Preventing child abuse and neglect is everyone’s responsibility | Opinion

April 30, 2020 6:30 am

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By Joseph Petrarca

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when Pennsylvanians are reminded to be aware of signs of abuse and neglect in children and about the resources available to help our youngest citizens.

With many of us staying at home during the COVID-19 health crisis, one of the biggest concerns I have is that there are fewer people who are interacting with children – including those who may need our help – due to schools and many childcare facilities being closed.

Our children count on us to look out for their wellbeing. And during this time, it is imperative we continue to do all we can to keep them safe and prevent abuse and neglect.

Pa.’s child abuse hotline is now run out of employees’ homes, but receiving far fewer tips than normal

Some signs of potential child abuse or neglect can include, but are not limited to:

  • Numerous and/or unexplained bruises or injuries.
  • Chronic or pronounced anxiety and expressed feelings of inadequacy.
  • Flinching, or an avoidance of being touched.
  • Poor impulse control.
  • Cruelty to animals or others.
  • Demonstrating abuse behavior or talk.
  • Fear of parent or caregiver.

If you see any of these signs or behaviors in a child, please contact ChildLine, the state Department of Human Service’s 24-hour toll-free hotline, by calling 1-800-932-0313.

Calls to ChildLine are constantly monitored and information regarding suspected cases of abuse or neglect are being promptly reported to county agencies for investigation. You do not need to prove abuse or neglect – a report made to ChildLine allows trained child welfare workers and law enforcement personnel to properly investigate.

 ‘The perfect storm:’ How COVID-19 has multiplied the risk for children in abusive households

Mandated reporters, such as physicians and law enforcement personnel, should visit to make a report.

I realize that right now, we are living in very uncertain and anxious times. This is an especially difficult time for parents, caregivers and families that are dealing with an enormous amount of stress that can lead to a higher risk for potential abuse.

If you or someone you know is having trouble coping, please call the Statewide Support and Referral Helpline toll-free anytime at 1-855-284-2494. You can also reach out to the state’s Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.

Remember, we all have a very important role to play in keeping our children safe from harm and neglect. Please do your part to protect them and encourage others to do the same.

State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, a Democrat, represents the Westmoreland County-based 55th House District, which also includes parts of Armstrong and Indiana counties. He is the ranking Democratic member of the House Children and Youth Committee.

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