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Local child welfare experts share how to spot child abuse and neglect


April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. To help the public better recognize and report children who are being abused, experts share what to consider

At least 1 in 7 children have experienced abuse or neglect in the past year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

“I think the true magnitude of abuse and neglect is likely underestimated.”

Brina Tiemeyer is the Director of Clinical Services at Wedgwood Christian Services in Grand Rapids.

She says its everyone’s job to understand that the number one rule for reporting child abuse is suspicion.

” It is not to prove that the abuse happened. So, if a child tells you they’re being abused, believe them. If a child does not tell you but you suspect abuse, report it.”

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.

High risk factors include children younger than age four, children with special needs, mental health issues, physical disabilities or chronic illness.

Tiemeyer urges people to also pay attention for those at risk of perpetrating abuse.

“If you’re noticing caregivers with significant use of drugs or alcohol, or if you notice a caregiver that suffers themselves with a mental health diagnosis that’s going untreated, or caregivers who themselves were abused or neglected.”

Children who are being abused may have increased anxiety or lack of confidence, extreme emotional outbursts, or lack social skills.

They may isolate themselves, exhibit fear of being touched or wear clothing that doesn’t match the time of year to hide injuries.

“If abuse is suspected, please reach out to your local law enforcement or Child Protective Services.”

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