Public Awareness

Child Abuse & Neglect

​Child abuse is common. It is important to understand and reduce the risks of abuse for your child and familiarize yourself with the signs of abuse. The majority of cases reported to Children's Division involve neglect, followed by physical and sexual abuse. There is considerable overlap among children who are abused, with many suffering a combination of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that a child cannot understand or consent to. It includes acts such as fondling, oral-genital contact, and genital and anal intercourse. It also includes exposure to pornography. Studies have suggested that up to one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused before they are eighteen years old.

Physical abuse occurs when a child’s body is injured as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other show of force. One study suggests that about 1 in 20 children has been physically abused in their lifetime

Most child abuse occurs within the family. Risk factors include parental depression or other mental health issues, a parental history of childhood abuse, and domestic violence. Child neglect and other forms of maltreatment are also more common in families living in poverty and among teenage parents or who abuse drugs or alcohol. More children are abused by a caregiver or someone they know, than abused outside of the home by a stranger.

Child neglect can include physical neglect (failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (failing to provide love, comfort, or affection), or medical neglect (failing to provide needed medical care). Psychological or emotional abuse results from all of the above, but also can be associated with verbal abuse, which can harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being.

Signs and Symptoms

It is not always easy to recognize when a child has been abused. Children who have been maltreated are often afraid to tell anyone, because they think they will be blamed or that no one will believe them. Sometimes they remain quiet because the person who abused them is someone they love very much, or because of fear, or both. It is not uncommon for the child's abuser to threaten harm to family members or loved ones for the child's silence.

Parents also tend to overlook signs and symptoms of abuse, because they don’t want to face the truth. This is a serious mistake that is sadly made all to often. A child who has been abused needs special support and treatment as early as possible. The longer the abuse continues or is left to deal with the situation on there own, the harder it is for children to be able to heal and develop optimally physically and mentally.

Here is a short list of physical signs and behavioral changes in children who may have experienced abuse or neglect:

Physical Signs

  • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained
  • Failure to gain weight (especially in infants) or sudden dramatic weight gain
  • Genital pain or bleeding
  • A sexually transmitted disease

Other Changes that Should Raise Concern

  • Fearful behavior (nightmares, depression, unusual fears)
  • Abdominal pain, bed-wetting (especially if the child has already been toilet trained)
  • Attempts to run away
  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sudden change in self-confidence
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
  • Abnormal fears, increased nightmares
  • School failure
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
  • Desperately affectionate behavior or social withdrawal
  • Big appetite and stealing food

Getting Help

If you suspect your child has been abused, get help immediately through your pediatrician or a local child protective agency. Physicians are legally obligated, as a mandated reporter, to report any suggestions of child abuse. The doctor also may testify in court if necessary to obtain legal protection for the child or criminal prosecution of the person suspected of perpetrating the abuse or neglect.

If your child has been abused, you may be the only person who can help him. There is no good reason to delay reporting your suspicions of abuse. Denying the problem will only make the situation worse, allowing the abuse or neglect to continue unchecked and decreasing your child’s chance for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

In any case of abuse or neglect, the child’s safety is of primary concern. The child needs to be in a safe environment free of the potential for continuing abuse and neglect.


Open, two-way communication with your child provides the best chance that you will know early when a problem occurs. Emphasize that he will not get in trouble if he tells you about abuse or other confusing events. Emphasize that you need to know this to be able to keep him safe and that he will be OK if he tells you. Instead of teaching him that he’s surrounded by danger, teach him that he is strong, capable, and can count on you to keep him safe, as long as he can tell you about it.

Keeping children safe from child abuse during the holidays!

The holidays are a joyous time for adults and kids alike. But amidst the celebration, we’d like to let you in on an often-unknown secret surrounding this time of year. During the holidays, when visitors abound, schedules get hectic, and parents are often overwhelmed, all types of child abuse increase. So now is the perfect time to take a moment, slow down, and read on to learn how to better protect the children in your life.

