PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — Knowing how to report child abuse and neglect can save a child from trauma, and even save their life.

The signs of abuse and neglect can sometimes be difficult to spot. Physical signs of abuse and neglect are easier to see in day to day interactions with children. Signs of abuse will be different than an everyday scrape or bruise. Shiloh Woodard is the Executive Director at Child Protect of Mercer County. She said they train people to look for more serious and substantial injuries.

“The community is fairly adept at recognizing what physical abuse is, so kids in the community with black eyes, broken bones,” said Woodard.

A household must be referred to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources or local law enforcement for an investigation to begin. Referrals were down in 2020 because of the pandemic, but as more things have opened up, Child Protect is back to seeing 20 to 25 children every month.

Child protect works directly with families going through child abuse and neglect investigations in Mercer County. Once an investigation begins, child protect interviews the child one time and works to prevent trauma through counseling. That information is then shared with Child Protective Services and law enforcement.

“The less times they have to talk about it, the less trauma they are subjected to in retelling their story,” said Beth Sizemore, the Program Director at Child Protect.

Woodard said any sign of abuse or neglect should be reported to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources hotline or to local law enforcement. She said reporting signs of child abuse and neglect can save a child’s life.

“I think back to those instances where we lost precious, young, innocent lives here in our community and if someone had just made a report sooner, if someone had just picked up the phone and called, those children might still be with us,” said Woodard.

By reporting child abuse and neglect, Woodard said children can be taken out of harmful situations and heal.

“With the appropriate interventions, with the appropriate counseling, children can overcome and truly become survivors of the abuse they’ve had to live through,” said Woodard.

To report a suspected case of child abuse or neglect, call the DHHR hotline at 1-800-352-6513.