Keeping children safe is one of our primary goals at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it’s a good time talk about what you should do if you think a child might be neglected or abused.
If you suspect a child is abused or neglected, what should you do?
We hope you’ll care enough to call 1-855-552-KIDS. If you even suspect that a child is being mistreated, you are required by law to call and report it. Your call is confidential, and you don’t have to prove neglect or abuse. That’s the job of law enforcement and social workers. You just need to let us know you think there might be an issue, so our child protection staff can start looking into it.
What should we be looking for if we think children might not be safe?
Of the more than 23,000 calls from concerned citizens to the Idaho hotline in 2016, there were almost 9,000 child protection referrals for physical and sexual abuse and neglect. Most of those referrals – over 6,000 – were about the possibility of the child suffering from neglect. Signs of neglect include children who:
- Are not supervised
- Have medical needs that are not met
- Are extremely dirty
- Often wear clothing that is inappropriate for the weather
- Complain of hunger and have lost weight
- Are frequently late for school or fall asleep in class
- Say there is no caregiver at home
What happens when someone places that call?
When DHW social workers and law enforcement officials decide a referral should be pursued, they will contact the family and visit the home to figure out what’s going on. Our ultimate goal is to keep families together, which means giving struggling parents the tools they need to safely raise their children. Social workers and families work together to come up with a safety plan. In the best possible outcome, parents help create and maintain that safety plan, and children are never removed from their homes.
If parents don’t stick to the plan, or the kids are in obvious danger, then what happens?
If law enforcement officials decide the children are in danger, they will be voluntarily placed with other family members or in foster care, or the courts may order that the children are to be taken into foster care. It happens more often than we’d like. But even when children are removed from their homes, we continue to work with their families to create a safe environment at home so they can eventually go back.
We hope that you will care enough to call. Again, that number is 1-855-552-KIDS. In the Treasure Valley, you can call 334-KIDS (5437).
(Note: A Closer Look at Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from April 11. Join us next week!)