Please Help Prevent Child Abuse in Grand Rapids
Child Abuse is real and it happens in Grand Rapids.
It happens in Kent County. It happens in West Michigan.
And even though the idea of harming a child turns your stomach and makes you cringe, realize that you may be the only lifeline for a child in your life.
That child NEEDS you to see him. She needs you to advocate for her.
You probably have hesitations about reporting someone. You don’t want to get a good mom or dad in trouble. You’ve heard horror stories about Child Protective Services taking kids away for reasons you don’t agree with.
But child abuse and neglect is a prevalent problem in our community and you have a role in responding to it. In 2019, 2,662 children ages 0-17 were abused or neglected in Kent County.
Children are vulnerable, and they depend on us for protection. The impacts of child abuse and neglect last for a lifetime, but they are also 100% preventable.
How Do I Know it’s Child Abuse?
Many people hesitate to intervene in a situation because they aren’t sure if what they saw really “qualifies” as abuse. Here are some parameters to know and follow:
Legal definition of child abuse:
“Harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs through non-accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment” …by the person responsible for the child’s care.
Abuse can be:
Legal definition of child neglect:
The “failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.” Neglect can also be defined as “a parent/guardian’s…failure to intervene to eliminate that risk when that person is able to do so and has, or should have, the knowledge of the risk.”
- Failure to protect
- Improper supervision
- Medical neglect
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Bruises that conflicts with explanation of injury
- Unexpected bruises, welts or loop marks in various stages of healing
- Bite marks
- Bald spots/missing clumps of hair
- Swollen lips/chipped teeth
- Crescent shaped bruises (caused by pinching)
- Horse shoe shaped welts (caused by lighter burns)
- Puncture wounds
- Bruising behind the ear
- Uncomfortable with physical contact
- Arrives at school late
- Chronic running away
- Complains of soreness
- Wears inappropriate clothing to cover body
- Lacks impulse control
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Pain or itching in genital area
- Difficulty sitting/standing
- Bruising or bleeding in genital areas
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Sudden or unexplained weight change
- Chronic depression
- Sexual behaviors and references unusual for age
- Seductive/promiscuous behavior
- Poor self-esteem
- Lack of self-confidence
- Suicidal tendencies
Signs of Neglect
- Unattended medical needs
- Lack of supervision
- Consistent hunger
- Inappropriate dress
- Poor hygiene
- Inappropriate supervision
- Sudden or unexplained weight change
- Inappropriate food items
- Regular displays of fatigue
- Falling asleep in class
- Steals, hoards or begs for food
- Reports no caretaker is home
- Overly dependent on teacher
- Asks for lots of help
- Stays at school/activities for extended periods of time
What Can I Do?
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you should report it immediately.
If the child is at risk of immediate harm, or you witness the child being harmed, call the police – DIAL 911.
Stories of when Mandated Reporters called 911
- I witnessed a child, around 8 years old, be punched in the face by his father at a Big Boy restaurant. I notified the manager informing that I was required to report witnessing this and he did his best to keep the pair there until the police arrived.
- A teen from my Girl Scout troop disclosed during an overnight that she was being raped by her older brother. Her older brother was supposed to pick her up in the morning. I called 911 that evening and police agreed to meet me the scheduled pick-up location in the morning.
- In running an after school program, one of the attendees disclosed he was scared that his mom was going to die that evening. When asked why he said, “she told us she was going to kill herself and I really think she’s going to do it this time.” I called CPS who encouraged me to also call 911 and have an officer there when the mom picked up the kids. Together, the officer and the school counselor met with the mom, who was quickly taken to Pine Rest for support and her children were able to stay with their aunt while their mother got the support she needed.
If the child is not in immediate danger, or you have not witnessed the harm first hand, call Child Protective Services.
Michigan law states that anyone with “reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect shall make immediately…an oral report.” You do not have to have proof that a child is being abused or neglect in order to file a report. If you suspect that something is wrong, err on the side of caution and make the call.
How Do I Report?
You can file an oral report by calling Child Protective Services (CPS) at 855-444-3911.During the call, CPS will ask you questions such as the child’s full name, age, and race; the perpetrator’s full name and relationship to the child, and the child’s address, and what you are calling to report. Even if you don’t have all the information, don’t let that stop you from making a report! The most important things to tell CPS during your call are who the victim is, where they can find the victim, and what happened.
Where to Turn if You Suspect Your Child has Been a Victim of Child Abuse
The Children’s Assessment Center of Kent County is your resource if you suspect child abuse. If your child has had a significant change in behavior and/or has exhibited sexualized behavior and you do not know why, the Child Assessment Center can do a behavior assessment to help determine where the behavior is coming from.
They can also help if you are wondering if your child is displaying age appropriate behavior or are wondering what age appropriate behavior looks like.
Four Things to Know About the Children’s Assessment Center
We wish that no one would ever have to visit the Children’s Assessment Center but if you do, here is some helpful information:
- It’s Free. You don’t have to pay here to investigate whether your child has been abused. If your child has been exhibiting sexualized or questionable behavior, call now to make an appointment. The Children’s Assessment Center’s skilled professionals regularly deal with young children through preteens to sift fact from fiction. The CAC can also help you determine what is appropiate behavior for your child’s age.
- It’s Safe. Your information and the information of your children will be kept confidential. Doors remain locked and entry is only granted by appointment. Kent County detectives are located in the same building, as are Child Protective Service Workers, should they be needed.
- It’s Local. The Children’s Assessment Center is at 901 Michigan NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503. You can call them at (616) 336-5160.
- You Won’t Need Childcare. When you bring a child in to be assessed, trained office staff and a fully stocked child-friendly lobby are ready for your other children.
Take Mandated Reporter Training
Certain professions that have regular contact with children have been designated as Mandated Reporters. A mandated reporter is a person who is legally obligated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters fall into this category based on their profession. The following are some examples of people who are mandated reporters:
- Dentist and/or Dental Hygienist
- Law Enforcement Officer
- Licensed Counselor
- Licensed Emergency Medical Care Provider
- Marriage and Family Therapist
- Medical Examiner
- Physician and/or Physician Assistant
- Regulated Child Care Provider
- School Administrator
- School Counselor or Teacher
- Licensed Social Worker
- Social Service Technician
- Students in Coursework Programs Working with Minors
Mandated Reporter training is not limited to these professions, however. Anyone, including you, can become a Mandated Reporter.
Mandated Reporter Training trains professionals, students and community members not only how to report child abuse and neglect, but also how to recognize it. Training includes the Child Protection Law, responsibilities of Mandated Reporters, indicators of child abuse/neglect, and information on Children’s Protective Services.
Upcoming Mandated Reporter Training Sessions
Training is $5 for students and $15 for professionals. Discounted rates can be negotiated for groups of 30 or more.
Community-Wide Training (Open to public – click on date to register)
- Tuesday, March 14th, 9:00am-12:00pm
- Thursday, April 13th, 1:00pm-4:00pm
- Wednesday, May 17th, 9:00am-12:00pm
- Tuesday, August 15th, 1:00pm-4:00pm
- Thursday, October 12th, 1:00pm-4:00pm
- Tuesday, November 14th, 9:00am-12:00pm
- Thursday, December 14th, 1:00pm-4:00pm
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services – Contains information about how to report child abuse and neglect and what happens after CPS receives a report.
- Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect – A helpful guide about the signs of potential child abuse and neglect.
- Family Futures – Provides community-wide mandated reporter trainings that are open to anyone in Kent County. You can also request to have Family Futures host a mandated reporter training session at your organization. For more information, please call 616-454-HOPE (4673) or visit their website.