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Child Abuse | Prevention and Reporting, Spokane, WA
Child Abuse and Neglect

“Child abuse is preventable. 

It takes many forms from verbal assaults to hurtful blows. 

We all have a role to play.  If you know of a parent having difficulty, reach out. 
Sit down and talk.  If you are having difficulty, get help for yourself.
Talk to a friend or sign up for a parenting class. 
Take time out—don’t take it out on your child.”

(Barbara Bush - wife of President George Bush)

  • Defining Child Abuse.  Child abuse can be defined as treating or speaking to a child in a way that is demeaning or that causes injury or serious offense.  Child abuse occurs when someone who is in a position of trust or control, threatens or causes physical, emotional or sexual harm to a child.  Child abuse can come from a parent, sibling, other relative, childcare professional, clergy, teacher, athletic coach, neighbor, friend or a stranger.  It includes physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. 

    NOTE:   Hitting or shaking a baby or any child up to age 14 can cause permanent brain damage, even if the child does not sustain an actual concussion.  The brain damage is caused because their brain is not fully developed.  Children with brain damage can develop behavioral and memory problems, and mental illness. For more information, see Youth Sports and Brain Injuries on this site.  
  • Defining Abuse or Neglect.  In Washington, abuse or neglect is defined as any sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or other injury that causes harm to the child’s “health, welfare or safety.”  That includes unreasonable use of force to correct or restrain children, which is defined to include:  throwing, kicking, burning or cutting a child; shaking a child under age 3; interfering with a child’s breathing; threatening a child with a deadly weapon; doing any other act likely to cause or “which does cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks.”  
  • Emotional Abuse.   Emotional abuse is almost always present when another form of abuse is found.  Emotional abuse can consist of name calling, demeaning statements, ignoring, isolation, lack of physical affection, yelling, screaming, frightening, threatening, belittling, intimidation, threats, humiliating, using extreme forms of punishment, domestic violence in the child’s presence, drug and alcohol abuse in the presence of a child or allowing the child to participate in such, and parental child abduction.  Abuse can be any attitude, behavior, or failure to act on the part of the caregiver that interferes with a child’s mental health.  
Emotional abuse of children can come from adults, other children, parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, siblings, bullies at school, or social cliques at school.  
  • Physical Abuse.   Physical abuse includes intentionally withholding necessities and using physical violence such as pushing, choking, beating, slapping, shaking, throwing, kicking,  scratching, hitting/pinching, biting, restraining, hair-pulling, scalding in water, and burning with cigarettes.  Physical abuse also consists of inadequate provision of food or housing or clothing, lack of supervision, abandonment, inadequate hygiene, denial or delay of medical care.  Hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by someone close to them, and thousands of these children die from the injuries.  (Corporal or physical punishment is distinguished from physical abuse in that physical punishment is used with the intent to teach and correct, not injure; however, corporal punishment can easily get out of control and become physical abuse.)   
  • Sexual Abuse.   Sexual abuse may be either emotional or physical, and it is NEVER the child’s fault.  It includes sexual harassment, the inflicting of pain, fondling or touching a child’s genitals or making the child fondle the adult’s genitals, penetration, intercourse, incest, rape, oral sex, exposing the child to adult sexuality such as pornography, using a child in the production of pornography, using force or intimidation for sexual purposes, and luring children through the Internet to meet for sexual liaisons.  
  • Many children in Spokane County are not safe from sexual predators.  Child protection (both within and outside of families) is our most important obligation.
  • Abuse is not always intentional, but may result from being overly stressed with family or caring for someone such as a handicapped or behaviorally difficult child, marital conflict, unemployment, alcohol or drug use, or a personal history of childhood abuse.  
  • Abused children often grow up to become abusive parents.  This cycle of violence can and must be stopped.  
  • Many children in Washington are going through abuse and neglect proceedings with no representation at all—lawyer or non-lawyer—under a waiver process which scoffs at the federal law.  In recent years Washington was one of 15 states which received a failing F grade in assessing our state laws regarding the legal representation provided to abused and neglected children as courts make potentially fateful decisions about whether to separate children from their family. 

  • Advocating for Children.  Spokane has a Guardian Ad Litem program for children involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a program where non-attorney volunteers represent children.  Although these volunteer advocates lack legal expertise, they frequently spend far more hours with a child than an attorney could spare.

