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by Abigail Van Buren

Clerk Questions If She Should Report Potential Child Abuse

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 20-year-old college student and have had a job at the same retail store for two years. A few weeks ago, a mother walked in holding a baby that appeared to be about 6 months old. The first thing I noticed was that he had numerous bruises. There were pronounced bruises under both eyes, another large one on his temple, and several more visible on his arms and legs.

I have heard horror stories about parents whose infants have a medical condition that causes them to bruise easily, but the parents are accused of child abuse. This mother seemed attentive to her baby, and I saw nothing in her behavior to make me think her child was in any danger. I didn't say anything, but I keep wondering if I should have called the police or informed my manager.

I've been telling myself that there may have been an innocent explanation for the child's injuries, but I don't know if I screwed up. I didn't want to meddle, and now I'm worried the baby might be suffering because I didn't speak up. Any advice on what I should have done/should do in the future would be appreciated. -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN KANSAS

DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: Because you were unsure about what to do, you should have written down the woman's license number, if possible, and alerted the store manager so the matter could be handled according to store policy.

However, if no policy is in place, you could have contacted for guidance. It offers prevention, intervention and treatment programs and has helped more than 10 million children at risk or in trouble. has a national toll-free hotline: 800-422-4453.