Children need a healthy environment so they can grow to become healthy and productive adults. Lacking in an attachment, negligent caregivers, physical and/or sexual abuse, are all hard experiences that can affect a child’s lifelong health. As medical interpreters, it is important to know what child abuse and neglect is and what signs and symptoms to look for. In fact, every state establishes its own definitions of child abuse which has to meet the minimum Federal standards. Many reasons contribute to an increased risk for abuse and neglect. Identifying the symptoms of abuse is the first step toward helping these children.
The abuse or neglect almost always takes place at home and the perpetrator is typically well-known by the abused. Every state has its own rule to typify the abuse, and most of them include: neglect or failing to provide the basic needs for a minor; physical or injury abuse; sexual use; indecent exposure; rape; or sexual exploitation (prostitution or pornographic); and emotional abuse such as rejection, criticism, or threats. Child abuse is a lifelong damage, and the impact is critically significant, until an intervention occurs.
Many situations have been identified as risk factors for abuse. Studies show that emotional immature parents can’t take care of their offspring in a healthy way. Parents with unrealistic expectations who don’t know about or understand normal child development, stress, poverty, divorce, substance abuse, inter-generational patterns of abuse and negligence are contributing risk factors. Around 3.4 million reports were placed in child protective services in 2012. (Statistics are from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Child Maltreatment 2012.)
There are typical symptoms of abuse. Neglected kids may have signs of malnutrition, lack of hygiene, and unattended medical problems. Physical abuse could be identifying if a child has bruises, burn marks, etc. Sexually abused children present physical signs in the genitalia area and emotional signs such as mood changes (aggressive to overly passive) and physical, emotional, or intellectual delayed development.
Finally, it is important to know that child abuse and neglect have a huge impact on the families and community. Child abuse traumas have been associated with depression, suicides, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and a host of other problems. Support of healthy, stable relationships between caregiver and a child must be encouraged, and don’t forget there are many social services and nonprofit organization that can help.