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What to Do if You Suspect Child Abuse

Years ago, I knew that a relative of my husband's was seriously neglecting her children at best, and abusing them at worst. For months, I struggled with deciding what to do. I knew that they had issues with drugs and alcohol so I tried to help.  I took the kids to school, had them over for dinner, looked for clothes on sale and at thrift stores, etc. Yet, the more I helped, the less care her mother seemed to give to them.  

Some part of me knew that I had to call social services, but I really didn't want to do it.  One day, the principal of their school asked to talk to me when I dropped them off in the morning. She asked me what was going on with the family and asked if I suspected child abuse.  When I explained the situation to her, she made it very clear to me that I could not change the situation of these children no matter how much I tried to help them.  

At that point, I realized that I had to make the call and let someone know. It wasn't easy and it didn't make me happy to do it, but because I suspected child abuse or at least serious neglect, I had to make the phone call.  

What I learned from that experience is that if you suspect any child abuse of any child you know, the very best thing that you can do it to call the proper authorities. Health care professionals and teachers are required to let officials know if they suspect child abuse, but they often aren't privvy to information that would alert them to the abuse.  

Reporting possible child abuse isn't something that you want to take lightly and you certainly don't ever want to report anyone without some cause, but if you have some evidence or a strong feeling based on things you've heard or personally witnessed, the best thing you can do is to call social services or local authorities. 

Good for you for standing up for those children and making that difficult decision. I would just add that I am surprised that the principal at their school did not make a report to child services herself, since she suspected that there was a problem. I know that in my state, teachers are mandated reporters to social services. They are often in the best position to make these determinations, as they observe children everyday. And as you point out, a report is not an indictment. Social services will do their own investigation into the allegation.
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