Reporting abuse is everyone's responsibility |
by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs
1/25/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al -- Silence can be deadly, and, according to officials, withholding suspicions of child abuse and failing to call Family Advocacy is a crime.
Beverly Lesyea, Family Advocacy officer, said that everyone at Maxwell is a mandatory reporter when it comes to child abuse.
"For child abuse, there is no restricted reporting, because it is adults who are responsible to protect children, since they cannot protect themselves," said Lesyea. "Anyone who has knowledge or suspicion of abuse who works on this installation, whether they be civilian, contractor, military, it doesn't matter, they are mandated reporters to this office, to Family Advocacy."
Even if people are unsure if their suspicions qualify as abuse, Daphne O'Hair, domestic abuse victim advocate, urges them to report, and Family Advocacy will determine the severity of the case.
"When you look at all the child deaths [nationwide] that have happened over the last couple of years, there's one thing that always seems to come up, and that's somebody, somewhere, knew something was going on, they just didn't report it," said O'Hair. "I would hate to put my head on a pillow at night knowing I could've done something and didn't, versus I did something and it turned out not to be that big of a deal."
Unrestricted reporting for child abuse cases allows Family Advocacy, after receiving the report, to contact other agencies such as Child Protective Services.
However, those calling in the reports may still remain anonymous from the person being reported. On the other hand, for any adult domestic violence or abuse cases, reporting can follow either unrestricted or restricted guidelines.
Restricted, in these cases, mean that Family Advocacy must work privately with the victim of the abuse without contacting any outside resources, such as chain of command or law enforcement.
Children younger than 18 may be in abusive situations either physically, sexually, emotionally or through neglect. Neglect covers a broad range of areas from lack of supervision, abandonment, depravation of necessities and exposure to physical hazards to educational and medical neglect.
Lesyea added that it is important for all base residents to be aware of the child and youth supervision policies under Maxwell Air Force Base supplement 34-801. These policies define the way children are to be supervised depending on their age for certain situations.
If, for instance, a parent has been away from home for more than 24 hours without arranging for appropriate care and supervision, this would be considered abandonment.
Lesyea said that hazards in the home can be "anything from the living standards of the house, to medication left where the kids can reach it or firearms with the ammunition in close proximity."
She also added that exposing children to an adult domestic violence incident or having them witness such an act is also considered a physical hazard. Educational neglect is when a child is prevented from enrolling in home schooling or public or private education.
Failure to provide access to medical professionals, dental services and medication is neglect of health care. If children lack nourishment, shelter or clothing, they are being deprived of necessities.
Many reports of child abuse come from medical providers, who report if a child is underweight, unclean or acting in an unruly manner. Such reports may not qualify as an abuse or neglect report, but they are still indicators of unrest within the home.
Those at Family Advocacy talk with families about the reported behavior to determine if there are any issues they can help resolve to prevent any serious child abuse in the future.
"Even if it's not a case we're going to open as a child abuse or a neglect case, it maybe that we know about resources that we can make known to the parents," said Lesyea. "We've at least had the opportunity to talk, to lay eyes on, to look at and to offer some services like parenting classes, counseling or the child care center drop in care or Give Parents a Break program."
In every child abuse case, Family Advocacy will team with the Department of Human Resources Child Protective Services to help conduct the investigation. Child Protective Services are the only ones with authority to remove a child from an abusive situation.
Prevention and knowledge are the best tools a parent can have in their arsenal when it comes to raising children so situations do not escalate to the point of abuse and require intervention, according to April Jones, Family Advocacy outreach manager.
"We have prevention education where we can raise awareness to the community through briefings or community activities," said Jones. "We try to raise awareness year round with education. The more people are educated, and aware of what red flags they should look out for and what they should and should not do, you will probably see less abuse occurring."