Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions related to issues of child abuse and neglect and the services provided by Marion County Children Services.

Q: What Causes Child Abuse?

Parents who abuse or neglect their child are often under stress, pressure or in the midst of a crisis. Some parents were abused themselves as children.

Often families are overwhelmed and cannot cope with personal, financial or marital problems. Drugs and alcohol abuse often trigger the abusive behavior. Single parents or teen parents under pressure, who have no one to help them with their children, may abuse or neglect their children.

Most parents care about their children. Some are unable to cope with the pressure in their lives.

Children are sometimes abused or neglected by other adults such as relatives, boyfriends, babysitters, or older siblings.

Q: What’s the Difference Between Discipline and Abuse?

Discipline is:

  • purposeful…..to restrain or correct a child’s behavior;
  • reasonable…to help a child develop self-control and direction;
  • necessary…to help prevent problems from arising as the child becomes older.

Abuse is:

  • uncontrolled behavior…Sometimes resulting from situational stress
  • discipline carried to an extreme degree….Which creates a risk of physical harm to the child
  • behavior resulting in physical injury…Such as bruises, broken bones, scars, or burns.

Q: How Many Children are Abused?

Each year more than 3 million children are reported for child abuse and neglect to Children Services agencies in the United States.

Child abuse may be repeated in the next generation, as abused children often grow up to be abusive adults if no intervention is provided. Children who grow up in abusive environments may believe that violence is a normal way of life.

Q: How Can Abuse Be Reported?

Anyone who suspects or has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected should make a referral to Marion County Children Services. Children Services may be contacted by phone at the Child Abuse Hotline: 740-389-2317 or 740-389-2317. In addition, those concerned can also visit the office at 1680 Marion-Waldo Road in Marion, Ohio during normal business hours; Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm. After hours or on weekends and holidays, call the Marion County Sheriff Dept. at 740-382-8244, they will put you in touch with a Children Services caseworker. A caseworker is available for emergency investigations 24-hours/day, 7 days/week.

Ohio law does require certain professionals to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Mandated reporters include physicians, dentists, nurses, day care staff, speech pathologists, licensed and/or registered social workers, school personnel, attorneys, and persons rendering spiritual treatment.

Individuals making reports of suspected abuse, neglect or dependency of a child should provide as much information as possible, including:

  • Name and/or address and/or the location of the child victim
  • Age of the child
  • The child and any family member’s race and ethnicity, including whether or not the child or family member is Native American
  • Names and addresses of the child’s parents or caregivers
  • Description of the alleged abuse or neglect
  • Name and address of the alleged perpetrator(s), if known

Reports can be made anonymously; however, not knowing who made the referral denies Children Services the opportunity to gather more information during the investigation, if necessary. Reports made are confidential to the extent that the law allows, and referral source names or locations are not shared by Marion County Children Services.

Children Services will investigate reports made where there is reason to believe a child is abused, neglected or dependent as defined in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC). It is important to note that Children Services’ general focus is on specific harm to a child by a caregiver’s action or inaction. A parent’s mental status or habits are issues only to the extent that harm (or risk of harm) to the children results from the actions or inactions of the parents.

There are multiple factors to be considered when deciding whether or not Marion County Children Services will intervene with a family, including:

  • Age of the alleged child victim and his/her level of functioning
  • The parents’ ability/willingness to protect
  • Family supports and resources
  • Pattern of behavior
  • The ability of other adults to protect
  • Prior child protective services history

After the referral information is gathered, the referral is reviewed by a screening decision-maker to evaluate whether it meets ORC criteria and the screening guidelines developed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In those cases that meet the criteria for investigation, Marion County Children Services will initiate contact with the family. If a child is in immediate danger, an investigation is started within one hour of the report. If a child does not appear to be in immediate danger, the report is investigated within 24 hours.

Q: What Can Be Done to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?

Raising a child is an enormous responsibility. Child abuse and neglect are frequently the result of too much stress, too many unmet needs and too little support. To help reduce family stress and pressures and the risk of a child being abused or mistreated, parents and other caretakers can:

  • Share stressful feelings and problems with a spouse, relative or friend
  • Contact a counseling center to talk with a counselor
  • Take parenting classes to improve child care and coping skills
  • Read magazine articles and books on child rearing and different methods of discipline
  • Join a parent support group to talk with others who feel the same stresses or to share common problems

If you know a parent who is under stress, offer to give him or her a break. Offer to care for the children and let the parent relax. Parents who have the potential to abuse are frequently lonely. They feel that nobody cares. They feel inadequate as parents.

Remember….”It Takes a Community to Protect a Child”.

Q: Who Decides When Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect are to be Investigated?

Once a referral is received, a determination is made based on the information provided if an investigation is appropriate. This decision is based on state established criteria for what constitutes child abuse and neglect. If screened in for investigation, the investigation must be initiated within 24 hours of when the report was received.

If immediate danger to the child appears to exist, the investigation initiation will occur within 1 hour after the report is received.

Q: Who Makes The Decision to Remove a Child from the Home?

The decision to remove a child from the home is made by the Juvenile Court, not the Children Services caseworker. However, a caseworker can remove a child in an emergency situation, but a judge must hear the case within 24 hours of the removal. When a case appears before the court, the judge listens to all sides of the story, including those viewpoints of the caseworker and the parents.

Q: Is Children Services a Part of Welfare?

No, welfare is a program which provides assistance to low income families. Children services has no income level guidelines for providing services and protects all children from all socio-economic levels from abuse and neglect.

Q: Who Decides if Abusive Parents Should Be Charged with a Crime?

The police, sheriff’s department, the City Law Director, and the County Prosecutor determine if parents should be charged with a crime. Children Services caseworkers can make recommendations, but law enforcement, the law director, and the County Prosecutor make the final decision.

Q: How are Children Services Caseworkers Trained?

All caseworkers have Bachelor’s degrees and supervisors have Master’s degrees. In their initial year of work, caseworkers receive 120 hours and supervisors receive 78 hours of required training. Every year thereafter, caseworkers receive an additional 36 hours of training and supervisors receive an additional 30.

Q: When Can You Leave Your Child Home Alone?

Although it is generally agreed that no child younger than six should be left alone, age is not the only consideration. Some seven- or eight-year-old children might function well at home alone, while others, eleven or older, might not be ready to assume the responsibility of self-care. In order to be left alone, a child should want to assume the responsibility, should not be afraid to stay alone, should be able to follow directions, and should be able to solve problems independently. Factors such as the amount of time the child will be alone, the accessibility of a parent or another adult in case of emergency, and how safe the neighborhood is, should also be taken into consideration.

The simplest way to know if a child is ready to be left alone is to ask the child. Most children will answer truthfully. Signs of a child’s fearfulness about being left alone include turning on all the lights, having the radio or television on full volume, and/or suffering from nightmares. As for leaving a child with an older brother or sister, most child development experts agree that no child younger than ten can effectively supervise other children. It is recommended that when an older child is left in charge, all children in the family be instructed about self-care and be made individually responsible, rather than relying on the oldest child to carry responsibility for the others.

When leaving children home alone, keep the amount of time he or she is alone to a minimum. Three hours per day is probably the absolute maximum. Parents should come home as soon as they can and postpone errands until they can take the child with them.

For more information on making this decision and tips on preparing your home and your child, check out our Resources page of this web site, and go to the informational resources request page.