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Teachers act quickly, man arrested for alleged child abuse

“You probably don’t know the person, but to call and report it is the best thing that you can do.,” said Barbara Vernon, Vice President of Programs at Child and Parent Services.

Child and Parent Services workers who work directly with DCS to help protect children from abuse and neglect are giving tips and urging you to make the right call if you come across an incident like what happened in South Bend.

On November 15th, South Bend Police were called to Harrison Primary Center for a child abuse incident after police say 34-year-old Jonathan Youngquist kicked, dragged, and hit a child he was picking up that day.

“If it’s gone past that and you’re seeing a child be abused or aggression towards a child, the first thing to do would be to call CPS or they can call 911, especially if there is kicking or hitting or something that it abusive toward a young person,” said Vernon.

According to court documents, a special needs student damaged a bench at the school leaving scratch marks on it. Youngquist, who came to pick up the student from school, began yelling profanities at the child inside. As they got up to leave, police say Youngquist kicked the child, who has a prosthetic leg, causing the child to fall and run into the front doors. Once outside, police say Youngquist dragged the child and threw him into the vehicle.

“Every school must have some type of protocol for handling abuse situations. So where it differs is how they handle situations and what happens,” said Vernon.

In this case, school staff responded immediately. Police say staff went outside and heard Youngquist yelling at the child inside the truck and saw him hitting the child in the front seat. Police were called and Youngquist was arrested.

But once back at St. Joseph County jail, the officer noticed Youngquist fidgeting in the back seat and eventually found a metal spoon with a brown-white residue on it.

“Child abuse goes hand-in-hand with drug abuse, whether its neglect, child abuse, physical abuse, there are opportunities for all different types of abuse, and there is help out there, that’s what’s important,” said Vernon.

Youngquist is being held at the jail on a $3500 bond. This is his 7th arrest so far in the county.

Vernon says there are different steps you can take if abuse is happening in front of you either in public or in private. She says first, you can offer to help in the intense situation in a non-judgmental way to stop the situation from becoming elevated or stop it from happening to begin with.

“If it’s gone past that and you’re seeing a child be abused or aggression towards a child, the first thing to do would be to call CPS,” said Vernon.

The number to Child Protective Services is 1-800-800-5556.

Some thing Vernon says you can look for are details to help, for example, look for a license plate number, take down a name, and any other descriptive details you may be able to tell police. Another thing Vernon says you can do is making your presence known. If you don’t know the abuse but they figure out others are watching, it could help stop the situation.

“If the child’s at school, there are school counselors, a lot of schools nowadays have a patrol officer or police officer, a security person that is specially trained to work with children and knows what to do,” said Vernon.

Vernon says it can also be hard for the child to tell an adult if abuse is a continuing cycle.

“Trusting an adult might be the first thing that the child needs to do and that’s difficult when the child’s being abused by an adult. ‘Is someone actually going to trust me and listen to me’. There’s also the fear for the children that ‘if I tell someone and it doesn’t get taken care of’ that child still has to go home, and face the fact that they told and nothing happened and what are the consequences of that, so I think the public needs to understand that it’s scary for a child to tell and to trust an adult,” said Vernon.

Vernon says the most important thing you can do in a case where any kind of abuse is suspected involving a child is call CPS.

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