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'It's a community's responsibility:' CAPS seminar talks signs of child abuse and neglect

Officials say a "community effort" is necessary to prevent child abuse in our area.

Child and Parent Services in Elkhart held a seminar Friday to teach people about the signs of abuse or neglect and how to report it.

WSBT 22's report comes after a week of taking a closer look at documents obtained regarding a mother charged with killing her children.

We told you that dozens of reports were filed to Indiana Department of Child Services accusing Amber Pasztor of neglect and abuse.

The information comes from more than 1,000 pages of records filed with the court.

"It can happen anywhere and everywhere"

Officials say people should report anything that might seem suspicious.

"It's not just one persons responsibility or one agency's responsibility," said Julie Reed with the Child and Family Advocacy Center. "It's an entire community's responsibility."

Reed says child abuse and neglect is a topic many are scared to discuss.

"I think there's this misconception that it doesn't happen in our community, it doesn't happen in my neighborhood, it doesn't happen in my church, but it happens everywhere," Reed said.

Reed works with about 650 children a year at the Child and Family Advocacy Center in Elkhart.

That's just one of eight programs CAPS offers.

"It shows me how resilient kids can be," Reed said. "How they can go through terrible, terrible things and still act normal."

According to CAPS, data shows that children who have been victimized once are at a greater risk of experiencing other types of victimization.

"It can happen anywhere and everywhere," Reed said. "Just because a child isn't exhibiting the obvious red flags or they don't have the obvious red bruises, that doesn't mean something isn't going on of concern."

Sabrina Lindsley sees it too.

She's an investigator at the LaGrange County Prosecutors Office and says there's still a lot more she can learn.

"Sometimes it's hard to tell," Lindsley said. "A lot of times when you walk in, everything looks good. There's times when we don't know the first time we get called out or the second time you get called out, it's kind of like putting a puzzle together. I'm kind of hoping this helps us look for more signs."

Knowing the signs

Officials say there are several types of abuse, including neglect, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.

Information provided by CAPS shows there are several indicators of neglect, including abandonment, lack of shelter, nutritional deficiencies, lack of supervision, poor attendance in school, poor hygiene and developmental delays.

Children could also appear to be extremely fearful or anxious or could lack positive coping strategies if they are suffering from emotional abuse.

Indicators of physical abuse include unexplained injuries, aggression, delinquency and fear of the child fears parents or adults.

Breaking the stigma

Reed says many believe that reporting an incident automatically means the child will be taken away from their caregiver.

"That's not the case," Reed said. "Part of what we do in our training is to try and teach them what happens when a report is made, what to expect and how to make that report."

Indiana law mandates that all citizens report if they have reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected.

"Not enough people know that it's their responsibility," Reed said. "It's not just professionals' responsibility to look out for kids in our community. It's everyone's responsibility."

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can call the DCS child abuse and neglect hotline at 800-800-5556 or your local police department.

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