Bringing The Home To The Classroom

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What if I suspect child abuse?

Bringing The Home To The Classroom

Early childhood education training also includes recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect. It's a sad fact of teaching, but it's possible you will encounter a child you suspect is being abused. But many teachers suffer with the "crossing the line" syndrome -- with our society being so litigious, many teachers and administrators may feel intimidated to say anything for fear of being wrong.

If your degree plan doesn't require it, taking additional training on recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect should be a class or certification you take the initiative to attend. There are multiple websites and books offered to help early childhood educators recognize the "non-verbal" signals a child will exhibit when being verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Falling grades, changes in personality (more aggressive, less interactive), poor hygiene, no lunch sent to school, no money to purchase lunch, and weight loss are all signs an educator should watch closely and talk to their school officials about it.

The Department of Child Welfare has an educator's checklistfor those who suspect child abuse. Go through the list and decide if this situation requires intervention. Keep in mind that "a gut feeling" is just as rational as physical findings.

Keeping an open line of dialogue is essential for the students as well as the educator. You may be the only person the child feels safe with, and school may be their only neutral zone. Approaching the student about the problem directly may be a way to scare the child away, but simply let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have.

One thing to keep in mind, don't let your personal biases cloud your judgement when suspecting child abuse or neglect such as "she's a single mother" or "their father is of this race," etc. This could open the doors to a huge liability situation so approach the situation with concern and be sure to document your findings and observations. If you talked to the parents or guardians, document their reactions exactly. Instead of saying, "I talked to the mother and she used profanities at me." It's better to write, "I talked to the mother and she said-------------- and then grabbed the child by the arm and pulled him to the car." This gives the reader of the report specific wording and actions instead of opinions. Keep close watch on the children you suspect of being abused, document, and report what you find. If you aren't sure of what exactly to watch for, check with your college, school district, or local child welfare office to find out when there will be classes on recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect.



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