Legislation that requires training for physicians so they can better spot signs of child abuse is pending in Frankfort. The bill was given a preliminary hearing Thursday at the state capital.
A few years ago, the state legislature required nurses, emergency room workers, and social workers to undergo similar training. Since not all physicians treat children, doctors were left out of the law. Now, Child Abuse Pediatrician Melissa Currie says doctors who do take care of kids should participate in the one hour training.
“We have unfortunately identified a number of cases, as many as half of the cases of physical abuse fatalities in children in this state of Kentucky involve those children having been seen by physicians within a short period of time prior to their death and having the early warning signs of abuse missed by those physicians,” said Currie.
One early warning sign of abuse is bruising. Currie is suspicious whenever she spots bruises on an infant.
“Children who are not yet pulling up and starting to cruise, take steps along furniture, should not bruise. The saying is those who don’t cruise, rarely bruise. So bruising in babies who are not independently mobile is not normal,” added Currie.
For slightly older children, bruising to the torso, neck, or ears should attract attention. Currie says they should be screened for abuse.
Meanwhile, retired Judge Roger Crittenden, who chairs the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel, says their review of state records is far from complete.
“You identify a trend or something that’s going on. If you know a child has been, there’s a fatality in a child, then you have to know why that happened, you have to know the various agencies that were involved that could look at that,” said Crittenden.
Crittenden's panel was created by the governor to review the state's management of severe child abuse cases. Over the past year, the review panel investigated 55 child fatalities and near-fatality cases. He says reviews will continue and a report issued next December.