Steps to take if you think your child has been abused

Learn about: Steps to take if you think your child has been abused from Karen Kay Imagawa, MD,...
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Steps to take if you think your child has been abused

Parents often ask, "What do I do if I think my child has been abused?" Well one of the main things that you want to make sure of first of all, is to protect your child, so if there is the perpetrator that's anywhere nearby, you want to make sure to get that child out of that environment, and to protect them. You also need to make sure that you report this to the appropriate investigating agencies. The investigating agencies that are involved in child abuse are Child Protective Services - every county has their own name for Child Protective Services. As an example in Los Angeles Country it's called Department of Children and Family Services, so we have Child Protective Services that will investigate cases, as well as law enforcement; whether that's the police department or the sheriff's department, but law enforcement also investigates cases. Now there is a little bit of a difference between Child Protective Services and law enforcement, in that Child Protective Services investigates those cases where the alleged perpetrator is a primary caretaker, so it's mom, dad, boyfriend, grandparents; somebody who lives in the home that's a primary caretaker. Law enforcement will investigate all cases, so if it's a stranger out on the street who molested the child, Child Protective Services will not necessarily take that case, because the child is safe with their primary caretaker. However, law enforcement will still investigate that case because it's the stranger out on the street and they're going to go and try to figure out who that stranger is out on the street to make sure that justice is served. There are these two different court systems, and it can be confusing for parents in the legal system to get involved in that, but it is important for them to contact Child Protective Services or law enforcement to report that they are concerned that their child has been abused. Sometimes it's confusing as to whether or not, "Well shall I call the police? Or should I call Child Protective Services?" Call one of them, and they will negotiate who needs to get the report. Again, if it's really an acute emergency situation, you should just call 911, and the police will come and help. Other steps to take if your child has been molested are, along with making sure your child is being protected, making sure that it's reported to the appropriate agencies, making sure that the child has their medical care taken care of, so that maybe taking them to the pediatrician, taking them to the doctor to be examined, and also not to forget their mental health needs because many times these stresses can cause difficulties for children in the short-term as well as in the long-term. There are a variety of steps to take you know. Just going through it again, it's protecting your child, making sure that the appropriate report is made, getting the medical care that the child needs and also taking care of the emotional and mental health needs of your child

Learn about: Steps to take if you think your child has been abused from Karen Kay Imagawa, MD,...


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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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