Frequently Asked Questions
What is child abuse?
The definition of child abuse varies slightly from state to state. Generally speaking, a child is abused when they are mistreated in some way that either resulted in the child being harmed or injured, or if the mistreatment could result in the child being harmed or injured. In Wisconsin, child abuse is generally divided into categories of physical, sexual, emotional, or neglect.
Who does Willow Tree serve?
Any child who is a suspected victim of abuse or neglect can be served by Willow Tree Child Advocacy Center in collaboration with our local law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services.
What are the ages of the children served by Willow Tree?
We see children of all ages, many ethnic backgrounds, both girls and boys. The average age of a child abuse victim served by Willow Tree is 8 years old.
What is Willow Tree's relationship with Child Protective Services?
Willow Tree has a collaborative relationship with Brown County Child Protective Services and many of our neighboring counties. While our staff are specially trained to provide the child forensic interview, medical evaluations, and counseling services, Child Protective Workers work with the family to develop a safety plan and ensure that the family's basic needs are being met.
Do children live at the Child Advocacy Center?
No, children do not live at Willow Tree. They come to the Child Advocacy Center for forensic interviews, a medical exam or evaluation and/or counseling, but no one actually resides in the facility.
How is Willow Tree Child Advocacy Center funded?
Willow Tree is funded primarily through private donations, with supplemental support from the state and county. We partner with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for medical services which bills insurance, Medical Assistance, or the client. Therapy services bill insurance or Medical Assistance, with a sliding fee scale available. The forensic interview, advocacy and prevention education services are provided to families free of charge.
How can I tell if a child is being abused?
It’s important to remember that warning signs are just that – warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is being abused. The children who do display warning signs will vary greatly from one another; some children may display multiple signs while others may display no warning signs at all. Some common warning signs include:
Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
Is always watchful and "on alert" as if waiting for something bad to happen.
Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
Is frequently late or missing from school.
Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for weather, and caregiver has access to resources to remedy the situation but chooses not to utilize resources.
Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
An STD or pregnancy.
Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
Trouble walking or sitting.
Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
Runs away from home.
How do I make a report of suspected abuse?
Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect should be made to the county where the child or the child's family resides. In Brown County, call the Department of Human Services at 920-448-6000. (Click here for a map of other Wisconsin counties.) Reports can also be made to your local law enforcement office.
What if I'm not sure a child is being abused?
You should report any reasonable suspicion of abuse; you do not have to prove it. If you suspect a child has been abused, phone your local Child Protective Services office to discuss your concerns.
How do I protect my child from being abused?
As parents and community members, everyone plays a role in protecting children from all forms of abuse. The following steps can help you protect your child and lower the risks for child abuse.
Limit one-adult/one-child situations. For example, if your child has music lessons, try to limit the one-on-one lessons or if they do take place, make sure the room has windows, an open door, or you are allowed the opportunity to stop in unexpectedly. There are certain one-adult/one-child situations that may not be avoidable. In that case, speak openly to the adult and child about the events that took place.
Contact with Youth. Monitor any situations where younger children are alone with older children without adult supervision. Older youth, including family members, can be perpetrators of abuse.
Do background checks and ask for multiple references for adults who supervise your children in any capacity.
Talk About It!
Talk about the body. Talk openly with children about the proper names for their anatomy and why those parts of their body are private. Empower your child that their body is theirs and they have the right to tell someone “no” or “stop” if they are being hurt or feel uncomfortable with any touch.
Talk often. Have age-appropriate, ongoing conversations with your child about their body as they age. Encourage them to tell you of any unwanted touches. Reinforce that you will not be mad at them but you will believe them, support them and get help to make any unwanted touches stop.
The Healthy and Clean Rule. It is important to teach children that it is not okay for someone (including adults and children) to touch, look at, or take pictures of the private parts of their body. Provide examples to children of exceptions- for example, if someone is trying to keep them healthy (a doctor) or clean (a parent bathing a child).
Make a list together of trusted adults your child could talk to if they were having a problem.
Watch for Warning Signs. Some children may have no warning signs so it is important to have continued open communication with your child.
Act on suspicions. If you believe a child is being abused, reach out to your community for help. By acting on your suspicions not only may you save one child from enduring further abuse, but you may also save countless others.
For more information or to discuss any of the topics addressed above, please call us at 920-436-8881.