Stories about child abuse are always hard to read, and the one in Sunday's edition of the Yuma Sun is no exception.
The article noted that reports of child abuse are up 36 percent for the first three months of this year compared to last year.
And Diane Umphress, executive director of Amberly's Place, noted another disturbing trend: incidents of child neglect are getting more severe.
“We used to get phone calls about cases where a child was dirty, no big deal. Now we see kids with injuries and they haven't been to a doctor and it's infected.”
Neglect can take many forms, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and definitions vary from state to state.
In Arizona, neglect is defined as “The inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian, or custodian of a child to provide that child with supervision, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care if that inability or unwillingness causes unreasonable risk of harm to the child's health or welfare,” according to the ACF. Neglect in Arizona also includes allowing a child to enter a structure or vehicle that contains dangerous substances used to manufacture drugs, a diagnosis that an infant was exposed to an illegal drug in the womb, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Any person who suspects a child is suffering from either neglect or abuse – be it emotional, physical or sexual – is required to report it authorities.
Some children are too young to speak for themselves, while others are too scared, too embarrassed or think they are somehow to blame for the situation.
That's what makes it so incredibly vital for adults who suspect something is amiss to report it. In a 2012 story, Umphress noted, “It's our responsibility. Don't count on somebody else doing it. Who is going to be the voice for the children when a parent looks the other way?”
And due to laws in Arizona designed to encourage reporting of child abuse or neglect cases, those who do so are legally protected from any civil or criminal liability, unless the person acts with malice and knowingly makes a false report. In short, if your gut instinct is that something wrong – report it, and let authorities investigate it.
There are few things worse in this world than abusing or neglecting a child, in any way, shape or form. It's our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
To report a suspected case of child abuse, officials recommend calling your local law enforcement agency, such as the Yuma Police Department or the Yuma County Sheriff's Office. For more information, on Amberly's Place, call 373-0849.