The public and medical profession should support the efforts of Connecticut Department of Children Family Commissioner Joette Katz to prevent abused children, when brought in for treatment of traumatic injuries, from being returned to abusive homes.
No doctor would intentionally send a child who has been a victim of domestic violence back into the hands of abusers, but that is what effectively happens when a physician fails to recognize abuse. To reduce the chances of that occurring, the commissioner is pushing for guidelines that personnel in emergency rooms, clinics, home health care settings and pediatric offices would follow when evaluating a child with a traumatic injury.
Experts in the field are still working on the policy, but the broad outlines are known. Utilized for children 6 and under, the guidelines are expected to call for children to be evaluated in a hospital gowns, so any hidden and older injuries are detectable. Medical records must be checked for signs of a pattern of injuries and for any indication of DCF involvement.
In addition to reducing the chance of abuse going undetected, standard guidelines would assure equal treatment. After all, there is no model for what a child abuser looks like.
On the down side, such guidelines essentially make a suspect of any parent bringing in a young child with a traumatic injury. Parents who have done no wrong could find themselves facing accusatory questions.
"People have to recognize this is nothing personal, we are trying to protect kids," Commissioner Katz told us. "I'd rather have a few angry parents than one dead child."
It is hard to argue with that.
Commissioner Katz called for guidelines after the death last November of a 3-year-old girl who was treated and released from Windham Hospital. Athena Angeles came to the hospital with a gash to the head, requiring staples to close. He mother claimed it was an accident. Allowed to return home, she was allegedly beaten the next day by the mom's boyfriend, Fredy Alexander-Chingo Riz, for not eating. That time she died.
It turned out just a month earlier the same hospital treated the girl for facial bruises, another "accident." Commissioner Katz is convinced if the doctor had seen the record of past trauma, and examined the girl more closely, DCF would have been called and the girl would still be alive.
The Connecticut Committee on Trauma is working on the guidelines. It should adopt and disseminate them as soon as possible.