Child abuse recognition, referral, follow up, and prevention is a problem in Minnesota. This work group meets on a monthly basis to improve detection and prevention strategies.
The Children's Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services reported these alarming 2011 national statistics:
Corporal punishment of children has been the subject of increased media attention and conversation in recent months. As a result, many parents and even some pediatricians may have questions about acceptable forms of discipline and punishment.
As an advocate for children's health and wellbeing, the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MNAAP) stands by the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) policy statement on effective discipline, which strongly discourages the use of corporal punishment, including spanking, hitting or whipping, as a way to manage unwanted behavior in children.
AAP defines corporal punishment as "the application of some form of physical pain, from slapping the hand of a child...to identifiable causes of child abuse, such as beatings, scaldings and burnings."
Because the method and severity of such punishments can vary greatly, AAP believes they should not be used to discipline children of any age. Not only can they result in physical harm, they teach that violence is an acceptable way to deal with challenging situations and can undermine a child's sense of trust, security and self-worth.
Pediatricians and other health care providers are required to immediately report suspected instances of physical abuse to the police or local county or tribal services agency. The state defines physical abuse as "physical injury or threat of harm or substantial injury, inflicted by a caregiver upon a child other than by accidental means. The impact of physical abuse can range from minor bruises to severe internal injuries and death. Physical abuse does not include reasonable and moderate physical discipline of a child that does not result in an injury."
In essence, physical punishments that leave bruises, lasting hand marks, wounds, cuts, burns or other injuries constitute child abuse in Minnesota.
In 2012, over 18,000 reports of child maltreatment (neglect, physical, mental or sexual abuse) involving more than 25,000 children were addressed by the child protection system, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. More than 10 percent of alleged cases are reported by health care providers.
MNAAP believes discipline is an important and necessary part of parenting. However, it should be viewed as a tool to teach children, not harm them. Though physical punishment may immediately stop unwanted behavior, most pediatric experts agree that it is less useful in the long-term and is associated with increased aggression and other negative outcomes in children.
Parents should be encouraged to employ discipline strategies that do not involve violence, such as natural consequences, timeouts, revocation of privileges, and reward-based systems, with the ultimate goal of helping children achieve independence, self-control and caring for others."
Resources for pediatric providers
Resources for parents