According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven children have been the victim of some type of abuse or neglect in the past year in the United States. Unfortunately, that number is likely higher since many cases of abuse go unreported. While physical abuse that causes visible bruising and other injuries are common, other forms of abuse leave no physical marks, but can be just as devastating to the child. Oftentimes, the abuser is a friend, family member of someone that the child knows. In New Jersey, cases of child abuse are investigated by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).
What Is Child Abuse?
According to the majority of child abuse laws in the United States, child abuse is any intentional harm or mistreatment of a child under the age of 18. Child abuse is also referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). While any type of abuse or neglect can cause a range of physical and emotional injuries, these experiences can be particularly devastating if they are left untreated. In extreme cases, the physical and emotional damage that the child is subjected to can be fatal.
What Are the Main Types of Child Abuse?
Sadly, there are many different types of child abuse, each of which can cause a range of injuries and physical and emotional trauma. The following are examples of some of the different types of child abuse:
- Physical: This is an intentional injury that is inflicted on a child by a parent, caregiver or any other adult or elder who is responsible for the child. Physical abuse may include punching, kicking, choking, hitting, shaking, burning or stroking with an object like a hand, stick or strap. Spanking is considered a form of discipline, and is not thought of as abuse unless it causes bodily injury to the child. Signs of physical abuse include unexplained injuries, appears frightened around certain adults, drastic eating and sleeping changes and seems frightened of his or her parents when it is time to go home.
- Emotional: Also referred to as psychological abuse, this is a type of abuse that has a negative, damaging impact on a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. Examples may include belittling, constant criticism, withholding love and affection, rejection and threats of violence. These are more difficult to prove than physical abuse since it does not leave any physical marks or scars. Signs of emotional abuse include delays in physical or emotional development, inability to form bonds with others, extreme behavior and showing signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.
- Sexual: According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), sexual abuse is the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of a child to engage in or assist another person to engage in sexually explicit conduct or the simulation of such conduct with the intention of producing a visual depiction of the sexual act. Examples of sexual abuse include incest, penetration, fondling a child’s genitals, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure and exploitation through prostitution or pornographic materials. Signs of sexual abuse include difficulty walking or sitting, bleeding, bruising or swelling in the genital area, bedwetting, changes in appetite and demonstrating unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.
- Neglect: This is the failure to provide for the child’s basic needs. Children who are neglected may skip school, come to school in dirty clothes, steal food or money and say that there is no one home to take care of them. The following are examples of different types of neglect.
- Physical neglect is the failure to provide food, shelter and lack of adequate supervision.
- Medical neglect is the failure to provide the necessary medical treatment, or withholding treatment from children with serious, potentially life-threatening conditions.
- Emotional neglect is the failure to address or provide the necessary care for a child’s emotional needs. Allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol is also considered emotional neglect.
- Educational neglect is the failure to provide access to education or secure services for a child with special education needs.
- Abandonment: This occurs when a child has been left alone in a situation that could be dangerous, or cause harm to the child. A child is considered to be abandoned if their parent or parents deserted the child with no regard for his or her safety, and no effort is made to contact the child or make sure that he or she is safe.
What If I Have Been Wrongly Accused of Child Abuse?
Accusations of child abuse can ruin your reputation, your career and your relationships with family and friends. Unfortunately, false accusations are more common than you might think, particularly in child custody and child visitation situations. If you are facing allegations of child abuse, it is important that you are take proactive steps to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Consider taking the following steps as soon as possible.
- Hire an experienced DYFS attorney who has a proven track record of reaching successful outcomes for people who have been wrongly accused on child abuse.
- Avoid being alone with children. Make sure that there is another adult present who can confirm that nothing inappropriate happened.
- Do not make sexually suggestive comments, tell dirty jokes, or show physical affection towards a child.
- Research the child abuse laws in New Jersey so that you have a general understanding of the situation and can work together with your attorney to protect yourself and develop an effective defense strategy.
- Reach out to family members, close friends, neighbors and colleagues who may be willing to testify on your behalf.
- If the allegations arose out of a custody dispute, maintain positive relationships with your children. Do not hold the charges against them as they may not have any idea what is going on, or another person may have planted the idea in their mind.
New Jersey DYFS Attorneys at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Represent Clients Facing Child Abuse Charges
If you have been charged with neglect, physical or sexual abuse or any other type of child abuse, you are strongly urged to contact our New Jersey DYFS attorneys at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker at your earliest convenience. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 856-795-9400 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Cherry Hill, where we represent clients throughout South Jersey.