Jul 29, 2014
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Prevent child abuse, know the signs and speak up!

County Council and the District Attorney
announce child abuse prevention training videos

Recognizing the signs of child abuse is the first step in stopping this horrific crime that endangers a child’s physical and emotional health.

For instance, a coach might see signs of physical abuse on one of his athletes.

A teacher might notice a change in a student’s behavior such as excessive absences.

Or a person might feel uncomfortable about the way an adult in the neighborhood is interacting with a child, or see a neglected child.

These could be signs that an adult is abusing a child.

To prevent child abuse, it is critical that everyone – parents, coaches, caregivers, educators and bystanders – know the signs of child abuse and know where to report suspected incidents.

To give people the tools to prevent or report child abuse, Delaware County Council and the Office of the District Attorney created the Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Video Training Series. These free videos inform educators and those who work with children of the warning signs of abuse and the steps they can take to protect children at risk.

“The goal of the videos series is to educate responsible adults so that they have the tools to prevent and, when necessary, stop, those who would prey on children,” said County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle.

The videos were announced at the April 2 Delaware County Council meeting when Council joined child advocates in recognizing April as national Child Abuse Prevention Month. The county message is “Safeguarding Children is Everyone’s Responsibility.”

There are two parts to the Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Video Training Series.

  • The staff in the District Attorney’s office created six educational videos that can be used for school professionals to comply with Pennsylvania Act 126, requiring educators and coaches to undergo child abuse recognition and reporting training. The six segments are available on the District Attorney’s website at  www.delcoda.org and are already being used by teachers and staff in Delaware County school districts.
  • County Council, the County Executive Director and the District Attorney recorded a series of public service announcements on various aspects of child abuse recognition and reporting, including spots on neglect and special needs students and the responsibility of coaches.

The longer video series is available to public, parochial and private schools in Delaware County. They can easily access all six segments, including a brief one on human trafficking, through the DA’s website.

The PSAs are available to schools, municipalities and community groups that involve children, such as sports leagues, youth groups and recreation programs. They can either be downloaded from the county government website at  www.co.delaware.pa.us or through the Public Relations Department.

“Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. We all share a role in creating a safe and healthy environment for our children,” McGarrigle said. “Teachers, coaches, caregivers, chaperones, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, church elders, neighbors, family members… We all need to work together to prevent child abuse. Child abuse occurs across all cultural, economic and ethnic boundaries. It can also occur in the shadows, out of public view, and goes unreported.”

In Delaware County, Children and Youth Services (CYS) investigates all allegations of child abuse and neglect, as mandated by state law.

CYS Director Deirdre Gordon said CYS staff investigated 2,010 cases of abuse or neglect from 2012 to 2013. CYS received about 400 referrals related to sexual abuse during that same time period. There has been a 15 percent increase in investigations over the five-year period.

“The child abuse cases include sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental injury and physical neglect that results in a medical condition,” Gordon said. She said data indicates that one reason for an increase in neglect cases is the addiction of a parent to narcotics. The increased use of social media also makes it easier for predators to secretly be in touch with young people.

CYS has many educational materials on the signs of abuse and reporting procedures.

“The bottom line is, parents and children should be aware, and not be afraid to speak up,” McGarrigle said. “I am a parent who has raised three sons and their safety means everything to me. We all need to be alert to signs, learn where to go, who to call and how to react in the best interest of our children. We cannot be silent bystanders.”

District Attorney Jack Whelan said his office, which includes the Special Victims Unit, was pleased to partner with educators to make the training videos available.

“Unfortunately, some adults take advantage of their relationship with children for their own deviate interests,” said Whelan. “Here in the District Attorney’s Office, we’ve seen the devastating impact that inappropriate adult-child relationships can have on children and their families. When that happens, it is the moral and legal responsibility of other adults to recognize this abuse and take action.”

Based on the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Act, PA Act 126, the Delaware County video training series specifically outlines responsibilities related to child abuse recognition and reporting for school personnel.

“While Act 126 Act mandates training for all school personnel who have direct contact with children, the hope is that all persons who care for, supervise, provide guidance or have routine interaction with children, view these videos and take ownership for protecting our youth,” Whelan said.

The training videos include discussions on:

  • Recognizing signs of abuse and sexual misconduct
  • Reporting requirements for suspected misconduct
  • Also discussed are provisions of the "Professional Educator Discipline Act," which include mandatory reporting requirements and the maintenance of professional and appropriate relationships with school students.

 
“The bottom line is, if you see something, say something,” McGarrigle said. “By being informed, by looking for warning signs and by taking action, you can make a difference in a child’s life.”

  • People who suspect that child abuse or neglect is occurring can call the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline (Childline) at 1-800-932-0313, Children and Youth Services at 610-713-2000 or their local police department.
  • People can also contact the District Attorney Special Victim’s Unit at 610-891-4811.
  • The free Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting video training series can be accessed through the Delaware County District Attorney’s website at  www.delcoda.com.
  • The public service announcements can be viewed on the county website at www.co.delaware.pa.us.

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