While Dr. Jay Fisher has spent more than two decades treating children as a pediatric emergency medicine physician, no amount of training and experience could have prepared him for the pain he felt throughout 2017, as he witnessed a shocking increase in abuse-related deaths among the young patients brought to Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC.
Deaths associated with child abuse more than doubled among patients at the hospital in 2017, signaling an urgent need for community education and support. The hospital recorded three fatalities related to child abuse in 2016, but this number climbed to seven through November 2017.
“Children in our community are at risk, and we simply cannot stand by as the death toll continues to rise,,” Dr. Fisher said during a press conference in December 2017, making an emotional plea to community members.
Through November 2017, overall injuries related to child abuse increased by more than 55 percent among the hospital’s patients.
Fighting Back Against Child Abuse
Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC recently developed a new version of its child abuse prevention handbook, providing valuable information to help community members identify risk factors and signs of child abuse and neglect. The book, which is available online at www.chnv.org, also contains details about how community members can report suspected child abuse and neglect, in addition to many other helpful tools.
Key warning signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, burns or welts, in addition to children who appear to be frightened by specific adults. The handbook also includes detailed information about how to recognize signs of neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
Community members who suspect child abuse or neglect should call the Clark County Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 702-399-0081. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the event of an emergency, community members should call 911 immediately.
Among the many topics covered within the book, Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC included detailed information about the importance of parents selecting appropriate partners and other caregivers, pointing out key behaviors typically exhibited by people who may harm children.
“In many cases, the biological parent is not the abuser, and we want to help mothers and fathers understand that their choice of a partner can have a significant impact on the health of their children,” Dr. Fisher said.
The hospital distributes its Child Abuse Prevention handbook throughout the community, including the families of every child treated at Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC.
A Time-Out Can Save a Child’s Life
“If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with a crying baby, there is absolutely nothing wrong with gently setting the baby down in a safe place and walking away until you regain your composure,” Bailey said. “Taking a moment to cool down during tense situations can save a baby’s life.”
Babies often cry for hours upon hours, even when they are healthy, well-fed and have clean diapers, Bailey said. She added that parents should avoid feeling guilty if they need to step away from a crying baby to calm down.
A momentary loss of control by a parent or caregiver can result in death or a lifetime of physical, psychological and behavioral effects.
“A history of child abuse and neglect can result in a host of long-term consequences, including an increased risk of developmental disabilities, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, social issues and a wide range of other negative effects,” Bailey said.
Parents who feel they cannot appropriately care for their children should seek immediate help from family members, community resources or Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC, Dr. Fisher said. Substance abuse and financial instability can significantly increase the risk of child abuse, Dr. Fisher said, and he urges parents and caregivers to seek assistance in caring for their children rather than putting young lives at risk.
“Parents need to make sure their children are safe, even if that means asking another person or organization to care for a child in a dangerous situation,” Fisher said.
Looking Toward the Future
In an effort to maximize the impact of the hospital’s efforts to prevent child abuse throughout Southern Nevada, Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC has produced an in-depth educational video, which will serve as a valuable resource for parents, health care providers and groups throughout the community.
A Plea to the Community
As Dr. Fisher and his fellow health care professionals work to prevent child abuse, he urges community members to help protect children.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to confront the issue of child abuse by standing up for our youngest and most vulnerable,” he said. ““I encourage community members to educate themselves and report suspected cases of child abuse, which could very well mean the difference between life and death for children in our community.”
To learn more about child abuse prevention, please visit www.chnv.org.