Stopping Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse increases during the holidays when kids are often left with babysitters, there are guests staying in the home, and parents are often distracted. Here are some tips to better protect your child from sexual abuse:

  • Talk to your child. Discuss boundaries with your child. Teach them that their body is their own and no one has a right to touch their body or take pictures of them without permission. Let them know it’s okay to say no to unwanted hugs, kisses, or other affection. Tell them to talk to you or another Safe Adult if anyone crosses their personal boundaries. Learn more about the 5 Safety Rules and how kids can use them to stay safe. The key is to communicate regularly about abuse and safety.
  • Limit alone time. 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one child – one adult situations. If you limit the opportunity, you will better protect your child. If you do need to leave your child alone with someone, let the person with them know you may pop in to check on them. Keeping those times “observable and interruptible” is the safer way to manage alone time. This goes for alone time with other youth also, as 30% of all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by other youth.
  • Be alert. Often adults see indicators of abuse, but disregard the signs because the possible perpetrator is someone they know and trust. The sad reality is, that is exactly who we need to be watching. 90% of sexual abuse occurs by someone the child knows and trusts. No one is exempt, not even the closest, most beloved family member.

Preventing Physical Abuse

Increased stress, time commitments, and financial demands impact everyone during the holidays. However, for some families, this may lead to an increased risk of physical abuse. Here are some tips to help you keep your cool during this stress-filled season:

  • Take a breather. When you feel yourself on the verge of losing it with your child, take a break or a time-out. Send your child to their room or out to play, and you take some time to de-stress and calm down.
  • Reach out. Call a friend and ask for support. We are often reluctant to ask others for help, but in a stress-filled, escalating situation, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, instead it shows how much you love your child. If you need support beyond friends, reach out to a mental health counselor.
  • Be a support. Watch for signs of increased stress or possible abuse in those around you.  If you see the signs, reach out and tell them you understand, you want to help, and ask how you can help lighten their load.

 If you suspect abuse, please call the Missouri Abuse Hotline to make a report at 1-800-392-3738. 

Pause & Reflect – Don’t Neglect!

It’s very easy to put too much responsibility on kids with all you have to do around this time of year, or to leave kids home alone when they’re not quite ready. It’s important to make sure chores and tasks are age appropriate and that you don’t neglect your children because you are over-stressed or have too much to do. Reach out to neighbors for help, share responsibilities with friends, but make sure you’re not neglecting your kids during the holiday busyness and stress.

The holidays are about peace, love, and joy and we want everyone to experience all three this season, including children.

To request a mental health resource list please call the office at (660) 359-2874 or e-mail [email protected]

Talking about Child Sexual Abuse in COVID times


We know this is a difficult time as a parent. We and our children have been pushed out of our usual comfortable lives,  and in many cases way out of our comfort zones, abruptly and in heart-wrenching, challenging ways.

It likely seems overwhelming to think about child sexual abuse during a global pandemic. Why add one more scary topic to the others you are already doing your best to explain to your children?

Because difficult, scary, unfamiliar conversations are at the heart of what we do as parents. Stepping into them is how we, and our relationships with our children, grow. Not all at once. Not every topic at the same time. Not by pushing ourselves or our children into a place of overwhelm and panic. But also not by hiding in fear or running away. No, we grow awkwardly, imperfectly, step by step, one comment, one question, one conversation at a time. 

Because even during a pandemic, unfortunately especially during times of crisis, children will be sexually abused by community helpers, family members, siblings, and peers.

When we step outside of what is familiar and comfortable, that is when we learn. We learn when we are able to settle into the dis-comfort and realize that, for the moment, we are safe, even if our feelings are amped up. We can breathe and look around with curiosity. We see opportunities that we might have missed otherwise.

Right now, in the midst of everything else — yes, right there with all the rest of your other fears– I am asking you to simply take a few of the small steps to reduce the risk of children you know being sexually abused.

