Helping Children Recover Physically and Psychologically After Burn Injuries
No child should ever be abused, and yet, that is the reality for many children in America and around the world every day. It may seem inconceivable to be able to hurt your own children, but it happens, and when it does happen, the lasting effects can impact that child for the rest of his or her life. When a child is abused, there are physical, and emotional scars. They need to be helped, and supported.
There are millions of abused children in America, and as awareness increases on the epidemic of child abuse in the United States, so too does the number of referrals to relevant helping services. This means that more children can be helped because they have been reported, because someone knows about what it is happening to them.
An average of five children will die in the United States every day. More children will die in the United States from neglect and abuse than any other industrialized country. Neglect amounts to 75.3% of victimized children, 17.2% are physically assaulted, and 8.4% are sexually abused. 7.2 million children have been reported as abused, however only half of that have been helped.
Burn injuries amount to some of the worst physical abuse injuries a child can receive. Burns can leave physical scars that will stay with the child for the rest of his or her life. Burn injuries also amount to 10% of all child abuse cases. To put it into perspective, when a child enters the burn unit at a hospital, there is a 1 in 10 chance that the burn was intentionally caused by a family member.
Abused children who suffer from burns are typically far younger than other types of abuse. Most cases can be found in toddlers who are two years old or younger, however victims are typically always under the age of 10.
Here are some of the common, and horrific ways, an abused child will receive his or her burn:
- Put in an Oven
One would hope that there is not anyone who could be monstrous enough to put their baby in an oven and turn it on, but it has happened. Children have been put in heated ovens. In 2002, there was a horrific case where one woman attempted to broil her toddler at 600 °F. Thankfully, she failed, but the child had to undergo dozens of reconstructive surgeries.
- Immersed in Scalding Water
These burns are usually found when a parent or other guardian are “punishing” a child by immersing them into scalding hot water. The excuse by parents is that a child climbed into the tub with the scalding hot water. Studies show, however, that the pattern of the burn is all you need to determine whether an immersion burn was accidental or deliberate.
In the case of abuse, immersion burns are typically uniform in appearance and are also accompanied by bruising that arises when someone forces a child to stay still.
- Contact Burns
These burns occur when a hot object is placed on a child. The most common type of contact burns seen in abused children are hot irons and cigarettes. It is easy to tell contact burns apart from accidents because of the location and severity of burns. If a burn was an accident it would be shallow, irregular, and not very defined. When a burn is deliberate, you can tell.
Examples of contact burns in abused children include branding, which means that the hot object was placed on the child for enough time that the object has been seared onto the skin. Abusers can also use mundane objects as their weapon, like the hood of a car that has been in the sun. Prolonged contact with the hot metal can easily cause 2nd or 3rd degree burns.
Burns cause deep, terrible scars both physical and emotional. Being burned at the hand of a caregiver who is supposed to care for you is a horrific reality that far too many children suffer from. Medical personnel are, thankfully, trained to recognize the difference between an accidental burn and deliberate ones.
Be Aware of the Signs
To help these abused children, you must first get them away from their abusers. That is why bringing awareness of child abuse and its signs is an essential way to get communities to look after their children. If a teacher sees signs of neglect or abuse, it should be reported immediately. Teach your children that, if your friend tells you about the bad things his or her parents do to them, you tell an adult immediately.
Shame can keep a child silent from reporting their own abuse, but so many are just too young to know any better. They don’t know it’s wrong, just that it hurts and they want it to stop. Teach children from a young age what abuse looks like and that it is wrong. Grow a society that knows and understands and will report abuse as soon as they see evidence of it. The worst-case scenario is that it was an accident.
What Happens After You Report
In extreme cases, abused children are removed from their parents’ custody and placed into the foster system. This typically occurs during extreme neglect. With abuse, however, the caregivers (or guardians) face criminal charges. Foster homes carry their own set of problems and traumas. Being in a foster home does not mean a child is safe, or happy. In many cases being alienated and alone in the foster system can wreck a child’s psyche.
PTSD arises in adults who were abused as children. The severity depends on the many things, like the danger, the developmental state when the abuse occurred, the relationship they had with the perpetrator, the post-response, and many others. They can experience panic attacks, nightmares, depression, and anxiety. If they are triggered by something in the present that sends them back into the time when they were abused they can even “feel” the pain.
PTSD takes you back to the time when you were most scared and when you were hurt. It takes you back to that terrible point in your life and it makes you relive it. You can experience physical or emotional symptoms. Therapy and support are needed for every child who has suffered from abuse. Children who suffer from burn injuries are no different.
Getting Financial Compensation
While it may make you feel uncomfortable to press for financial compensation from the perpetrator on the behalf of an abused child, it shouldn’t do. Children age out of foster care all the time without support. This means that they are less likely to graduate high school or attend college. For instance, only 4% of children who had aged out of a foster home will have a college degree.
Further, not all abuse cases are at the hands of the parents.
To give these abused children a chance at life outside of a foster system, or to simply allow them more opportunities to help them later in life, they need financial support. In every case of criminal child abuse, a legal representative should be consulted. Attorneys at StephenBabcock.com take on burn injury cases, and they can for an abused child. They get compensation for the pain and press for punitive damages. Do beware that claims have to be made within certain time limits from the time of the incident, and this varies between states.
Getting compensation and punitive damages from the abuser is easier when the abuser is part of an institution, or one who is not a family member. It is, however, still possible for a legal guardian to sue the biological parents of an abused child for damages. Most parent abusers won’t have the finances to pay for compensation or punitive damages. Instead, these abusers will typically be incarcerated.
Parenting a child who has experienced abuse of this magnitude will need a lot of patience. Guardians should help build a child’s resilience by encouraging and nurturing the child’s relationships with others around them. Closing off is a huge risk that can complicate a child’s mental health and ability to function later. Encourage them to express themselves fully, that they don’t need to suffer in silence. Be patient, be consistent, be kind.
Being abused does not mean that a child will develop poorly. Assure the child that his or her safety will always be a priority. No one will lash out. No one will hurt them. It will take time and patience to grow that trust, but once it is earned, healing can begin.
There are many strategies, tips, and guides to help guardians parent abuse survivors. The key aspect is to be there. Bouncing from one foster family to the next is possibly the worst post-abuse lifestyle a child could experience. They need stability, love, and understanding to move on from the trauma of their past.
Saving a child starts with recognizing the signs of abuse. Abusers come in all sizes, and shapes, and abuse can come in a wide variety of forms. Knowing the signs of each type of abuse is the only way to save a child from their abuser. Healing can only begin once the trauma has stopped.