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Fite: Corporal punishment law hasn't changed since 1963

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The law regarding child abuse, including discipline taken to extreme, is considered outdated and open to interpretation. It hasn't been updated since the 1960s.

Help In Crisis Forensic Interviewer Leah Moore operates the Cherokee County Children's Advocacy Center and the Multi-Disciplinary Team. There were 156 children, ages 3-17, served by the free-standing multidisciplinary child abuse team during fiscal year 2018 for Cherokee County.

The Child Task Force works to minimize the number of interviews necessary for a child victim of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect, and coordinates the system response to child maltreatment. Oklahoma legislation calls for the establishment of teams in every county.

 "Each child who is alleged to be abused or neglected has the right to the broadest scope of protection resources available in his or her community," said Moore. "Child abuse does not belong to any one discipline. It is a community problem, and effective intervention requires collaboration and coordination among social workers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, therapists, medical professionals, counselors, family advocates, and others who must work together in communities to increase the protection network for all children."

Any act or failure to act on - by a parent, caregiver or individual - that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation is considered child abuse.

"Not all signs of child abuse are obvious," said Moore. "Ignoring children's needs; putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations; exposing them to sexual situations; or making them feel worthless or stupid, are also forms of child abuse and endangerment - which can also leave, lasting scars."

As for corporal punishment, how to discipline a child is a personal decision a parent must make, she said.

"However, the punishment must fall within the guidelines of local, state and federal laws," Moore said.

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