Reporting Child Abuse in Tennessee

10 November 2011 Categories: All Blogs

In wake of the allegations of child abuse on the Penn State campus, we wanted to help educate Tennesseans on how to recognize and report child abuse. The Department of Children’s Services in Tennessee has information on its website that everyone should be aware of. We have copied some of the information below. We encourage all Tennesseans to be aware of the indicators and take action to help protect our children.

If you believe a child has been abused or neglected call 877-237-0004 to report it.
Possible Indicators of Abuse and Neglect:
• The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained.
• The child begins acting in unusual ways ranging from disruptive & aggressive to passive & withdrawn.
• The child acts in the role of parent toward their brothers and sisters or even toward their own parents.
• The child may have disturbed sleep (nightmares, bed wetting, fear of sleeping alone, needing nightlight).
• The child loses his/her appetite, overeats, or may report being hungry.
• There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
• The child may act in stylized ways, such as sexual behavior that is not normal for his/her age group.
• The child may report abusive or neglectful acts.

The above signs indicate that something is wrong but do not necessarily point to abuse. However, if you notice these signs early, you may be able to prevent abuse or neglect.

Parents who abuse or neglect their children may show some common characteristics:
• Possible drug/alcohol history
• Disorganized home life
• May seem to be isolated from the community and have no close friends
• When asked about a child’s injury, may offer conflicting reasons or no explanation at all
• May seem unwilling or unable to provide for a child’s basic needs
• May not have age appropriate expectations of their children
• May use harsh discipline that is not appropriate for child’s age or behavior
• Were abused or neglected as a child

Parents who abuse their children need help, but few are able to admit the problem and seek assistance.

Long-term trends show that more than 85 percent of the perpetrators of child abuse and neglect in Tennessee were the parents or relatives of the victims.

Staffs at schools, day cares and institutions were perpetrators in only 2 percent of the investigations. Adolescents as well as adults can be perpetrators of abuse.

What Happens in an Investigation?
The process of investigation can include talking with the alleged child victim (or observing a young, nonverbal child), parents and/or alleged perpetrator. CPS workers will gather pertinent medical and psychological information and will work with their counterparts in the medical, psychological, judicial and law-enforcement fields. The investigations can also include interviews of neighbors or friends who have knowledge of the child’s situation.
The emphasis remains on constantly evaluating the risk to the alleged child victim during the entire investigative process.

In reports involving severe child abuse, DCS will notify the local district attorney and law enforcement offices. These include reports that involve a child’s death or serious injury or situations involving torture, malnutrition and child sexual abuse.

Furthermore, Tennessee law requires local Child Protective Investigation Teams review certain cases. The CPIT in each county includes representatives from DCS, the local district attorney general’s office, juvenile court, law enforcement and the mental-health profession.

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