Experts weigh in on the line between punishment and child abuse

Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 17:31:18-04

Anger and outrage across the country after a cell phone video is posted online and goes viral. In the 23-second clip you can see a woman yelling and allegedly hitting and slapping two of her children, then threatening to beat them to death.

Investigators say their probe into the incident is focused on a home in the Essex/Middle River area.  A witness shot video Thursday afternoon of the woman being taken away by officers, but the Baltimore County Police Department and the Department of Social Services will only say they're investigating.  So far, no charges have been filed.

RELATED: Baltimore County family being investigated for possible child abuse after viral video

Turns out, the woman and her husband appeared on a 2012 episode of the Steve Wilkos Show where the husband was accused of abusing the children.

ABC2 News spoke with a family member today who says the system failed here.

"Those children need to go to a home where they're gonna thrive and be loved and cared for like they've never been before," she said.

According to her, the couple's three children are in danger being in that household, and she's been concerned for years.

"I knew in my heart and I my mind that something like this would happen."
In Maryland, anyone who knows about child abuse and neglect is legally obligated to report it.  Hundreds of people contacted authorities after seeing this horrific footage.

"It made me feel horrible, it made me grimace,” said Dr. Wendy Lane, Medical Director at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

She says in situations like these, what generally happens is the police and the Department of Social Services work together and do an assessment to make sure the child or children are safe.

"Ultimately, what the Department of Social Services wants to do is what's best for the child, and if they are attached to an adult who is safe to care for them then the Department of Social Services generally wants to keep them in a safe place and a place that they're comfortable," Lane said.

In her opinion, the video is very clearly child abuse.  But some people argue it's simply discipline.

"So that's one of the reasons why we say don't use corporal punishment at all because sometimes parents lose control, they think they're just gonna give a spank and they end up really angry and beating their child,” said Lane. “So if you have other ways of disciplining your child, and you don't resort to corporal punishment at all, then you're not gonna cross that line."

Lane suggests having a talk with your child's pediatrician about effective discipline methods that don't include hitting or smacking.


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