Unit Two Creating a Safe and Healthful Environment
Copyright Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc.
Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is forcing a child to observe or
engage in sexual activities with an adult. Rape,
fondling, and indecent exposure are all forms of
sexual abuse. Each of these acts involves adults
using children for their own pleasure. Incest is
sexual abuse by a relative. Molestation is sexual
contact made by someone outside the family with
a child.
There are many signs of sexual abuse. A child
may have problems when walking or sitting. The
child may complain of itching, pain, or swelling
in the genital area. Some sexually abused
children have bruises in the genital or anal areas.
They may also have bruises in their mouths
and throats. Some may complain of pain when
Sexually abused children commonly have
poor peer behaviors. They may show extremely
disruptive or aggressive behaviors. Often they
will regress to infantile behaviors, such as baby-
talking, thumbsucking, or bed-wetting. Some
will show a lack of appetite. These children often
express affection in improper ways (Figure 11.10).
Mandated Reporting
Health care workers, social workers, school
administrators, and teachers are mandated
reporters of child abuse. This means they are
required by law to report any known or
suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. As
a mandated reporter, you should read your
state’s statute, a formal document drawn up
by elected offi cials. The statute will explain
your legal responsibilities and the penalties for
failing to make a report. To receive a copy of
the statute, contact your local law enforcement
offi ce.
Follow your center’s procedure for
reporting child abuse and neglect to the proper
authorities. Your program must comply with
the law, but may also have other guidelines in
making a report. For instance, you might need
to complete certain paperwork and report the
abuse to the director or health consultant. Some
programs designate one employee to make all
reports of child abuse for the program. In other
programs, each staff member reports these
cases himself or herself.
If you must make a child abuse report,
do so immediately by telephone. Include the
name, age, and address of the child and his or
her parents or guardian. Report the facts that
led to your suspicion (Figure 11.11). After the
telephone conversation, confi rm the report in
writing. Make a copy of the written report for
the program and one for yourself. As long as
you make the report in good faith, you will not
be subject to legal action if your suspicions are
found not to be child abuse or neglect.
Should a child abuse case result in a
trial, you may be required to testify in court.
This may make you feel nervous, but focus
on telling the truth. Your legal and ethical
responsibility is to tell the court what you
know about the case that will help the court
protect the child.
Background Checks
Early childhood programs need to protect
themselves from potential child abuse
accusations. This is a licensing requirement
of many states. A background check needs
to be conducted on every new employee,
student teacher, and volunteer. This check will
determine if they have had any felony or child
abuse convictions.
Figure 11.10 Case Study
In recent weeks, Annabelle’s teachers began
noticing some unusual behaviors that caused them
to suspect she may be a victim of sexual abuse.
Annabelle refused help with clothing and toileting
needs. She would not allow teachers to help her
remove her outdoor clothing. After observing
another incident with another child, her teachers
had even greater concern. Annabelle liked Richard,
one of the children in her group. They saw her
touching him inappropriately during group time.
After observing Annabelle’s behavior, the
teachers reported their suspicions of abuse. They
realized if they waited for more proof, Annabelle
could be at greater risk of abuse.
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