When it Could be Abuse

. March 25, 2016.

If we see a mother struggling with groceries while reprimanding an unruly toddler, we might chat with the child to distract him, or offer help unloading the cart. But what if we witness an adult overtly mistreating a child—for instance smacking or shoving? Should we intervene? If we “see something,” what is the best way to “say something?” 

Jill Stonebraker, supervisor of intervention and intake processes at Hancock County Children’s Protective Services, said it’s best to call 911. Confronting the accused adult may be unsafe. The staff at Children’s Protective Services cannot act immediately when called, but the police can arrive quickly, question the involved parties, and the information collected will be shared with Protective Services. 

It Could Be all of the Difference

According to Karmen Lauth, supervisor of ongoing cases at Protective Services, “You just never know” if a 911 tip “could provide that extra bit of information needed to open a case” against an adult who might have been previously suspected of abuse. Lauth also advises that the child could be a victim of trafficking or kidnapping, needing immediate help. “The younger the child, the more at risk they are,” says Stonebraker. 

Police can be contacted, also, to provide checks at homes where abuse is suspected. If no abuse is determined, Stonebraker assures callers acting in good faith need not fear being charged with any crime. 911 callers can ask to remain anonymous so their name is excluded from public record. 

Anonymity is OK

Callers to Protective Services at 419-424-7022 also may remain anonymous. An intake worker records the caller’s information, and if enough information exists to open a case, an assigned caseworker spends 45-60 days investigating. Accused adults sometimes are uncooperative, however Lauth says most parents are open to accepting help. She estimates that about 80 percent of these cases result in referrals such as anger management, counseling, and parenting classes which create successful improvements within families.

In the event that children are removed from the home, more local foster families are always needed, as it is preferable to keep children in familiar schools and communities, said Angie Rader, Supervisor of Foster Care and Adoption at Protective Services. For more information visit fosterlocal.org.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, with “Wear Blue Day” on April 13th to show support. For information, visit preventchildabuse.org

Are you considering becoming a foster parent?

Classes for prospective foster caregivers will be held 9am- 4pm on Saturdays, May 7-June 18, with a second session from 9am- 4pm on Saturdays, October 29-December 10. 

The Hancock County Job & Family Services, 7814 CR 140.
For information or to register,
call 419-422-0182 or visit hancockjfs.org.