GREENSBORO, N.C. — According to Cone Health and research, nationally, more than 5 million children are reported as abused or neglected every year.
Here in North Carolina, over 125,000 children.
After recent reports of child abuse cases across the Triad, WFMY News 2 spoke with a Cone Health Pediatrician, Esther Smith, about the signs you can keep an eye out for and how to report child abuse.
"In North Carolina, all adults are mandated reporters when they suspect abuse or neglect. They don't have to prove anything. They just have to be concerned about the possibility," Smith explains.
Cone Health advises that people keep an eye out for bruises or marks on the skin where a child typically wouldn't get them.
"It's really the things that caregivers or people who spend time with children should be looking for would be unexplained injuries. Especially on body parts that you wouldn't expect to get injured during the normal course of childhood play," she said.
Also, Smith said you should be aware of a child's clothing. If it's soiled or they seem to be wearing the same clothes, that may be a sign of neglect which is a form of abuse.
A child's mood may change as well.
"You might see some behavioral problems, [or] some more aggressive behavior that you might not expect for children their age or sometimes the opposite, very fearful behaviors, extreme anxious behaviors," she said.
Most importantly, report anything you don't feel comfortable with.
Smith said there are many different avenues when doing this.
- You can call Crimestoppers and leave an anonymous tip.
- You can reach out to the child's school and make them aware of the situation.
- You can also call law enforcement and the Department of Protective Services.
Smith explains, "If you are suspecting something but you really aren't sure, it's not your job to investigate. It's really just your job to report it and let those professional investigators do the rest of the work."
Cone Health said research indicates the cost of child abuse is $250 million a day or $94 billion a year in the United States.