You can do this, and you are not alone. There are other parents and community members who are working to protect our children with you. We will do what we need to do to keep our children as safe as we can from the COVID virus and from child sexual abuse. 

Take 5 minutes right now. Watch this 4 minute video from Child Safety Pledge. Commit to learning and doing more to protect your children. Then, congratulate yourself: you’ve taken the first step!

Want to know more? Feel free to call us at (660) 359-2874 for resources in your community. And as always, please call the Child Abuse Hotline if you suspect or know of any kind of child abuse that is happening and for more information regarding statistics please go to 



Halloween during a Pandemic

Steps to Take when Trick or Treating

Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza. Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.

Make trick-or-treating safer

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Wear a mask

  • Make your cloth mask part of your costume.
  • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

  • Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Wash your hands

  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Now is a critical time for increasing education and awareness for domestic violence, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that over 15.5 million children in the U.S. are exposed annually to adult violence at home, with young children making up the majority of exposed youth among families who seek police involvement. For more information on red flags and signs of an abusive partner, visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCDV) website.


Cyber Bullying Tip Sheet

How To Understand And Handle Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is social terror by technology.

When a kid of any age, up to 18 is threatened, humiliated, harassed, or humiliated via use of technology -- this is Cyberbullying. Yet many college students are being cyberbullied as well.

Depending on their ages, up to 43% of students are being digitally harassed online. While most call it cyberbullying, it's important to understand that not all of these kids and teens are being bullied online, but they are being digitally harassed in one form or another. Either way it's not fun!

This social online terror is used through e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging, Web sites, online personal polling Web sites. It is done by kids deliberately and repeatedly and is used by an individual or group with the intention of harming other kids and teens.

  • Kids use technology to talk to their friends and make new ones. While most kids use the Internet responsibly, others are using all of this technology to terrorize and harass online!
  • Kids should be taught that if they wouldn't say something to someone's face, they shouldn't say it to them online, through texting, or posting in any other way.
  • Digital Harassment is the perfect way for the online aggressors to remain anonymous. So anonymous, there is no fear of punishment because they don't have to come face to face with their victim(s.)
  • The very first thing parents must do is learn the Internet. In other words …Speak the lingo and know the game!! If you don’t how will you help your children? If you do not work on a computer and the Internet regularly, there are libraries, schools, YMCAs and neighborhood associations who offer this instruction.
  • The second thing you must to is to communicate with your kids and teens. Let them know that it’s okay to come to you if they are being cyberbullied. Encourage them to tell you immediately if they are being digitally harassed, cyberbullied, cyberstalked or if they’ve been approached by a predator. Tell them you won’t be angry about anything. You just want to help them.
  • Be sure to keep your home computer(s) out in the open, such as a family room or kitchen.
  • Encourage your child to alert you if they are aware of others who may be the victims of similar behavior.
  • Explain that cyberbullying is harmful and unacceptable. Discuss appropriate online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Although it’s important to install parental control filtering software, it’s just as important for you to monitor your child’s computer. You want to respect your children’s privacy yet, your child’s safety may override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that you are not spying on them but you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern.

#Essential4Kids #NationalBullyingPreventionMonth #Keepourkidssafe

United to End Bullying Coloring Contest!

Join our coloring contest and get out of your quarantine funk! Download, print, color, and turn into the advocacy center! For ages Kindergarten -12th grade! Contest ends Monday November 30th. Simple rules, download and color the following coloring page. K-6 winner will receive a $25 Build-a-Bear gift card! 7-12 grade winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card! Below is the coloring contest coloring page:


Coloring Contest-0001


National Bullying Prevention Month!

Every October, schools and organizations across the country join in observing National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal: encourage schools, communities and organizations to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying and put an end to hatred and racism by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of all forms of bullying on all children of all ages. A month of anti bullying activities is a month of ACTION!

October 5

#Essential4Kids #BullyingPreventionMonth #bullyingstopsnow #spreadkindnesslikeconfetti