Child Abuse Prevention
CHILD ABUSE? ME??
By Milo Tsukroff
When you have lost a child, often the suspicion of child abuse begins to raise its ugly head. I can't imagine how a person can be so evil that they would hurt their own flesh and blood, but it does happen. Therefore, any child's death is an opening to investigators.
The Questions: As soon as your child has died, the questions from authorities will start. At the very least, you can expect to speak to hospital personnel. Most likely, you will receive a visit from a local official. In New York State, where I live, the local child protective services must open a case on every child's death. An investigator must speak to everyone in the family. Other local authorities may also open an investigation, such as hospital officials, police, special services, town officials, or others. Just because the police have opened an investigation doesn't mean that you'll be charged. Even better, the interest that social service agencies may show you may be in order to offer you their services. So you shouldn't freak out. Bear with them.
Even though you may find a lot of officials contacting you in order to speak to you, you can always ask them to talk to you later. In the first few days and weeks after losing a child, you may not want to speak to anybody. That's understandable. You'll find that the people in the agencies that contact you will be perfectly willing to give you time to recover. It is a good idea to talk to everybody who wants to talk to you, though. If you intentionally avoid talking to officials who come by or telephone, that alone make them more suspicious. In my situations, I always answered every question completely and honestly.
However, your situation may be different. If you feel that you are going to get into trouble over something that either happened, or is suspected to have happened (even if not true), don't hesitate to immediately hire a lawyer to defend you. It's better to have a lawyer advise you than to make a statement that you may regret later.
Investigations: When we lost our first child, she had not been doing well and ended up choking. We were investigated by the local police for almost a year. Due to the delay at the state coroner's office, which was having problems at that time, the lack of a conclusion made the police suspicious that we had
abused her. As soon as we found out through the grapevine that the police were investigating us, we contacted our Congressman in order to get the autopsy report expedited. Almost a year later, we had a copy of the report in our doctor's hands, and we learned that the police investigation was dropped. It had been a birth defect all the time.
The second time we lost a child, to a fire, the police investigated for months. One member of my household had to take a polygraph before he was cleared. When I discussed with my wife that I was certain the police had opened a case on us, we decided that the time hadn't come to hire a lawyer. As it turns out, although we still haven't hired a lawyer to get the case records from the police, we have not been charged to this day. I'm certain that the records will be retained for some time. I don't think that there's much that we can do about it.
Autopsies: It's always a good idea to allow an autopsy to be performed on your child. In losing our two children, the second one's death was pretty obvious. But the first one was quite mysterious. Without obvious causes, there were questions of child abuse. The autopsy revealed a hidden birth defect. That completely cleared up the situation.
If you have been implicated in your child's death, the authorities may insist on an autopsy, even without your consent. I don't know what the legalities are, so you should immediately seek legal counsel. That situation lies outside the scope of my experience.
"Some Coping Tips from a Tired Parent"
Avoiding child abuse often means knowing how to cope with a child. It's not easy raising kids. Here are some coping tips that I have gained. If some of them look familiar, then I plead guilty to having copied from the very best.
- Crying baby? Babies never cry without reason (except for #7). Despite Dr. Spock, I have found that an infant can't be spoiled by over-pampering. Start with a hug, then check out these, in order:
1.) Diaper - Wet? Dirty?
4.) Needs a pacifier/binky/finger?
5.) Needs a hug from someone she loves?
6.) Too cold/hot?
Babies will cry for up to 1/2 hour when they are ready to go to sleep. If you've taken care of 1-6, then just hang on, sleep is coming!
- NEVER shake a baby -- or a child. It is too dangerous.
- Each child has a different personality. Find out what each child needs for discipline and rewards, and treat them accordingly. It's frustrating when you use the wrong approach on raising a child.
- Mom and Dad should be in agreement about raising a child. Try to never disagree over a child where they can see you.
- Act earlier than your "That's It!" limit. If you can train yourself to start acting before you blow up, you will end up being able to hand
out discipline with a cooler head. Your kids will always learn where your action limit is, and they will stop just before you act. When they know that you will act before you get fully upset, they won't get you fully upset in the first place -- a warning will work very effectively.
- If you don't act before you snap, you can end up hurting the child whenyou've "had enough". So again, act early.
- Make discipline as short as possible. It is not effective to ground a 2nd-grader for a whole week. An effective punishment can be one that lasts only 15 minutes. Short, firm punishments get the anger over with quick, and then you can get to the hugs.
- It's okay to limit your kid's involvement with sports/TV/activities/videogames/etc. If you keep life slower and less busy for your kid, you will your kid more controllable.
- Use a kitchen timer for timeouts.
- If you believe in spanking, and you find it effective, only spank on the bottom. It was made for that. Do not spank the hands or face or body.
- Even if you believe in spanking, it is not needed for most situations after a child is old enough. Most children don't need spanking after they can reason with you. Some children don't need spanking at all.
- Rewards should be balanced with discipline. A child responds best with the "carrot and stick" approach -- occasional rewards for being good; firm discipline for bad behavior.
- Take it easy. Love your child. Pay attention. A parent who loves his child disciplines them when it's necessary.
- Don't worry about the times that you didn't catch your kid doing something bad. Just deal with the incident that you have on hand, and which can be proved.
- Discipline should be private. It's best for both of you. It allows you to deal properly with the problem at hand.
- Try not to punish when you are too angry. You may go too far. You can either wait until you're calmer, or you can have your spouse do the punishment.
- It's okay to apologize to a kid, if you have punished too severely. That is really a sign of maturity -- it shows your child that you respect limits too.
- Remember that you are responsible to the rest of the community for how you raise your kid. You don't have to be nervous - just be able to answer for how and what you are doing.
- Try to be totally honest. Don't promise something to a kid to keep her under control, then neglect to follow through. Kids resent that and it leads to trouble.
- Talk to your children about how and why you need to discipline them. Listen to how they feel about it, especially when they're older and can reason better.
- Kids sometimes act out in public, because they know they can get away with it. If you have to get control of your child while you're in a store, gently place your hand on the back of the neck, then start squeezing the muscle that runs from the neck down to the shoulder, until the child stops. Then relax your hand. Then you tell your child, "Do what I tell you, or I will stop you again." This "Vulcan Neck Grip" works for me and my kids, and it isn't conspicuous.
- If a younger child throws a tantrum, just ignore it. They hate that. If throwing a tantrum doesn't work, they won't do it again. Life is a LOT easier without tantrums.
- Be firm! Hold on!! The worst thing you can do is to finally give in when your kid has screamed enough. It may be hard THIS time, but there will rarely be a 2nd time. You don't need a kid screaming at you.
- Don't argue with a kid over punishment. When they get to be teenagers, and they tell you that you weren't justified in what you did, don't worry about it.
- If you have a teenager who needs to "get one upside the head", don't do it yourself. It's better to just call the police. Teenagers and adults fighting it out can cause a lot of damage, both to property and to bodies.
- And the last one: If you sometimes blow up and do something you're ashamed of, think about it. Talk to someone about it. If you need to, it's okay to seek help.
By ~By Milo Tsukroff~
Copyright 2001 Milo Tsukroff
It is illegal to take or use a copyright
work without original authors permission.