Knowing the signs and reporting child abuse among the best ways to prevent it, say local experts

Knowing the signs and reporting child abuse among the best ways to prevent it, say local experts

In Spokane today, a man is awaiting trial in the beating death of a baby, Caiden Henry. Another man, is accused of brutally beating and sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s toddler. In Post Falls a couple were charged with starving and torturing their 6-year-old.

These are just three extreme cases in the last year that have actually made local news; many other cases we will never hear about.

The month of April is recognized as Child Abuse Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on abuse and neglect and ways to prevent them. Local experts say, one of the most important ways to prevent abuse is to know the signs and report them immediately. When people report suspected child abuse, the professionals in our community can get the child, the abuser and the family the help they need to ensure it doesn’t happen again or to any other child.

Erik Larson, a Home Finders supervisor with Spokane Children’s Administration, is one of the people on the front line battling the problem every day.

The Children’s Administration offices in Spokane house 150 case workers who oversee some 18 cases each.

“Spokane has a prevalent amount of child abuse and neglect,” Larson said.

He says it’s important to understand there are many forms of abuse.

“There’s neglect, there’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and abandonment.”

All forms have different signs and symptoms. Some of the most common though include problems in school, changes in eating habits, nightmares or bed wetting, lack of supervision and unexplained bruises or marks.

Our community has people whose job it is to report signs of abuse. These people are called mandatory reporters and include teachers, coaches and doctors, but sometimes the children being abused will never come in to contact with them.

“Many times the people that are calling in, are the ones the that have the established relationship with the family and they may be the only eyes and ears the family has on the children,” Larson explained.

Larson wants people to know you don’t have to know all the facts to call in suspected abuse. Leave it up to the experts to decide as that call can sometimes save a child’s life.

“You calling in, you as a mandatory reporter or just a reporter, you won’t know if you’re the first person to call or the 7th person to call in. There may have been six phone calls before you but your call could be the one that tips off intervention.”