INDIANAPOLIS — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as the month comes to a close, advocates are reminding Hoosiers to do their part in helping save lives all year round.
On Tuesday, a Noblesville couple was charged after their two-month-old baby sustained significant injuries, including brain damage. The pair had their first court hearing on Thursday.
According to court documents connected to the case, hospital notes show the baby underwent emergency surgery for a brain bleed, which doctors say could’ve been from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
“It’s discouraging because it is so preventable,” said Sandy Runkle, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.
Runkle says similar stories happen all too often. While every situation is different, in many cases, she says simple frustrations can push someone over the edge.
“We find that, very often, typical stages of development can be a trigger for families,” Runkle said. “So, a crying child, a child who’s learning to potty-train, a one-year-old who would rather play with their food than eat it. Temper tantrums, which children go through. The terrific twos, that can be challenging.”
Part of the push for Child Abuse Prevention Month is letting families know help is out there if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“We have resources like stress management, preventing shaken infant syndrome, water safety, firearm safety, we have a lot of those safety materials,” said Runkle. “The stress management, that self-care, it’s so that you know what to do. You have that plan in place before it’s too late.”
Another element to the awareness, Runkle said, is letting people know about the importance of reporting suspicions of child abuse or neglect.
“It’s not only important, it’s the law,” she said. “Any adult is a mandated reporter in Indiana. So, it’s anyone that has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse and neglect, must make a report.”
FOX59 reached out to the Indiana Department of Child Services. While they were not available for an interview, they did send numbers, we requested, into how many inquiries were received through its Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.
In 2021, the hotline received 231,091 reports.
For 2022, the hotline received 56,380 reports as of April 1.
When calling into the hotline, and reporting a possible case of abuse or neglect, you can remain anonymous.
“You don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to know something for sure. It’s reason to believe,” said Runkle. “It’s better to go head and report, and let the professionals assess the situation.”
Along with stress management and safety programs, Runkle says Prevent Child Abuse Indiana also offers downloadable brochures and educational materials that can be displayed in businesses or buildings.
“If the local pharmacist is watching, or the local grocery store manager is watching, they can download those and order some. They can stick it in the check out line,” she said.
The goal is to encourage and promote not just the resources, but for the community and families to work together in knowing they’re accessible.
“We need to rely on each other, and families, friends, the faith community, schools, libraries… Some of those non-traditional partners that we think of to just sort of reach out for help, but also for those entities to reach out to families,” Runkle said.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 800-5556.