Imagine this event. You send your child to the other parent’s house for the weekend, per your parenting agreement. The child never has had a problem going before but this time seems different. The child returns and you find bruising across the child’s rear end. Bruising that could be from a swat the child received. Your mind immediately races to the negative…as we tend to do…and you become frightened, enraged and angry. You vow to take action…but what do you do? Here are some practical steps you should take when your child has bruising that you are concerned about.
#1. Evaluate and Assess. While it’s human nature to jump to conclusions about the situation, step back and gain composure. Realize (assuming no immediate threat is imminent) that you have time to act. You do not need to decide anything in the first hour (unless the child is in imminent harm). Think about the potential causes. Of course you will immediately think about the ex partner, but there could be other explanations. Is your child rambunctious? Does your child play hard? If possible can you question your child as to what they played? What did they play on? Next think about who was around the child. Maybe there are other perpetrators who could’ve done this. Consider baby sitters, daycare workers, extended family members, friends, neighbors. Unfortunately there are multiple “targets” that you can think about. Analyze and assess the situation.
#2. If possible, talk to the other parent. As mentioned above consider talking to the parent who had the child during the time that the bruising occurred. Of course, the feasibility of doing this depends on your own safety, history with this person and inclination for anger outbursts. If this is something you’ve seen before you may not be so inclined to talk about it but if such conduct is out of character for the other parent then consider talking it out and finding an explanation.
#3. Seek medical attention. Regardless of the size of the bruise you may need to consider going to urgent care or a doctor. This is because medical professionals have a legal obligation to report whenever they believe that abuse is occurring. You want and need this situation documented.
#4. Contact CYFD. Children Youth and Families Department. If you’ve taken the child for medical attention then the doctor may contact CYFD on their own. Regardless, you too should consider contacting CYFD. Just be aware that when you do contact CYFD you are taking the situation to the next level. If you have already assessed and evaluated then you may consider whether you need CYFD. For example, if your child is very physically active and the bruising could’ve been caused by playing on the jungle gym then consider whether you need to escalate the matter. However, given that the physical evidence will dissipate over a few days you will need to assess, evaluate and contact CYFD sooner rather than later, if you decide to take that path.
#5. Take photos. It’s important to document the bruising. The “life” of a bruise will first go through stages where it’s purple, green and eventually fades. Make sure you take photos for context and size and for the use in the future, if necessary.
#6. Take legal action. If you suspect abuse and do not take the steps we’ve outlined herein you too might be considered unfit for abuse or neglect for failing to keep your child safe. However, you cannot take things into your own hands when it comes to custody issues. You cannot simply not send the child for their next visit. Instead you need to take the appropriate legal action to protect your child.
These are just a few of the things you should consider if your child comes home with bruising. To learn more on how to protect your child contact our child custody experts at info@JusticeLegalGroup.com or call us at 505-880-8737.