Parental & Family Factors That May Lead to Maltreatment1
Parental / Caregiver Immaturity
Very young and or inexperienced parents/caregivers may not understand a child's
behaviors and needs and may not know what to expect at each stage of the child's
Expectations of the child are beyond what he/she is developmentally capable of
A lack of friends or family to help with the demands of parenting or to provide adult
companionship and support for the parent/caregiver.
Unmet Emotional Needs
Parents who are not relating well to other adults may turn to their child to satisfy their
need for love, acceptance, and self-esteem.
Financial, job, marital and, legal stresses/problems as well as major illness, etc., may
contribute to abuse or neglect of children.
Poor Childhood Experiences
Many abusive adults were mistreated as children and may not have learned or
developed the ability to relate to children in an appropriate, nonviolent manner.
Drug or Alcohol Problems
Such problems impair parental ability to care properly for children and may expose the
children to danger.
Untreated and/or chronic mental illness could lead to abuse and neglect.
Poor Family Boundaries
Failure to protect a child from harm can include: unlimited access to the home by many
outsiders, access to medications, dangerous objects and animals, lack of adequate
Dangerous Home Environment
Access to medications, the presence of dangerous objects and/or animals, lack of
adequate supervision, etc.
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Indicators of Possible Child Maltreatment
A combination or pattern of indicators should alert you to the possibility of child
maltreatment. You may notice physical and behavioral indicators by observing the child,
and you may become aware of indicators that relate to the parent or caregiver.
yellowish-‐ • complains
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NOTE: A child is neglected under West Virginia law [WV Code §49-1-3] when the
failure, refusal, or inability to provide for the child is not due primarily to a lack of
financial means on the part of the parent, guardian or custodian.
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age-‐ • misuses
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What to do When a Child or Adult Discloses
1. Find a private place to talk with the person.
2. Reassure the person making the disclosure.
a. "I believe you."
b. "I am glad you told me."
c. "It is not your fault this happened," (if talking to the child).
d. Affirm that maltreatment is wrong.
3. Listen openly and calmly, with minimal
interruptions. Try to keep your own emotions and
nonverbal cues neutral.
4. Write down the facts and words as the person has stated
them. Use the child’s own vocabulary.
5. Do not promise not to tell. Know your limits. This is not a
situation you can handle by yourself. However, do not discuss
what the child told you with anyone who is not directly
involved in helping the child.
6. Tell the truth. Don’t make promises you can’t keep,
particularly relating to secrecy, court involvement, placement
and social worker decisions.
7. Be specific. Let the child know exactly what is going to
happen. Tell the child that you must report the abuse or
neglect to Child Protective Services. Tell the child that a
social worker who helps families with these kinds of problems
may be coming to talk with the child.
8. Assess the child’s immediate safety. Is the child in
immediate physical danger? Is it a crisis? Are there others in
the home who can protect the child?
9. Be supportive. Remember why the child came to you. The
child needs your help, support and guidance. Reassure the
child that telling about the abuse or neglect was the right
thing to do. It is the only way to make it stop.
10. Report the disclosure within 48 Hours to Child
Protective Services. Call the toll-free CPS Hotline at 1-
800-352-6513. For serious physical abuse and sexual abuse,
also contact the state police and local law enforcement.
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What NOT to Say When Someone Discloses To You
1. Don't ask "why" questions such as
• "Why didn't you stop him or her?"
• "Why are you telling me this?"
2. Don't say "Are you sure this is happening?"
3. Don't ask "Are you telling the truth?"
4. Don't say "Let me know if it happens again."
5. Don't ask "What did you do to make this happen?"
If someone does make a disclosure, don't try to get all the details.
Listen attentively and ask him/her if he/she wants to say anything else. If she chooses to
say nothing more, then proceed to notify the designated official as soon as possible and
follow the steps outlined by your church/agency policy. Also, write down the actual words
used in the disclosure and your interaction with the individual. This first statement made
spontaneously has forensic significance to the investigators and the exact words can be
Above all, MINIMIZE the number of questions you ask and avoid the use of leading
questions (questions that suggest an answer) e.g., "Did your uncle touch you in the
private area too? Was he wearing a blue jacket?"
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Types of Disclosures
1. Indirect Hints
♦ "My brother wouldn't let me sleep last night."
♦ "Mr. Jones wears funny underwear."
♦ "My babysitter keeps bothering me."
♦ "I don't like it when my mother leaves me alone with my uncle."
A child may talk in these terms because he or she hasn't
learned more specific vocabulary, feels ashamed or
embarrassed, has promised not to tell, or for a combination of
2. Disguised Disclosure
♦ "I know someone who is being touched in a bad way."
