When a Maui mama messaged me that her 17 month old child had recently attended a training camp for toilet readiness here on Maui, and had come home black and blue from his lower back, butt, groin area, upper thighs and under his arms (and included photographs), it made me feel nauseous. Then a few days later another Maui mama, I know, called me with a similar story from the same training camp…it was devastating!
What do we do as parents if we suspect neglect or abuse (including spanking) by someone who has been entrusted to look after/teach our children?
First thing you are advised to do is call the Department of Human Services-Child Welfare Services (also known as Child Protective Services (CPS)) at 1-800-494-3991. This is a 24 hour hotline operating seven days a week and offers crises intervention, information and referrals.
The goals of Child Welfare Agencies are to protect children, to preserve families and prevent further abuse. The law requires that they look into each report of abuse, decide whether services are needed, and arrange protection services and family treatment when necessary. (Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui. April 2013 Newsletter).
The next step is to call the Maui Police Department at 244-6400 as soon as possible. An abuse report must be made. The more documentation the better. Then go to the ER or your pediatrician to get the markings documented by a medical professional. These professionals are also considered “mandatory reporters” who are required to notify the proper authorities if they suspect abuse. Again the more documentation/reports the better!
Next find out if there have been similar experiences from other parents. Encourage them to make police reports and call the 1-800-494-3991 hotline number. (Claims can be filed until the minor is 18 plus two years past legal age in the State of Hawaii). The more documentation to support the abuse the stronger the case is against the caregiver or provider. A caregiver or provider in this case is considered ‘any person responsible for the physical well-being, health, safety, supervision, and guidance of children in child care.’ (DHS Child Care rules 17-891.1-1).
Then a few days later follow up again with Child Protective Services (CPS)! Ask clearly if the case is just being documented or investigated. With enough evidence and documentation the case should get investigated and proceedings should follow.
Obviously you would want the place shut down ASAP so this doesn’t happen to anyone elses child. Ideally when choosing a day care/camp it should be licensed by the Department of Human Services (DHS), as these establishments have to follow very clear guide lines, and can be investigated and shut down easily, if rules are violated. To find out if a business is licensed you can contact PATCH at 242-9232. If they are not licensed it does not necessarily mean the operation is illegal, as licenses are applicable to the number of children and hours of operation, but it should raise a red flag.
There is also no-one stopping you from hiring a lawyer, if you feel you have a strong case, and file a civil lawsuit against the caregiver.
More importantly it is invaluable to get the right support for your little one who has witnessed/experienced neglect or abuse, as this can be very traumatic and have long-term repercussions. If their behavior has changed, they are withdrawn or they are showing signs of anxiety or fear, seek help/counseling from a licensed professional.
Remember you are not alone; you have a voice and can stop abuse! Not only by a provider/caregiver, but anyone. Unfortunately most abuse happens in the home/family environment, so if you are a concerned neighbor or friend reporting suspected child abuse not only helps that child, but also may open the door for the parent to get help too!
DHS HOTLINE 1 800 494 3991
UPDATE: On May 28th 2015 Rebecca Stapp owner of Potty Boot Camp was found guilty of recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally harming a minor, in the 3rd degree. The mother had the foresight to follow the steps above. She had photographic evidence and a medical examiners testimony that strongly concluded abuse had occurred during the time the child was in the care of Rebecca Stapp. At this time the second case in the first paragraph is still pending.
Image Credit: mauimama