FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Because of the recent influx of child abuse and neglect cases we’ve been reporting on, Newswatch spoke with those on the frontlines of these cases about signs and what to do if you encounter a child you believe has been abused.
According to Scott Miller, the executive director for Just for Kids Child Advocacy Center, changes in behavior are the main signs to look out for. However, acting out, bearing physical marks and hoarding foods are all signs of child abuse.
Because there is not one specific sign, it can be hard to identify. Sometimes children will disclose and if that happens, Miller says the best thing you can do is listen.
“If you hear that a child says a person abused me, you don’t need to ask anymore questions and then let the investigative team ask the follow up questions,” Miller said.
Once a report goes out, Child Protective Services, local law enforcement and the local child advocacy center will work together to investigate to see if there are criminal charges that need to come down or if the child needs to be removed.
According to Detective Cpl. James Pack with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, these investigations can take a long time and can really seem like they take a long time to the public depending on when they are reported.
“Most of these complaints aren’t reported at the time that they occur. Sometimes they’re reported weeks, months, I’ve had reports that occurred twenty years ago,” Detective Cpl. Pack said.
But both say regardless of whether you know for sure, it is important to still report even if it’s just a suspicion.
“I work a lot of complaints that result in negative findings. Somebody notices a mark or a bruise on a child and out of concern, they make a referral or they contact our office, and we conduct an investigation,” Detective Cpl. Pack said.
Miller says the best thing to do if you have a suspicious feeling about the treatment of a child to call the state’s neglect and abuse hotline at 1-(800) 352-6513.
“People feel like they have to know that something happened. And that’s just not true,” Miller said.