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Child Advocates Work to Ensure Training of Educators to Spot Child Abuse

Greg Stotelmyer

Educators in Kentucky are required to report child abuse, but unlike other professionals who regularly interact with kids, state law does not ensure that teachers are trained on how to spot the problem. State lawmakers, who return to Frankfort next week, will be asked to change that.

Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates, says educators already are "sensitive" to child abuse and "want to do the right things."

"We really see this effort as a way to support educators so they have more skill, more knowledge, more capacity to fulfill that legal obligation," says Brooks.

State law already requires child-care workers and medical professionals receive training. However, according to pediatrician Dr. Melissa Currie, teachers make up the largest percentage of people who report suspected child abuse.

"We have been hearing from them for some time that they wish they had more information," Currie says. "Oftentimes, bad things happen to children – and teachers, in retrospect, understand that they saw early warning signs and didn't recognize those. None of us who work with kids want to live with that."

Dr. Currie heads the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville. She says Kentucky has a "long, long way to go" because the state is still losing 40 to 50 children a year to child maltreatment. Currie says the number one finding overlooked by professionals is bruising on infants.

"Bruising in babies who are not yet pulling up and taking steps is not normal," Currie says. "While it may not be abuse in all circumstances, it can be a sign of something very serious and it needs to be evaluated immediately."

State lawmakers mandated child-abuse training for doctors last year and Currie says the response has been "overwhelmingly positive."

According to Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates hopes a bill will pass in the 2015 session to provide training to teachers. He says there are ways to implement the training without being burdensome or costly.

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