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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is child Abuse?
  2. What is the difference between discipline and abuse?
  3. What are the different kinds of child abuse?
  4. Where does child abuse happen?
  5. What are the effects of child abuse?
  6. Why do parents abuse their children?
  7. What are the common signs of child abuse?
  8. Why should I get involved?
  9. How can we help troubled families?
  10. How do I know or suspect a child abuse case?
  11. Why should I report child abuse?
  12. What will happen to me if I make a report?
  13. How do I know when to report child abuse?
  14. What happens after a report is made?
  15. What does the social worker do?
  16. What does the law enforcement officer do?
  17. Does a report mean a child will be taken away?
  18. Are children taken away forever?
  19. What happens if the court orders removal of a child from the home?
  20. If children are placed in foster care, do parents see them again?
  21. How can I help prevent child abuse?
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  1. What is child Abuse?
    It is repeated mistreatment or neglect of a child by parent(s) or other guardian resulting in injury or harm.

    Under California Law, child abuse is a crime. Children need protection because they are vulnerable and often unable to speak for themselves. The California Child Abuse Reporting Law, along with other state laws, provides the legal basis for action to protect children and allow intervention by public agencies if a child is maltreated.
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  3. What is the difference between discipline and abuse?
    Discipline is designed to help children control and change their behavior. Its purpose is to encourage moral, physical and intellectual development and a sense of responsibility in children. Ultimately, older children will do the right thing, not because they fear external reprisal, but because they have internalized a standard initially presented by parents and other caretakers, and children gain self-confidence and a positive self-image.

    Abuse is characterized by its orientation toward satisfying needs or expressing the negative feelings of parents or other caregivers. While it may result in positively changing the child's behavior, often the improvement is temporary and followed by a later acting out of the hatred, revenge and hostility they have learned from their parents. To avoid further abuse, children may lie, run away or exhibit other forms of avoiding responsibility. Abuse tends to damage the self-esteem of both parents and the children.

    Safe, effective discipline is a correction given in love. In evaluating methods of guiding their children's behavior, parents or guardians need to ask themselves: Is the discipline...
    • carefully related to the offense?
    • administered in the calmness of conviction rather than in the heat of anger?
    • fair, weighing heavily in consideration of the child, occasional and of brief duration?
    • free from physical violence (e.g., look of reproach, scolding or the taking away of a valued privilege)?
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  5. What are the different kinds of child abuse?
    PHYSICAL: Shaking, beating, burning, failure to provide necessities of life (e.g., adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care). A child is physically injured by other than accidental means. A child is being subjected to willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment.

    VERBAL: Excessive yelling, belittling, teasing.

    EMOTIONAL: Failure to provide warmth, attention, supervision, normal living experiences.

    SEXUAL: Incest, rape and other sexual activity or exploited sexually.

    Any kind of contact with a child could be considered a sexual act. It will depend on the intent of the person making the contact. The victim knows or can 'FEEL' the difference between hugging and fondling, tender or passionate kissing.

    Good touching, bad touching and secret touching are three examples that help clarify what is or is not against the law. Any kind of secret touching is against the law.

    GOOD TOUCHING is when a child does something he or she is supposed to, like helping grandma, and grandpa gives a kiss on the cheek or a big hug to the child.

    BAD TOUCHING is when a child and his brother or sister get into a fight and the child gets hit. The next day the child has a bruise or black eye.

    SECRET TOUCHING is anytime anyone (man, boy, woman, or girl) wants to touch a child and want the child to touch them anywhere that does not seem right to the child or that would be covered with the child's underclothes or swimming suit. Any child may be victimized.

    CHILD means a person under the age of 18 years.
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  7. Where does child abuse happen?
    Child abuse can happen anywhere:
    • in poor, middle class, well-to-do homes
    • in any ethnic, cultural, occupational, religious and age groups
    • in child's own home or outside it
    • in rural areas, suburbs, cities
    • involving one or both parents
    Tragically, though, it most often happens at home and usually the abuser is known to the child. Generally, the abuser is a caretaker. A caretaker can be a parent, stepparent, relative or baby-sitter.
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  9. What are the effects of child abuse?
    Child abuse happens often. It is estimated that as many as a million cases of abuse and neglect happen each year. Its effects are severe:

    Emotional or Physical Handicaps (sometimes lifelong):
    • An abused child may never be able to love and trust other people; may always have a poor self-image.
    • Injuries inflicted in childhood may result in permanent crippling, deformity.
    "Acting Out" Behavior:
    • Often, abused children become teenagers/adults who act in criminal and other antisocial violent behavior.
    Even Death:
    • Parents who habitually abuse their children may very well end up killing them. Hundreds of such cases happen every year in the United States.
    We know that child abuse is a symptom that can be treated successfully, eased, prevented or the cause cured. But first, more people have to understand and care.

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  10. Why do parents abuse their children?
    (Note: Parents are the most frequent child abusers. But other guardians, e.g., parents' friends, relatives, may also be involved.)

