TOPEKA – (April 2, 2020) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Kansas State Child Death Review Board are encouraging Kansans to wear blue and post a picture on social media with the hashtag #WearBlueDay tomorrow to increase awareness of child abuse.
The effort is part of April’s observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse. Under normal circumstances, Kansans are encouraged to wear blue to the workplace to increase awareness. Due to stay at home orders in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, tomorrow’s focus has shifted to raising awareness online.
“Keeping a watchful eye for the signs of child abuse can help protect Kansas children,” Schmidt said. “We all have a responsibility to help keep children safe, and that duty is more important than ever during this period of reduced social interaction and potentially heightened risk for vulnerable children.”
Social distancing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak has already had a significant impact on reports of child abuse in Kansas. The Department for Children and Families recently reported the daily average of calls made to the state’s Protection Report Center has dipped from 200 per day in fiscal year 2019 to 102 per day last week. The center’s phone number remains active for Kansans to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect at (800) 922-5330. In cases in which the child may be in imminent danger, call 911.
The State Child Death Review Board says warning signs of child abuse may include parents or caregivers who lack social contact outside the family, have alcohol or drug abuse problems, or are excessively controlling or resentful of a child. Abusive parents or caregivers may belittle children by either directly criticizing them or using subtle put-downs disguised as humor. They rationalize their behavior as a form of discipline aimed at helping the child. Often the discipline is inconsistent and a result of unreasonable expectations or demands on the child. Abusers also avoid talking about their child’s injuries.
Victims of child abuse may exhibit a lack of trust, be fearful or anxious about going home, have uncontrolled emotions, and lash out in anger. They may become depressed and withdraw from others. Unexplained injuries, excessive sadness or crying, flinching at sudden movements and difficulty sleeping can also be signs of abuse. Children who are neglected often have bad hygiene, wear ill-fitting or dirty clothing and have untreated injuries or illnesses. They can appear underdeveloped and malnourished and are frequently late or missing from school.
Children regularly get bruises and bumps, especially over bony areas such as the knees, elbows and shins. However, injuries on other parts of the body, such as the stomach, cheeks, ears, buttocks, mouth, or thighs raise concerns of abuse. Black eyes, human bite marks and burns seldom come from everyday play.
“If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, it is important to speak up,” said Sara Hortenstine, executive director of the State Child Death Review Board. “Many people are reluctant to get involved, but consequences of staying silent can be devastating and sometimes fatal for the child.”
While physical abuse is the most visible form, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect also result in serious harm. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised or dangerous situations or creating a sense of being unwanted are all forms of abuse.
April was first declared as Child Abuse Prevention Month by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. The Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse was begun in 1989 by a Virginia grandmother in memory of her grandson, who died due to child abuse.
For additional information on child abuse and neglect, visit www.ag.ks.gov, or call (785) 296-7970.