when I went out with her briefly, the boy had a cut on his face when we
returned. She claimed he did it on the crib, but she wasn't there at the
time. Yesterday she came down to ask me to come and see his birthday
presents. When we got up there the boy was in his crib crying and had a
huge red mark on the right side of his face.
It really bothers me that the mother knows about it and does nothing.
The father is always alone with the child when he gets hurt, as far as I
Can you suggest anything? I have no proof of this other than what the
mother has told me and the cut and marks I have seen on him.
- Name withheld
A. Thank you so much for writing and for your compassion for
this child. I urge you to call Childhelp USA or the reporting number for
your state. They have a list of hotlines
and state-by-state numbers.
What you are describing is the sort of treatment that is highly
likely to lead to violent behavior as the child grows up (I would
strongly suspect that the father had a similar childhood). And there may
well be more severe forms of abuse than you suspect, that have been
hidden from you, and possibly also from the mother. She may also be a
victim of physical or emotional abuse. In any case, she is very likely
terrified of reporting this herself. Please, please do so.
Child abuse ripples out to many, many people over many years, so you
could be helping far more people than just this one child. If you are
concerned about the steps a child protection agency might take, ask the
person who takes your call how the agencies in your state would handle
this kind of situation. Interestingly, it may actually be illegal for
you not to report this situation. As stated on this
page: "All 50 states have passed some form of a mandatory
child abuse and neglect reporting", not just for professionals but
in many states for any individual who suspects such abuse.
I understand that you may be hesitant to report this situation, but
from all you've told me, I doubt that you are mistaken in your
conclusions - and child protection agencies would much rather have a
report that errs by being wrong than not hearing about an abusive
situation until it is too late.