President Barack H. Obama
January 16, 2013

"And so what we should be thinking about, is our responsibility to care for (children), and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up, and do everything that they're capable of doing.  This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged.  And their voices should compel us to change.

"…we must do something to protect our communities and our kids…We have to examine ourselves in our hearts, and ask yourselves what is important?  This will not happen, unless the American people demand it.  If parents and teachers, police officers, and pastors, if hunters and sportsman, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, enough.  We've suffered too much pain, and care too much about our children to allow this to continue, then change will -- change will come.

"Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will, comes an obligation to allow others to do the same.   We don't live in isolation.  We live in a society, a government for and by the people. We are responsible for each other.

" …when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give; for the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victims to senseless violence each and every day; for all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm.

"Let's do the right thing.  Let's do the right thing for (our children) and for this country that we love so much." 

(Speaking of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre which took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults, President Obama announced his anti-gun violence plan to curb such violence, and to protect our children.)

  • Spokane’s child abuse rate is far above that of both Washington state and the U.S.  In 2014 there were 5,300 victims of child abuse and neglect; and in 2015 there were 5,431 cases.  (KREM TV, Nov. 9, 2017 and United Way) z

  • The rate of abuse and neglect is 40% higher than the State average.  (United Way, 2015)

  • Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in Spokane accepts 4,000 at-risk children under age 7 every year.  (Vanessa Behan Nursery and KHQ, Oct. 2016)

  • Local child abuse and neglect rates continue to increase.  This is alarming, as the rate is 40% higher than the state average.  Children who face multiple traumas are less likely to graduate.  This impacts their future and our community's.  There were 5,300 victims of child abuse and neglect which were verified in 2014.  These children would fill the carousel for 88 rides.    (Spokane County United Way, 2015) 

  • The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery (509-535-3155) accepts 4,000 at-risk children under the age of 7 every year; but, unfortunately, the need is so great in our community, that nearly half of the children are turned away every year.  The Crisis Nursery is only licensed to care for up to 32 children day and night.  "It takes so much for a parent to ask for help, and when they get told 'No,' I can't imagine getting that courage again to ask one more time."  Distressed families can drop off their children with no questions asked.  Children are accepted based on priority - what the need is, and how many staff are there.  If a child's safety is at risk, they are always in.  Children who stay at this nursery find safety, fun, food, clothing, diapers, and love.   (Ashley Boyd, Director, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery Fund Raiser, KHQ Saturday, October 8, 2016)

  • Definition: Child abuse is measured as the number of children 0-17 years of age who were reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) as victims of abuse or neglect and were accepted for further action. The rate is reported per 1,000 children. The incidence of abuse is likely higher than the rates indicate because not all abuse gets reported to CPS.

    Why this is important:
    Abused children often suffer physical injuries, such as cuts, bruises, or broken bones. Abuse at a young age may disrupt brain development. As abused children grow into adults, they are at higher  for poor health behaviors and health outcomes, such as depression, drug abuse, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, smoking, and suicide.

    Where we are: In 2013 in Spokane County, there were 5,527 victims of child abuse or neglect in CPS accepted referrals. There was a significant increase in the child abuse rate from 2009 to 2013. The child abuse rate in Spokane County (rate of 50.5 per 1,000 children) was significantly higher than that of Washington state (rate of 34.5 per 1,000) in 2013 and lower than that of the United States in 2012 (rate of 52.1 per 1,000).  From 2009 to 2013, child abuse significantly increased in Spokane County.

    In 2014, 26% of Spokane County adolescents reported an adult had ever physically hurt them on purpose (like pushed, slapped, hit, kicked or punched them), leaving a mark, bruise or injury. Abuse history decreased as maternal education level increased and was more likely among youth of two or more races compared to whites.  (Spokane Counts 2015, Spokane Regional Health District)
  • Child abuse rates are significantly higher in Spokane County than the State rate.   In 2011, there were 5,264 victims of child abuse in Spokane County.  Spokane has a child abuse rate of 48.1 per 1,000 children ages 1-17.  Referring to the SRHD "Healthy Families, Better Beginnings," report, Elaine Conley stated that, "A lot of (child abuse) is based on adverse childhood experiences, which are one of the worst public health issues we have.  There is no single agency that can resolve these problems.  It is really going to take a collective impact from the community to make inroads to improving the health of families in Spokane County" 

