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By State Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)
Since 1983, the month of April has been set aside as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse affects children of every age, race, gender and income level, and April is a time to raise awareness about the issue and provide solutions to prevent abuse and neglect.
In addition to the prevention programs offered by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation this year to further prevent child abuse and protect those who are reporting it in Indiana.
Senate Enrolled Act 381, which I authored, updates the definition of a child in need of services. Under this new law, if one child in a household is a victim of violent physical abuse, then any other children in that household are also considered children in need of services and are monitored by Child Protective Services.
Senate Enrolled Act 431 helps protect individuals by providing legal immunity for those who help with the medical investigation of a child abuse case. Under this law, a health care provider who intervenes on behalf of a child who they believe is a victim of abuse or neglect will have immunity from civil and criminal liability. Under this law, medical professionals can confidently report suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement.
I am proud this legislation passed, as it will help keep Hoosier children from harm and work to reduce the issue of abuse and neglect in our state.
In addition to the measures already in place, Hoosiers can help to further prevent child abuse and neglect by following these tips:
Reach out to parents you know and offer a hand or emotional support
Volunteer time to programs that help parents
Advocate for community services to help families
Consider becoming a foster parent
Most importantly, if you suspect abuse or neglect, please call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
Together, we can help keep our children safe.
As always, feel free to contact my office directly with your questions and concerns by email at [email protected] or by phone at 800-382-9467.