If you suspect a child is being abused

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice about the proper steps to take to report child abuse when you are concerned or suspicious that it may be occurring
Child Abuse Prevention Tips | What To Do When You Suspect A Child Is Being Abused | Kids in the House
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If you suspect a child is being abused

Families often wonder if I'm concerned that maybe their child abused, am I suppose to report that or do I need to be sure that I know that the child abuse is occurring? You don't need to be sure. But, if you have suspicion that a child is being abused, whether it's physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, whatever type of abuse, if you are concerned that a child may have been abused, you need to report this. You can report to child protective services, law enforcement. With law enforcement it's the local law enforcement, where the abuse occurred. You can always call 911 if it's an emergency situation. Sometimes families are concerned whether or not they're in trouble by reporting child abuse. If you are reporting child abuse with good intentions, in general you are immune from civil and criminal liability. However, if you are reporting because you just want to get back at somebody or you just don't like your next door neighbor or something, then yes you would liable to making a false report. So, there are mandated reporters that are required to report by law, and then there's the concerned citizens. Different states have different lists of who those mandated reporters are. Most of them include law enforcements, health care professionals, school teachers, clergy. Again, in California it also includes commercial film processors, because of the possibility of pornography. A few years ago they also added drug counselors. In addition, animal control is on that list, because, there is a correlation between people who abuse their animals and people who abuse their children. So, there is this mandated reporters. As a mandated reporter you are required to report, by law, while you are on the job. Me, as a health care professional, if I'm on the job as a physician, and I'm concerned about child abuse, and I'm suspicious, I'm mandated to report it. Now, if you are at home and you are just a concerned citizen, and you don't fall in this categories of being a mandated reporter, and you are not on the job, as a concerned citizen, hopefully yes, you will report something if you are concerned about child abuse. As a concerned citizen when you make that phone call you don't necessarily need to identify yourself. You can actually report anonymously. However, if you are mandated reporter you are required to give some information about yourself. As an example of concerned citizen we had a situation where a homeless man had observed a little child who appeared to have some injuries that were concerning, and the child was by himself. And he took it upon himself to take that child over to the investigating agencies to make sure that the child would be protected. So, I think all of us need to really remember that we need children in our future. We need to make sure that we are protecting our children, taking care of them. Making sure that they are safe. Making sure that they are protected. And, doing the right thing by reporting, if we are concerning that something inappropriate is happening to the child.

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice about the proper steps to take to report child abuse when you are concerned or suspicious that it may be occurring


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Karen Kay Imagawa, MD

Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD: Director, Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Director, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program, Division of General Pediatrics; Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, is also the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and is a full-time attending within the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). She received her medical degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is board certified in General Pediatrics, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, and Child Abuse Pediatrics.  Dr. Imagawa has made significant contributions to program development at CHLA: She is currently the Director of the Joint General Pediatrics – USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program ,expanding the program to its current position with the largest number of board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatricians (7) in a Southern California program, and was integral in establishing the ACGME accredited Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship program at CHLA . Dr. Imagawa is also one of the founders and the Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center at CHLA, a multifaceted interdisciplinary child protection center involving evaluation, treatment, prevention, education and research in the field of child maltreatment.  Dr. Imagawa is a court appointed expert (730 paneled expert in both Criminal and Dependency Court) in the field of child abuse, and was actively involved in the development of the Foster Care Hub at CHLA, one of seven designated Hubs in Los Angeles County that were initially established to provide forensic, medical, and mental health screenings for newly detained children entering the foster care system.  She previously served on the advisory group for The California Medical Training Centers formulating standardized training in child abuse, and collaborated on a task force to develop standards at the state level for mental health care for child victims of trauma. She is a medical consultant for the Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN – the official county agency which coordinates the development of services for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect), having participated in various medical task forces establishing protocols and best practice standards for the evaluation and treatment of suspected victims of child abuse, included those with developmental disabilities. Dr. Imagawa’s strength as a clinical educator is also seen in her dedication to education and training. She has been invited to participate in numerous speaking engagements, as well as requests from the media and entertainment industry, involving a variety of topics in the fields of child abuse and/or developmental-behavioral pediatrics. 

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