too small to have talked, walked or even crawled, being hurt by an adult.
Since January, police in Hardin County have investigated four reported instances of child abuse that caused serious injuries or death. Three of the children were infants. One was 18 months old.
In those cases, five parents and the boyfriend of a mother were arrested and face charges ranging from wanton endangerment to murder.
Too commonly, after child abuse is reported, someone familiar with the child says they had suspicions, police said. For some reason, people feel reporting those suspicions would be causing trouble or intruding.
State law compels Kentuckians to report suspected abuse. Beside that, we’re talking about protecting children and that’s everyone’s business.
Here are five things you can do to help prevent or stop the abuse of a child
Recognize the physical red flags. Generally, young babies should not have bruises. If you see a baby who is not yet mobile or pulling up, with bruising, do something, urge doctors involved with Kosair Children’s Hospital’s Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. Additionally, a change in a child’s alertness or the sudden onset of persistent vomiting, in the absence of diarrhea, could be signs of abusive head or abdominal injuries.
Don’t leave a child with someone who doesn’t want to care for a crying baby. Caring for infants and toddlers takes patience, a basic understanding of child development, some child-care skills and self-control, points out Kosair’s task force literature. If you don’t have complete faith in a caregiver’s ability, don’t risk it. Find someone else. Also, know physical abuse often is committed by an unrelated man left to baby-sit.
Understand crying. Crying is normal, but also is the No. 1 trigger for abusive head trauma in infants. Babies cry to communicate a variety of things and sometimes cry for what seems no reason at all. It doesn’t mean you have a bad baby and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, according to the task force. Pediatricians note crying tends to intensify in the evening and peaks between 2 and 3 months of age.
If you think you’ve met a baby’s needs but still can’t stem the crying, that’s OK. An unrelenting cry can stress even the smoothest parents. If you feel frustrated, don’t hold the baby. Place the child in a crib and walk away, go where you can’t hear the crying, call a supportive friend, listen to music, take a shower. It’s OK to take some time to collect yourself, doctors said.
Offer support to parents. Be a mentor to younger parents, letting them describe their frustrations and encouraging them in their efforts to give their best to their child. Recognize that parents might need a break and offer to baby-sit for your friends and loved ones, especially those with limited resources.
Report abuse. If you witness or suspect child abuse, contact the Cabinet for Health and Family Services or local police. The cabinet’s 24-hour hotline is 877-597-2331; its online option is www.prd.chfs.ky.gov/ReportAbuse. In an emergency situation, call local police.
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