    Adverse childhood experiences are traumatic stressors that occur in childhood and negatively impact future health.  They include abuse or neglect as a child; domestic violence against the mother; a household member with a substance abuse problem or mental illness, or who has been incarcerated; and parental separation or divorce.  As the number of reported adverse experiences increases, the risk for poor health outcomes - including alcohol abuse, depression and drug use - increases likewise.    (Elaine Conley, director of the Spokane Regional Health District's Community and Family Service programs, and "At-risk children top troubling report on family health," by Chelsea Bannach, The Spokesman-Review, July 13, 2013)

  • In 2011, 30% of adults had a high adverse childhood experience (ACE) score. A high score represents those adults who reported three to eight stressful or traumatic events in their childhood, which could include having lived with a person with mental illness, lived with a person who abused drugs or alcohol, lived in a household with criminal activity or court involvement, parental discord, witnessing domestic violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. The proportion of adults having a high ACE score decreased as age, education, and income increased.  (Spokane Counts 2015 report, Spokane Regional Health District)

  • About 1,670 children died from abuse or neglect in 2015.  There were also 683,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to CPS that same year.  (Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, CDC)
  • Child Abuse and Drugs.  Nationally, about half of all child maltreatment cases involve substance abuse (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services).  According to child welfare, the link between substance abuse and child maltreatment is particularly severe in the Inland Northwest. 
What You Can Do
  • Preventing Child Abuse is the highest priority in Spokane.  Nothing is more important than protecting our children and preserving their innocence.  This issue cuts across politics, across ethnicity, and across religion.  Citizens must make every effort to prevent all forms of abuse, and to assist in the healing of an abused person. 

  • If you suspect child abuse, but aren’t sure, look for clusters of the following physical and emotional signs:  
    • Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, or welts in the shape of an object. 

    • Bite marks
    • Anti-social behavior, problems in school, hostility, excessive aggression  
    • Fear of adults, a particular person, or family member
    • Drug or alcohol abuse
    • Self-injury, suicidal behavior
    • Depression, poor self-image, withdrawal  
    • Drastic changes in appetite, eating disorders, extreme hunger  
    • Inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual acts
    • Nightmares and bed wetting
    • Being dirty or not bathed
    • Apparent lack of supervision
  • Report Child Abuse.  If you have concerns about the safety of a child, and believe a child is at immediate risk of severe harm or death, please call 911.   Law enforcement has the authority to shelter a child.  That is what they do, and what they are paid to do.  Child abuse is a top priority in Spokane.  Please call--do not let fear paralyze you. 

    To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call:
         911                  Emergency

(509) 363-3333        CPS - Child Protective Services (Spokane County),
              8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m./M-F,
              or (800) 562-5624 after 4:30 p.m., and weekends. 

(509) 456-2233        Crime Check

(509) 838-6596        Crosswalk (teens)

(509) 838-4428         First Call for Help (Spokane Mental Health)

(509) 624-7273         SAFeT Response Center

(509) 327-5111         Secret Witness
                                 or write to:
                                 PO Box 1205, Spokane, WA 99210

(509) 477-2240          Sheriff’s Office

          (800) 422-4453         The National Child Abuse Hotline: 

          (509) 242-8477        Tip-Line - Leave an anonymous tip with the Spokane Police Dept.   Use this phone line to report any crime that is  NOT an Emergency (abuse, domestic violence,  gang activity, possible drug activity, fraud, theft, etc.)   An officer will call back to verify the information and  forward the complaint to the appropriate department within 24 hours; however, after the person has  reported and verified the complaint, the caller can remain  anonymous.  
Email:  spdtipline@spokanepolice.org                                     

          (509) 535-3155      Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.  Distressed families can drop off their children with no questions asked.  Children  are accepted based on priority - what the need is, and how many staff are there.  If a child's safety is at risk, they are always in.  Children who stay at this nursery find safety, fun, and love.                                           

          (866) 363-4276      Washington State's DSHS  (Dept. of Social and Health Services)
  • If you are a child currently being abused, or were abused as a child or in the past, do not let fear paralyze you.  Ask for help.  Call one of the numbers above.  They will help you, and make sure you are protected from further abuse. 
  • Learn the many ways to Calm a Crying Baby.  (click)

  • If you think you may abuse a child, call the Vanessa Behan Crisis Center in Spokane to receive immediate help, and to receive parenting guidance.  
  • Help stop child abuse by educating the public and working with parents, prospective parents, and other caregivers to teach parenting skills.  Child abuse tends to be repeated generation after generation.   

