Depending upon the source, somewhere between 3.6 and 6 million children are referred to child protective services in the United States each year (childhelp.org). The opioid epidemic is causing those numbers to soar as more and more parents neglect or abuse their children in the haze of addiction.
We would like to believe the children who attend our churches have loving, caring parents. Yet statistically, there is a decent chance at least one child in your church is being physically, emotionally or sexually abused or neglected.
Maybe you are worried about one of your students, but are afraid to say anything. Perhaps you are afraid of being wrong and offending someone. Yet in your gut, you know something isn’t quite right.
It’s important to understand that in 13 states, church volunteers working with children are technically mandatory reporters. This means you are legally required to call DFCS if you suspect abuse. It’s up to the government to investigate whether or not abuse is actually happening.
More importantly though, you have a moral responsibility to protect your students if they are in danger. If your student is being abused, there is a good chance his or her mother is also abused (although mothers can also be abusers).
Abuse is complicated. The important thing to understand is that victims often hide the abuse in an effort to stay alive. If the abuser has attempted to strangle them, the odds of the person eventually being killed at the hands of the abuser are astronomical.
Even if they survive the abuse, the brokenness can impact them for the rest of their lives. Sadly, many abusers were once abused themselves and grow up to repeat the cycle.
Not sure of the signs of abuse or what to do if you suspect a student or parent is being abused? You can educate yourself at the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or by calling 1-800-799-7233.
Many of the ideas we have about domestic violence are wrong. To really get a better understanding of the topic, try reading No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder. It has a lot of important information including how various groups are trying to break the cycle by helping victims and/or abusers.
Please don’t ignore your misgivings if you suspect one of your students may be in danger. As difficult as reporting someone may be, having one of your students die at the hands of a parent is even worse.
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