    Often, it's in reaction to past or present problems or stresses they can't cope with, such as:
    • UNMET EMOTIONAL NEEDS: Parents who can't relate well to other adult may expect children to take care of parents, satisfy their need for love, protection, self-esteem.
    • FREQUENT CRISES: Financial, job, legal problems, major illness, etc., can cause a parent to "take it out" on a child.
    • POOR CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES: Many abusive adults were mistreated themselves as children and have a poor, self-image.
    • DRUG OR ALCOHOL PROBLEMS: Such problems limit parental ability to care properly for children.
    Most abusive parents are "normal." Relatively few are "criminal" or mentally unbalanced.

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  11. What are the common signs of child abuse?
    • REPEATED INJURIES: Bruises, welts, burns. Parents may seem unconcerned, deny that anything is wrong, or give unlikely explanations for the injuries.
    • NEGLECTED APPEARANCE:Children often are badly nourished, inadequately clothed, are left alone or are wandering at all hours, always seem as if nobody cares. (Sometimes, though, over-neatness may be a sign of abuse.)
    • DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR: Very aggressive, negative behavior constantly repeated can signal a desperate need for attention and help.
    • PASSIVE WITHDRAWN BEHAVIOR: When children are excessively shy and friendless, it may indicate that there are serious problems at home.
    • FAMILIES THAT ARE EXTREMELY ISOLATED: Parents who don't share in school or community activities and resent friendly contacts may be distrustful of people, afraid of their help.
    Use caution and good sense in identifying child abuse. Every parents makes errors in judgment and action at some time but when it becomes plain that there is a pattern or it is becoming one, then it's time for help.
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  13. Why should I get involved?
    For your own sake...and for the family's sake. Child abuse is a tragedy that affects us all:
    • A SOCIAL BURDEN: permanent mental or physical damage caused by child abuse can rob a person of the ability to be an independent, productive citizen.
    • A LEGAL BURDEN: crime, delinquency, drug and alcohol addiction, etc., often result when a person has been mistreated as a child.
    • THE ABUSED CHILD AND FAMILY CAN'T HELP THEMSELVES: abuse is a vicious cycle usually passed on from generation to generation.
    • THEY WANT TO BE HELPED AND CAN BE: the great majority of these troubled parents can learn how to be good mothers and fathers, to enjoy their children.
    • TO BREAK THE ABUSE CYCLE, THE COMMUNITY....YOU....MUST BECOME AWARE OF HOW SERIOUS THE PROBLEM REALLY IS....AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
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  15. How can we help troubled families?
    Helpers seek to protect the child and help families learn how to live together and cope with crisis. The kind of help given depends on a particular family's problems and needs.
    • DETECTING AND REPORTING: These are vital first steps. Too often, child abuse goes unreported because people who could help "don't want to get involved."
    • IMMEDIATE TREATMENT: Help must be sought immediately for urgent problems, such as physical injury, malnutrition, serious neglect. Children may also need developmental testing or psychiatric therapy. Parents may need a physician's help, too, for physical problems, mental distress, depression, alcohol abuse, etc.
    • SUPPORT SERVICES: Concerned friends, relatives, visiting nurses, homemakers, social workers often are family and life-savers. Most abuse incidents are triggered by a crisis in the parent's life that must be resolved to ease overwhelming tensions. In some cases all that's needed is a HELPING HAND. and the knowledge that someone cares.
    • EXTENDED COUNSELING: This is a must for children and parents. Because abuse develops over a long time, it requires long term professional treatment. Time is needed to work out family problems and for parents to learn "parenting skills"---the knowledge and ability necessary to raise a child.
    Temporary separation is sometimes necessary to protect the child and give the parent(s) a chance to "cool off."

    Permanent separation is a last resort. (In certain cases, though, it may be the only answer.)
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  17. How do I know or suspect a child abuse case?
    You have a moral, and in some cases, a legal responsibility to see that child abuse is reported to the people who can help. By law, you cannot be prosecuted for doing so in good faith. First, be sure you know the facts....then act.
    • BE A FRIEND: Often an abusive parent needs someone to talk to for advice and support. Do your best to offer a sympathetic ear and to suggest services (social, medical, etc.) that can help.
    • CONTACT LOCAL SERVICE AGENCIES: The Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-540-4000, should be called immediately to report child abuse or neglect. People who must report child abuse, often referred to as Mandated Reporters, vary from state to state - usually they include physicians, dentists, police, school counselors, teachers, nurses, etc.
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  19. Why should I report child abuse?
    All children have the right to grow up in a safe environment. Child abuse, in all its forms, has a more lasting and negative effect on children, families and the whole community than most people realize.

    At its worst, its destructive impact haunts its victim throughout life and prevents the child from becoming a productive adult. Frequently, parents who were mistreated as children will mistreat their own children. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect reports that more than 2,000 children die each year due to abuse or neglect.

