You need to know about Child Abuse & Neglect
The Dome is always aiming to lead the field in keeping children safe. We want to equip all our coaches with tools to help prevent child abuse and protect children from harm and neglect.
How and when you must report child abuse
As responsible adults, we have a duty to watch over the children in our communities. It’s important that every kid in Alaska have the chance to grow up free from abuse and neglect. If we believe that a child is being harmed, we have a moral and legal obligation to speak up.
When to report
You need to file a report with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) any time you know or believe that abuse or neglect may be happening. You should not try to investigate or determine the truthfulness of what you’ve heard - that’s for OCS to take care of.
How to report
Report your concerns to the state Office of Children’s Services by calling 1-800-478-4444, or by e-mail at [email protected].
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
What happens when I make a report?
OCS will ask you a series of questions and take it from there. Remember that a report to OCS is not an accusation, it is only a tip for OCS to take a closer look. You cannot be prosecuted or sued for making a report, even if it is inaccurate, as long as you tell OCS the facts as you know them.
If you suspect a child has been abused…
- Keep calm.
- Tell the child you believe them.
- Show interest and concern.
- Reassure and support the child.
- Take action. Report suspected abuse or neglect quickly.
- Panic or overreact.
- Pressure the child, demand answers, or overwhelm the child with questions.
- Blame the child or minimize their feelings.
- Confront or inform the offender.
Some signs to watch out for
These are some common signs of child abuse and neglect that you might observe. Behaviors listed here are not proof of abuse, but they may be warning signs. Some abused children will show none of these signs. Some signs that a child is experiencing neglect, abuse, or violence are more obvious than others. Trust your instincts. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact authorities. You do not need proof before you make a report.
- Unexplained injuries. Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations for a child’s injury.
- Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or more aggressive.
- Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, and fear of the dark or strangers. Some may even lose parts of their memory or lose an acquired language.
- Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about going places with the person who is abusing them.
- Changes in eating. The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
- Changes in sleeping. Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
- Changes in school and sports performance and attendance. Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or sports or may have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.
- Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may be consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack the right clothing for the weather.
- Risk-taking behaviors. Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol, fighting, or carrying a weapon.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit sexual knowledge beyond their years or use explicit sexual language.
We all have a role to play in keeping children safe.
For more information about these topics, visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/ocs/Pages/childrensjustice/reporting/know.aspx