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COLOR THEM CONCERNED

Child advocates urging Kansans to wear blue today

POSTED April 12, 2012 5:06 p.m.
DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune/

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Aiden Loveland Koster wants everyone get their blue on today and raise awareness of problem too often kept tucked in the shadows – child abuse.
“Child abuse is still a problem in this community, unfortunately,” said Koster, executive director of Central Kansas Court Appointed Special Advocates. “We have a responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable people around us. It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.”
Koster is joining Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Kansas Child Death Review Board in encouraging Kansans to don the color blue as part of April’s observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
She said there are 125 cases currently assigned to Central Kansas CASA. Nine of those cases are assigned to volunteers and there will be another round of volunteer training in May.
CASA is a national organization of volunteers trained to represent abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings. Central Kansas CASA serves Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, Russell, and Stafford counties, but 96 percent of their cases are out of Barton County.
Schmidt echoed Koster’s comments. “Being mindful of the signs of child abuse and early warning signs can help protect our Kansas children from abuse.”
According to the Kansas Child Death Review Board, warning signs of child abuse may include parents or caregivers who lack social contact outside the family, have alcohol or drug abuse problems, or are excessively controlling or resentful of a child. Abusive parents or caregivers may belittle children by either directly criticizing them or using subtle put-downs disguised as humor. They rationalize their behavior as a form of discipline aimed at helping the child. Abusers also avoid talking about their child’s injuries.
Victims of child abuse can exhibit a lack of trust, are fearful or anxious about going home, have uncontrolled emotions, and lash out in anger. They may feel worthless, depressed, shameful and withdraw from others. Victims frequently have inadequately explained injuries, exhibit excessive sadness or crying and have difficulty sleeping. Children who are neglected generally have bad hygiene, wear ill-fitting or dirty clothing and have untreated injuries or illnesses. They can appear underdeveloped and malnourished and have excessive school absences.
Children regularly get bruises and bumps, especially over bony areas such as the knees, elbows and shins. However, injuries on other parts of the body, such as the stomach, cheeks, ears, buttocks, mouth, or thighs raise concerns of abuse. Black eyes, human bite marks and burns seldom come from everyday play.
“When a child is abused, they are more likely to suffer developmental delays and have academic problems once they reach school,” Koster said. “Children who are abused are less likely to graduate from high school.”
 “A variety of factors can contribute to child abuse,” said Angela Nordhus, executive director of the Kansas Child Death Review Board. “Stress, lack of understanding of child development and behavior, parental substance abuse and mental illness can all contribute to abusive behavior. It often arises when emotions are running high and are poorly controlled.”
While physical abuse is the most visible form, other types of abuse, such as emotional, sexual and neglect also result in serious harm. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised or dangerous situations or creating a sense of worthlessness or being unwanted, are all forms of abuse.
To report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 800-922-5330. In cases in which the child may be in imminent danger, call 911. Locally, people can contact local law enforcement or St. Francis Community Services.  
For additional information, visit www.ag.ks.gov, or call 785-296-7970.


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