by Martine Bacci Siegel
The return to school is an exciting time for most, but for some it simply serves as a short respite from abuse at home. Listed here are some behaviors school staff should be on the lookout for as they could be an indicator of a more serious problem. Remember, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a mandatory reporting state. You MUST report any suspicions you have. If you believe a child is being abused, neglected or is dependent, please call the Child Protection Hotline number below or the Protection and Permanency office in your county or call the Child Protection Hot Line 1-877-KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2331)
The online KY Child/Adult Protective Services Reporting System is available for professionals to report non-emer-gency situations that do not require an immediate response from staff. The website is monitored from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. Reports will not be reviewed evenings, weekends or state holidays.
Here are a list of behaviors to look out for
- Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
- Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or fear of strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.
- Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them or exhibit an unusual fear of a familiar person or place.
- Changes in eating. The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
- Changes in sleeping. Abuse children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
- Changes in school performance and attendance. Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.
- Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
- Risk-taking behaviors. Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language and may exhibit symptoms of a genital infection.
- Unexplained injuries. Children who have been physically abused may exhibit unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.