Step 1: Evaluate Situations for Child Abuse

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Sometimes you think you see adults abusing children in public and you don't know whether you should get involved, or how. Is it your business when you see parents hitting, slapping or otherwise hurting their children? Can you help? The answer is yes.

Although most parents want to be good parents, sometimes factors such as job loss, abuse as a child, substance abuse, mental health concerns, lack of information, lack of parenting skills, or other problems create stress and reduce coping skills. You may be able to diffuse a minor situation by taking the time to calmly offer help and support.

Some hints when talking to adults about the children in their care include:

  • Be helpful and supportive, rather than judgmental and critical.
  • Strike up a conversation with the adult and be empathetic. Say something like “My child did the same thing the other day," or "Being a parent/grandparent/babysitter can be tough sometimes, can't it?“
  • Focus attention on the child, saying, "He or she sure has a lot of energy."
  • Paying attention to the child may divert the parent's anger.

You should try to help if:

  • A child will be physically hurt.
  • A child’s overall well-being is threatened.
  • You are uncomfortable with a situation involving a child.

If you cannot help by talking to the parent, or the situation is more serious than you can handle, then go on to Step 2: Report Child Abuse.

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