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Battered child syndrome; Physical abuse - children
If you think a child is in immediate danger because of abuse or neglect, you should call 911.
If you suspect a child is being abused, report it immediately. Most states have a child abuse hotline. You may also use the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD).
Physical injuries are treated as appropriate.
The parents will need counseling or an intervention of some type. In some cases, the child may be temporarily or permanently removed from the home to prevent further danger. Life-threatening abuse, or abuse resulting in permanent damage to the infant or child may result in legal action.
Counseling, including play therapy, is also necessary for abused children over age 2. The child will need help dealing with the fear and pain of abuse caused by adults, who should be trusted figures. Failing to get this help can lead to significant psychological problems, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The appropriate government agency usually makes decisions about placing the child with an outside caregiver or returning the child to the home. This is typically done through the court system. The structure of these agencies varies from state to state.
Support groups are available for survivors of abuse and for abusive parents who want to get help. See the resource page for contact information.
The child's physical recovery depends on the severity of the injuries. Psychological recovery depends on the results of therapy, and whether the child can develop trusting relationships with adult caregivers.
The authorities will determine whether the abuser gets psychiatric help, such as parenting training and impulse/anger management training.
Child protection agencies generally make every effort to reunite families when possible.
Because adults are so much stronger and bigger than children, an abused child can be severely injured or killed by accident. Physical abuse of a child can lead to severe brain damage, disfigurement, blindness, crippling, and death. Abused individuals may carry emotional scars for a lifetime.
Children can be permanently removed from the parents' custody if the parents are abusive enough. However, this experience can also cause the child psychological problems. The child may feel rejected, or the placement may not lead to a strong, long-term attachment to the new caregivers.
All states require that you report any known or suspected child abuse. Call your health care provider, Child Protective Services, or local police if you suspect or know that someone is being abused.
Johnson CF. Abuse and neglect of children. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 36.
Berkowitz CD, Stewart ST. Child maltreatment. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 63.
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