Most pediatricians, whether practicing general or subspecialty medicine, find dealing with situations of possible child abuse to be difficult on many levels. Lack of knowledge and expertise, real and perceived bonds with the family, personal experience, awareness of deficiencies in the child welfare system, and time and financial considerations all contribute to this discomfort.

However, due to the relationships with patients and their families, pediatricians are in a unique position to help protect children. By assessing a family’s strengths and deficits and responding appropriately to both, pediatricians have an important role in the prevention of child abuse or escalation to more severe injury.

For child abuse pediatricians, some of the most frustrating and heartbreaking cases of child abuse are those in which an opportunity for intervention was missed, resulting in further trauma or death to a child.

Carole Jenny, M.D., FAAP, former chair of the AAP Committee on Child Abuse...

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