♦ "What would happen if a girl told someone she was being
molested, but the person did not believe her?"
A person may be talking about someone she or he knows, but is
just as likely to be talking about himself or herself. Encourage
the individual to tell you what he or she knows about the
"other person." Then ask whether something like what is being
said has ever happened to him or her.
3. Disclosures with Strings Attached
♦ "I have a problem, but if I tell you, you have to promise not to tell."
Many people believe something very negative will happen if they
break the secret of maltreatment. The child may have been
threatened by the offender to ensure his or her silence. Let the
person know that there are some secrets that you just can't
keep. Assure the individual that your job is to protect the child
and keep him/her safe. Let the person know you will keep it as
confidential as possible, but that you are required by law to make
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Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect in West Virginia
Report intake findings
received by assessment conveyed to CPS
DHHR occurs Supervisor
Assign to Case indicate abuse or
Worker for Yes neglect or
assessment likelihood of
Is the child unsafe to Community
or does child need Resources if
No indicated and No
close the case
Implement an out of
home safety plan by
petitioning the courts
to place the child in a
Open Case for safe environment
Conduct a Family
Can the child be Assessment in order to
Implement an determine what must
safely kept in their in-home
home with formal/ change for the child to
safety plan be safe and not need
Safety is continually
Yes assessed to Ensure Develop and
in-home safety plan implement
controls the threat. treatment plan.
If it doesn't, Then Ongoing Safety
Out-of-Home Safety Management.
Plan is requested.
Case review to
determine if parental
conduct and behaviors Service provision
have changed causing based upon
the child to no longer treatment plan.
Yes No plan if necessary.
family to case Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline
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Circles of Caring:
Protective Factors that
Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect
About Protective Factors...
The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has completed a comprehensive research
analysis, which identified the following five Protective Factors that are linked to the prevention of
child abuse and neglect.
These Protective Factors or “Circles of Caring” are conditions in families and communities that,
when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. These attributes also
serve as buffers against risk factors for child maltreatment.
Research confirms that children are shaped by the people, experiences and environment in which
they live. By implementing strategies that build these Protective Factors, we can create
communities that care for children, which will enhance the lives of children and their families and
greatly improve our common future.
Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development.
Crying babies, challenging children, and children with special needs are at
the highest risk of abuse and neglect.
• information to help them understand the reasons behind their child’s
• techniques to manage those behaviors and guide development, and
• perspective, to put their child’s behavior in the context of overall
development (for example: intense infant crying is a phase that will pass; stubborn and
independent behavior in toddlers is normal)
Parents have teachable moments just like children do – usually when their child has presented them
with a new challenge or they are trying to tackle a new task like toilet training.
Finally, parents need alternative ways of responding to their children than simply the ones they
learned from how they were parented (especially parents who were abused or neglected as children
– but also for people who grew up in families that over-relied on physical punishment and spanking).
Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” when life becomes stressful.
Problems at work or challenges at home can make parenting even more
difficult and ensure that children get the love and attention they need.
We can build resilience by reaching out to one another and helping parents
during the inevitable challenges of life. When parents feel stressed or
frustrated, you have the opportunity to offer support and encouragement.
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Having trusting relationships and being part of a social network goes a long
way to decrease isolation – a major factor in child abuse and neglect. When
parents have friends they can trust and confide in, they feel supported and
are less likely to feel lonely.
For preventing child abuse and neglect, it’s not just having social
connections, but the quality of the connections:
• Having someone to talk to and vent frustration, especially about
• Connections that help families to access resources – (e.g. a friend that will provide babysitting)
• Opportunities to see other parents parenting – this allows parents to pick up some good
techniques and perhaps also recognize some strategies that don’t work.
• Social networks that include positive norms about parenting – conversations with other parents
about the joys of raising children and sharing tips for positive things to do with children.
Social and Emotional Development of Children.
Supporting children’s social and emotional skills helps the communication
between parents and their children and can reduce tensions within the
When parents, caregivers and others help children express their feelings
and needs effectively, children are less likely to resort to tantrums, biting or
fighting. Over time, better communication about feelings helps cement the
important bonds that children have with their parents and other adults.
In addition, being able to talk about how they feel helps children be more likely to confide in a trusted
adult about situations that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Concrete Support in Times of Need.
Providing concrete supports is an important way of intervening before a
crisis happens. Parents that are struggling to meet basic needs for their
families will not be able to focus on less-immediate concerns like positive
discipline and enhancing their child’s development.