    Reporting child abuse is a first step in stopping this devastating cycle.

    People who hurt children usually need help to change their behavior. Many, perhaps most, only get that help after someone else calls attention tot he fact that they need it by reporting their abuse of a child.
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  21. What will happen to me if I make a report?
    Anyone who reports known or suspected child abuse is protected by law from civil or criminal liability unless it can be proven that the report was false and that the person who made the report knew it was false. Any person, except a mandated reporter who reports child abuse may remain anonymous. Mandated reporters are required to give their names. However, it is helpful to give your name and telephone number to the worker taking the report in the event he or she needs to obtain more information later.
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  23. How do I know when to report child abuse?
    Reporting should be done when a person either knows or has a "reasonable suspicion" that a child has been or is in danger of abuse or neglect. "Reasonable suspicion" means that most people, given the same facts and information, would suspect child abuse. Hard proof is not needed to make a report. However, reports must be in good faith. Use common sense.

    A report of child abuse is serious and may have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family. Never make a false or malicious report. If you have any doubts about whether to report a particular situation, simply call the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-5404000) and discuss the situation.
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  25. What happens after a report is made?
    The social worker or law enforcement officer on duty will speak to the person making the report in order to obtain information about the child. The kind of information needed includes:
    • what type of abuse has occurred?
    • who or what caused the abuse?
    • is the child still in danger or in need of medical care?
    No two reports are handled in exactly the same way. Decisions by all the people involved are based on each child's situation. Even reports on two children in the same family may be handled differently.

    The agency receiving the report will determine how to proceed based on the information available. All reports which describe situations that fall within statutory definitions of abuse/neglect will receive a response. What the response is and how quickly it will be made, depend on the seriousness of the events reported and the situation the child faces. Where it appears the child is still in danger, the response will be immediate. Not all reports are serious enough to require the assistance of a law enforcement agency. In these cases, the family may be contacted only by the child welfare agency.

    The investigations by the child welfare agency and law enforcement are conducted separately. The child welfare agency will concern itself with the welfare of the child and family. Law enforcement will focus on obtaining evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed and by whom.
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  27. What does the social worker do?
    The social worker interviews the child and family to evaluate the situation. The worker, whose primary responsibility is the PROTECTION OF THE CHILD, may offer services to help reduce the problems of the family and child. These include:
    • counseling
    • referrals to self-help groups
    • assistance in obtaining medical care, emergency shelter, transportation
    • temporary in-home caretaker to help parents and children
    The social worker's activities are designed to protect children and enable families to stay together whenever possible.

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  28. What does the law enforcement officer do?
    The law enforcement officer has a primary responsibility to protect the child. The officer will interview the parents/caregivers and child and will gather information based on the interviews, physical evidence and information from other sources such as medical and school records. When instances of serious abuse and crimes occur, the parent/caregiver is arrested and the case if referred by law enforcement to the district attorney for criminal prosecution.
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  30. Does a report mean a child will be taken away?
    NO! Most reports of child abuse do not result in children being removed from their families. The first goal is to enable the child to remain safely in higher own home.- If this is not possible, the social worker must remove the child from the home and place him/her in . a foster home. If it is necessary in order to protect the child, the child welfare agency also is authorized to arrange emergency, temporary foster care.
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  32. Are children taken away forever?
    California has strict rules about removal of children from families. However, because children are vulnerable, the law also affords them significant protection. Peace officers are authorized to take an endangered child into protective custody place the child in the care of the child protection agency.

    This initial emergency removal is allowed by law without a warrant for 48 hours, not counting holidays and weekends. Should the child protection agency decide that the child cannot yet return safely to the home, the agency must immediately ask the Superior Court, Juvenile Division, to hold a hearing to determine if continued removal is necessary.
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  34. What happens if the court orders removal of a child from the home?
    If the Juvenile Division decides that it is necessary to remove a child from the home, several possibilities exist:
    • the child may be placed with the other parent, if they are separated or divorced
    • the child may be placed with relatives, or
    • in a foster or group home
    Where the child goes depends on the needs of the child. The court will order that the parents and the child protection agency work together to reunite the family as quickly as possible. Court hearings are held at least every six months if a child is removed from the home to make sure that efforts are being made to bring the child safely back home. The hearings may be held more often if needed.
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  36. If children are placed in foster care, do parents see them again?
    YES! Parents are expected to visit regularly, except in unusual circumstances. The parent/child relationship must be maintained if at all possible. It is very hard for children to be separated from their parents, even when the parents have harmed the child. No one can easily replace a child's parents.
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  38. How can I help prevent child abuse?
    There are several things you can do about it. Learn more about child abuse and how it is treated. Don't ignore child abuse, REPORT IT! Be supportive and helpful to families having problems. If you or your family need help coping with children, ask for it. Social service agencies are there to help you.

    To report child abuse or neglect in Los Angeles County, call the Child Abuse Hot Line at 1-800-540-4000 (California only). From outside California, call (213) 639-4500.

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