Summer vacation is a high stress time for some parents, and the potential for child abuse may be greater when school is out.

Friends or neighbors can do children and their parents a service by reporting incidents of child abuse to the police or local protective services agency, says Mary Holman, director of the Child Protection Center at Children's Hospital.

"I think lots of people are reluctant to make a report because they are afraid they'll make things worse, not better," Holman said. "It's encouraging to know that reporting does make it better. Of the 2,000 cases we've seen (since the center opened in 1975) we've had less than 1 percent repeated incidents."

Some of Holman's reminders on dealing with child abuse:

Persons whose jobs necessitate working with children - such as teachers, day-care providers and pediatricians - are required by law to report incidents.

Other citizens are encouraged to report incidents. The police will keep your name confidential, and persons who make reports in good faith are protected from libel action.

If a friend or neighbor has a child-abuse problem, but not one that is severe enough to call the police, encourage the person to get help. Take the onus off the parent by saying something like, "I can see your child is hard to handle, and being a parent is very, very difficult. Have you thought of getting some help?"

As a rule of thumb, a case of physical abuse is reportable if there is a mark, such as a burn or bruise, on the child.


If you have to strike something, hit a pillow or a raw chicken, advises one PA parent.

Breathe deeply, count to 10, put the child in a safe area such as a crib or playpen and go outside for a few minutes. Or go into another room, close the door and cry or scream. Take 10 minutes to read or knit or do whatever relaxes you the best.

Tell your child exactly what is making you feel angry. Be specific about what behavior should be changed to reduce your anger.

Call your clergy, local PA chapter (toll-free, 24 hours, 800/421-0353), school counselor or a friend.

Look under Social Service Organizations in the phone book or call the FACT Hotline, 628-FACT, open 24 hours a day for referrals to a variety of counseling and service agencies throughout the metropolitan area.