No mom wants to be the one to pick up the phone and call Child Protective Services to report child abuse or neglect. And if you are related to the person being reported or your kids are friends, fear of damaging those relationships makes it even harder to make the call.
However, child abuse and neglect can only be stopped if the child is able to confide in a trusted adult or if someone close to them reports the problem to the division of family services. There are so many vulnerable kids in our country, and only 1 out of every 10 children reports their own abuse. They need our help if they are going to be kept safe and have a chance to grow up to be healthy adults.
Unfortunately, most adults hesitate to make a hotline call and many decide against reporting suspected abuse. Typically, it seems that witnesses of abuse or neglect are very fearful of the consequences they could experience from their family or community if they report another parent. Others have concerns that being involved with the police or Child Protective Services could negatively affect their own family or children.
For instance, a video of a young boy in a diaper who appears to be inhaling pot has recently emerged. In this video, viewers can hear an off-camera voice coaching the toddler, saying, “Inhale it, go on.” This video was brought to the Chicago police by anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes, who received a tip from an anonymous source. Even though Holmes encouraged his source to take the video to the police, she was too nervous about being associated with the creators of the video in some way.
Hopefully, the police will be able to quickly locate the child and move him to a safe environment where he can receive the care he needs to thrive. We can’t help but wonder: If the adult who created this incriminating video was willing to post it online for all the world to see, what else is going on in the home? It is scary to think that, without the courage of the anonymous reporter, this video could have gone completely unnoticed.
Circumstances like this one raise questions about reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. When is hotlining a family necessary and when does the parent simply need a little extra help? In this instance, and in many others, it seems obvious that a child is in danger and someone needs to quickly speak up.
Of course, we never want to encourage parents to use Child Protective Services as a means of tattling on parents who simply aren’t doing things their way. It is strange, silly even, to see legitimate child abuse and neglect go unreported while parents are losing custody of their children for letting them play outdoors alone. One mom, for instance, was recently arrested for letting her child play unsupervised at the playground of their gated community 100 feet from their home.
We understand that it feels like a conundrum, deciding when to report and when to keep quiet. Still, parents should know that it is always best to err on the side of overreporting if you suspect a child is suffering or in danger. And if you are concerned about the consequences reporting another parent could have on your life, there is good news. Reporting anonymously is simple. A quick call to your state’s child abuse and neglect reporting hotline will be kept completely confidential.