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Take special care with kids’ caregivers

Screen even your loved ones to see how they handle stress


The horrific tragedy involving the death of Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson’s son brings to light that child abuse can affect us all.

Tyrese Robert Ruffin, 2, died on Oct. 11 after being hospitalized with severe head injuries. Joseph Robert Patterson, boyfriend of Tyrese’s mother, has a record of domestic violence and has been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, aggravated battery of an infant and abuse or cruelty to a minor.

We often leave our children with someone before we really know that person well enough to judge whether they have a good ability to manage the stress of a child without taking frustrations and anger out on our child. Not everyone has developed that quality of patience needed and the ability to put their own needs aside and put the child’s needs first. This is even more magnified when the child is not your own child. The person does not automatically have the unconditional love that often helps you find the extra strength not to hit a child, shake a child or get drunk and leave a child unattended.

The 2011 Indiana Department of Child Services’ Annual Child Fatality Report states that 40 child fatalities, three in Allen County, were substantiated as a result of abuse or neglect. According to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect report to Congress, published in 2011, children living with one parent who had an unmarried partner in the household had the highest incidence of maltreatment. In 2011 in Indiana, 25 percent of child fatalities were committed by the parent’s intimate partner. That is not to say that all partners are not loving caregivers, but it is statistically clear that child abuse fatalities and injuries are often at the hands of the partner, not the parent. It is important for any parent to keep a child’s safety as a priority when leaving the child alone with someone else, even a loved one.

What do parents do? How do they solve the problem of finding reliable care for their children? Before leaving your child with any caregiver, even if it is a loved one, here are a few tips to consider:

•Take time to get to know the person caring for your child. Know the new person for at least six months to a year.

•How do they respond to your baby or child when the child is tired or hungry or fussy for seemingly no reason?

•Is the person quick-tempered?

•What does he or she do when the child is whiny or the baby has been crying for a long period?

Never leave the child alone with an individual if you have not observed on multiple occasions how he or she talks to the child, picks up the child and soothes the child.

Rachel Tobin-Smith is executive director of SCAN Inc. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.