The stress level of adults is on the rise. Job loss, relocation to keep a job, or having to make ends meet because of the economy. Whatever the reason, child abuse usually escalates during trying times. Many of the injured wind up in the hospital.
“At that moment the that child comes in, my biggest concern is taking care of that child and making sure that child is safe. And that I’m treating the injuries that occur.”
Doctor Michelle Lyn is director of the child protection section of emergency medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital. She says of the four categories that identify child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse — the most common is neglect.
“When we think about neglect, we think about the child who’s starved, a child who’s not emotionally supported by the family, the child who drowns because nobody’s watching them, a child who’s not adequately clothed to go to school, nutritional neglect — where they’re not fed.”
Then there are the cases where the history doesn’t match the physical findings.
“That’s the biggest clue that something is not right, when that child comes in and has multiple bruises and is only four months old and has multiple broken bones in various stages of healing, who doesn’t have an underlying bone disorder, and the family says ‘Oh, he just rolled off the bed’. Well, babies don’t bounce.”
Dr. Lyn says those cases are evaluated by the Child Protection Team at Texas Children’s Hospital. It is a team of pediatricians, social workers, child life specialists and nurses that looks at children suspected of having been abused or neglected.
“When we make the reports to children’s protective services and law enforcement, we’re grateful for them to be partners with us in this, because then they’re able to go and talk to multiple people.”
Estella Olguin works with Harris County Child Protective Services.
“When the report does come from a hospital, it’s obviously a professional who feels that the parents’ information — the history that they’re giving — doesn’t match the injury or whatever ailment that the child has, so something has happened and we need to look into it.”
Harris County has the largest child population in Texas at over a million. Last year, CPS was involved in over 35-thousand cases alleged child abuse. Olguin says the collaboration of Texas Children’s Hospital is invaluable in the the detection, education and prevention of child abuse.
“What is child abuse, what you should look for because, obviously CPS is not the answer and child abuse is everyone’s responsibility.”
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.