Neighbors Reporting Neglect: Important For Preventing Child Maltreatment

Ruby Franke, a Utah mother, pled guilty to child abuse, and agreed to testify against her former business partner, who participated in the abuse of her children.

From 2015 to 2022, Franke maintained a parenting blog with two million followers on YouTube. She then began working with another woman, a counselor and life coach, to create YouTube content for  self-improvement. The two women's relationship deepened, and, according to Franke's attorneys, turned destructive. The counselor allegedly began isolating Franke from family and friends, and instilled in her a "distorted sense of morality."

The child abuse was discovered after one of the children ran away from the home and over to a neighbor's house to ask for food. The boy was noticeably malnourished and told law enforcement officials that his mother and her friend often restrained his hands and feet with rope. He and one other child in the house required hospitalization.

Police arrested and charged the two women. Madeline Halpert "Ruby Franke: Parenting advice YouTuber pleads guilty to child abuse" www.bbc.com (Dec. 18, 2023).

Commentary

The neighbor to whom the child ran for help is an example of how every member of the community - employers, employees, customers, friends, family members, or neighbors – can help protect children and stop abuse.

In addition to reporting abuse, all safe adults should know the signs and stay vigilant. The increasing isolation of children, or a parent's or caregiver's frequent absence that leaves children unsupervised for long periods, are two examples of possible abuse or neglect. Other common signs include frequent injuries like cuts, bruises, or burns; dirty hair, skin, and clothes; or far-fetched stories about how injuries occurred.

Here are additional steps safe adults should know about reporting:

  • If a life-threatening emergency exists, dial 911.
  • If not a life-threatening emergency, contact a child protective services agency or local law enforcement immediately.
  • Get a name, title, department, phone number and email address from your law enforcement and/or child protective services contact. Take notes and preserve your communications with law enforcement and/or child protective services.
  • Tell the law enforcement and/or child protective services contact the facts that form the basis of your reasonable suspicion of child sexual abuse. Be prepared to provide dates, times, and names of witnesses. Do not speculate or provide information that you know is false or misleading.
  • Follow the directions of law enforcement and/or child protective services contact on preserving the safety of the child.
  • If applicable, let your employer know that you have made a report to law enforcement or child protective services.
  • Provide emotional support to the child when possible.
  • Do not argue, blame, or interrogate the child.
  • Do not try to convince the child he or she is mistaken.
  • Do not direct any anger or retaliation toward the child.
  • Allow law enforcement and/or child protective services to interact with parents and/or caregivers.
  • Follow-up with law enforcement and/or child protective services on your report.
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