  • Fathers.  Never raise your hand in anger against your children.  Children who grow up scared of their abusive fathers are left with diminished self-worth. 
  • Post a “Safe Place” sign.    Yellow-and-black “Safe Place” signs posted outside local businesses, fire stations and other organizations show children where they can find safety and support.  (Parents need to explain to children the purpose of these signs, and point them out.)   This program helps connect children with social service agencies.  
  • Child abuse prevention relies on volunteer work from the public.  “When the community takes an active, cooperative role like this, we can steer kids away from dangerous alternatives,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.  “We not only save the child, we also cut the costs affiliated with drug use, teen pregnancy and violent crime.  Without volunteers, without the community, we can’t do the job we’re assigned to do.”   The Spokesman-Review, April 21, 2007

    Volunteer to become a court advocate for abused and neglected children, ages newborn to age 18.  Spokane has a Guardian Ad Litem program for children involved in abuse and neglect proceedings.  CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a program where non-attorney volunteers represent children.  Although these volunteer advocates lack legal expertise, they frequently spend far more hours with a child than an attorney could spare. 
  • Support Spokane’s “Our Kids:  Our Business” campaign which works to provide a safe community and a nurturing environment where all kids can become connected to the resources they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives as caring and competent citizens.  Spokane has developed

    Spokane’s Promise:  The Alliance for Youth
    Five Promises to Our Children

    1. Caring Adults
    2. Safe Places and Constructive Activities
    3. A Healthy Start and Future
    4. Effective Education for Marketable Skills
    5. Opportunities to Serve
  • The entire Spokane community (friends, neighbors, family members, schools, law enforcement, the courts…) must work together to see that every child is safe.
  • Observe the children where you live.  When you have serious concerns about a child’s well-being or suspect child abuse, call 911, or Child Protective Services (CPS) at (509) 363-3333.  They can’t help if you don’t call.  
  • If you see an adult hitting or slapping a child or a pregnant woman, or suspect mental abuse, sexual abuse or neglect of a child, call 911.  
  • A Parent’s Guide.  The BSA provides the following information in “A Parent’s Guide” for teaching their children about drug and sexual abuse.

    "As we address the basic rules for child safety
    , it is important to stress that traditional cautions about “strangers” are not sufficient to protect our children.  Child abusers are usually known to the child.  Therefore, a more appropriate protection strategy is based upon teaching children to recognize situations or actions to be wary of. 

    Discuss the following safety rules with your child:
    • If you get separated from your parent (or authorized guardian) in a public place, do not wander around looking for him or her.  Go to a police officer, a checkout counter, the security office, or the lost-and-found area and quickly tell that you have been separated from your parent and need help.
    • Never get into a car or go anywhere with any person unless you have your parent’s permission.
    • If someone follows you on foot or in a car, stay away from him or her.  You do not need to go near the car to talk to the person inside.  
    • Adults and older youth who are not in your family and who need help (such as finding an address or locating a lost pet) should not ask children for help; they should ask other adults.
    • Use the buddy system and never go anywhere alone.   
    • Always ask your parent’s permission to go somewhere, especially into someone else’s home.
    • Never hitchhike.
    • Never ride with anyone unless you have your parent’s permission. 

    • No one should ask you to keep a special secret.  If this happens, tell your parent or teacher.
    • If someone wants to take your picture, tell your parent or teacher.
    • No one should touch you on the parts of your body covered by the bathing suit (unless it is your doctor while treating you or during a physical examination), nor should you touch anyone else in those areas.  Your body is special and private.
    • You have the right to say “No!” to someone who tries to take you somewhere, touches you, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way.  
These are some simple safety rules that can be approached in the same non-frightening manner in which you tell your child not to play with fire.  They emphasize situations common to many child molestation cases.”   
  • A soldier dies on the battlefield, and the News talks about it for weeks, a memorial is held, legislators and the public demand to know why it happened, how it happened, and who is to blame. 

    Meanwhile, about 4 children die from being tortured every day in the U.S., often abused by their own parents and caregivers, not an enemy from a foreign country....and where is the outcry? 

    Help to make prevention of child abuse a priority in our community. 
    (About 1,670 children died from abuse or neglect in 2015.  There were also 683,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to CPS that same year.  (Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, CDC)
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