Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Mentor Wonders How to Address Child Abuse

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been mentoring young people for many years now. I work with some of them at my church. Others I have brought in to work for internships at my company. I love helping young people to get set in their lives. Mostly, this works well.

Recently, I was in an awkward situation. One of my mentees came to me to say that she is being abused by her stepfather. She said she is afraid to go home and asked if she could stay with me. My wife and I decided years ago to draw the line with the mentees, meaning that we would not house anyone. I cannot break our agreement, but I do want to help this young lady. When I mentioned finding her a shelter, she freaked out. What else can I suggest? -- Protecting the Young, Morristown, New Jersey

DEAR PROTECTING THE YOUNG: Call child protective services in your city to report the abuse. Even though you haven’t seen it firsthand, she has told you. That’s enough for you to report it, and the authorities will look into it. Tell them that the young lady asked to stay in your home, and ask them what you should recommend to her as an alternative. Ask if it is OK for you to find temporary housing for her from someone in your church. Perhaps someone can help in the short term while the matter is sorted. You and your mentee can also contact Childhelp, which is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Abuse | Teens | Health & Safety