COLUMN: What is child abuse?

In a recent letter to the editor in a local paper a person mentioned a baby being abused. The person said that the baby was just a newborn and her parents were getting her ears pierced. The author said the baby didn’t have a choice and was crying as this procedure was happening. This brings up the question that has been debated over time, what constitutes abuse? What can you do to your child? These parents who pierced their baby’s ears, one would imagine, didn’t have bad intentions. They just wanted to make their child look cuter. People also have cases of parents disciplining their child to make them learn. In most cases parents don’t have bad intentions. So where do people draw the line between discipline and abuse? A child clearly has to be disciplined in one form or another. If they weren’t disciplined there would be some things they wouldn’t learn. Brent Platt, Director of Utah Division of Child and Family Services, says a parent can discipline a child in multiple ways. A parent can use time out, or ground them, or even spank them because this is legal in Utah. It becomes illegal when they cross the line and leave bruises or marks on their child. Child abuse isn’t just physical but its also emotional and mental abuse. Platt says a parent can cross the line to abuse someone if they threaten to kill their kid or harm family members. Fortunately, most reasonable people know what lines they shouldn’t cross when it comes to child abuse. According to the Utah Department of Human Services, in the fiscal year 2010 there were 35,738 complaints of child abuse received in Utah. Just a little over half of those were investigated and 8,342 of those were found to have some merit. Of all those investigated, 2,021 kids entered foster care and substance abuse was a factor in 60% of those cases. People need to be aware of what is and isn’t child abuse. If you want to know more about the Utah Division of Child and Family Services and how they work to prevent child abuse visit

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