Concrete Support may include:
• Response to a crisis such as food, shelter, and clothing,
• Assistance with daily needs such as health care, education, or job
• Services for parents dealing with depression and other mental health issues, domestic violence, or
• Specialized services for children.
“Times of need” is not limited to families in poverty. All families have times of need, whether it’s at the
birth of a new child, health problems, etc. Mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence can
happen in any family.
For more information visit:
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Links to Additional Information
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)
More information about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) is available
online at http://www.acestudy.org/.
Child Maltreatment Statistics
Data cited in this training is from 2008 Child Maltreatment Annual Report published by
the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, April 2010,
Community Based Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention in WV
The WV Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Children and
Families, oversees West Virginia's community based child abuse awareness and
prevention grants, which are administered according to the guidelines of the Federal
CBCAP Program Instructions. West Virginia funds four program areas: Family
Leadership First, In-Home Family Education, Partners in Prevention, and Starting
Points Centers. Information about these and other child abuse prevention efforts in WV
is available online at http://www.wvdhhr.org/bcf/children_adult/cabuseprev/.
Emerging Practices in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
Published 2003: Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. Published as a component of the Child Abuse Prevention Initiative
administered by the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, this study identifies best
practices in the field of child abuse prevention. The report provides an overview of child
abuse prevention and describes each of the selected programs.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-Serving Organizations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a comprehensive website
which contains a variety of educational information about child maltreatment and its
The protective factors were identified by The Center for the Study of Social Policy
(CSSP), after a comprehensive analysis of child abuse prevention research in
conjunction with a consortium of leading child abuse prevention experts and
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Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in West Virginia
The following booklets are available via the publications section of the Prevent Child
Abuse WV website, http://www.preventchildabusewv.org/publications.php.
In a Child’s Best Interest: A Guide for West Virginia School Personnel in
Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. Revised 2007.
It Shouldn’t Hurt to Be a Child: A Guide for Early Childhood Providers in
Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. Revised 2007.
One Child at a Time: A Guide for Professionals in Recognizing and Reporting the
Abuse and Neglect of Children with Disabilities. Revised 2007.
Child Abuse & Neglect: A Reporting Guide for Health Professionals, Oct. 2010.
West Virginia Children’s Trust Fund
The West Virginia Children’s Trust Fund funds community-based programs that help
children grow up free from abuse and neglect. Examples include programs for new
parents, school-based programs, public awareness activities and other evidence-based
prevention efforts. Funds are received by individual donations including the WVCTF
voluntary check off on the WV State Income Tax Form. Additional information is
available online at http://www.wvctf.org.
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ABOUT THE TEAM FOR WEST VIRGINIA CHILDREN
TEAM stands for “Together Eliminating Abuse and Maltreatment.” The TEAM for West
Virginia Children, a Huntington-based non-profit agency, formed in 1986, dedicated to
the prevention of child abuse and neglect. A small paid staff is helped by many
volunteers to conduct programs including:
• The Child Assault Prevention (CAP) project is presented in area
elementary schools to help children learn to identify and deal with potentially
dangerous situations. The CAP Project offers a workshop for school personnel and
parents prior to the program with the children. All seek to empower children by
providing information, teaching assertiveness, reducing isolation and encouraging
children to seek help.
• The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) project provides trained
community volunteers (CASA), appointed by a Circuit Court judge, to advocate for the
best interests of an abused or neglected child who has been placed in state custody. The
CASA fully researches the situation and makes recommendations to the judge on
services needed and permanent placement for the child. The goal is a safe, permanent
home for the child.
• Public awareness campaigns: The TEAM provides both speakers and
materials to promote child abuse prevention. Specific materials are available to help
prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome and promoting safe infant sleep through the Our
Babies: Safe & Sound Campaign. The TEAM has developed a series of booklets on
identifying and reporting child abuse for mandated reports.
• The Healthy Families America project: This project provides voluntary
intensive home visitor services for first-time parents who face many challenges. The
goal is to help the family get off to a good start by promoting parent-child bonds,
providing child development information, and serving as a link to needed community
• Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia (PCA-WV): This project is working to
support safe and strong families through education, effective programs, and sound
public policy. PCA-WV is a state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. Partners in
Prevention is a statewide initiative of PCA-WV involving community teams around the
state who are working to promote the well-being of children on a community level.
To contact the TEAM for West Virginia Children:
WEBSITES: http://www.teamwv.org http://www.preventchildabusewv.org
PHONE: (304) 523-9587 FAX: (304) 523-9595
ADDRESS: P.O. Box 1653, Huntington, W.Va., 25717-1653
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