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National Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Posted on April 11, 2018 by CHS

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a month for families and communities to come together in order to increase the awareness of child abuse and promote ways to prevent it. This is also an opportunity to provide families with the education and support they need to nurture and raise their children in a healthy and positive way.

According to statistics reported by Child Help®, there is a case of child abuse reported every ten seconds, and each year over six million children are given referrals to child protective agencies in the United States. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 was the first large study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the long-term effects of childhood abuse.

Further research done by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris,  the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, has determined that the effects of abuse and trauma in young children impacts their ability to learn and their physical and mental health well into adulthood. Further research studies  exploring the long-term effects of ACEs are still being conducted today.

By learning to identify abuse, reporting it to the correct agency, and creating effective support systems, communities and families can work together to prevent childhood abuse. The following are steps you can take to help promote the awareness and prevention of child abuse.

Learn to Identify Child Abuse
Each state has its own definitions and laws regarding child abuse and neglect. According to the California Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, abuse is defined as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of the parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” Therefore, the four main types of child abuse are: Emotional, Physical, Sexual, and Neglect. The following definitions and symptoms are adapted from the “Child Abuse Prevention, Identification, and Reporting” chapter of the California Training Institute Curriculum for Child Care Health Consultants by the California Childcare Health Program (2006).

Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify because there is rarely physical evidence of it occurring. It can include being constantly blamed, shamed, rejected, ignored, or made to feel inferior to others. Emotional abuse can also include the use of deliberately cruel or unusual forms of punishment. Children suffering from emotional abuse may show signs of physical, emotional, or mental delays. They may be withdrawn, fearful, or lack interest in making friends.

Physical abuse is causing intentional harm to a child’s body. Evidence of the abuse could include bruises, burns, or frequent hospital visits for injuries. Children being physically abused may wear clothing that is inappropriate for the weather in order to hide marks left by the abuse. These children may be cautious around adults, become nervous if they hear a child crying, and demonstrate extreme behaviors (too passive or too aggressive).

Sexual abuse includes any sexual act performed with a child where the adult, or even another child, is controlling the victim. Children may become disinterested in their own appearance or hygiene, avoid certain adults or friends, say or do things that demonstrate sexual maturity, draw explicit pictures, or try to reenact the abuse with dolls. Physical evidence can include pain when sitting or walking, or acquisition of a sexually transmitted disease.

Neglect is a form of abuse that usually takes place over time. There are four typical situations for neglect. Failing to supervise children and keep them safe is Physical Neglect. Withholding food, water, or necessary medical treatment is considered to be Medical Neglect. Refusing to follow state laws regarding school attendance is Educational Neglect, and ignoring a child’s developmental needs is Emotional Neglect. Children suffering from neglect may wear inappropriate or dirty clothing, practice poor hygiene, ask for food, hide food for later, or appear to lack energy.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse
Anyone can report a suspected case of child abuse. When reporting suspected abuse it is not necessary to give your name or prove that abuse has occurred. Reports of abuse are investigated by social workers who are trained to identify abuse, intervene, and make arrangements that benefit the safety and well-being of the child. For a list of California Emergency Response Child Abuse Reporting Telephone Numbers by county, click here. Here are some other helpful agencies with hotlines that are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day:

  • Child Help is a national child abuse hotline that serves the United States and Canada with operators who speak over 170 languages. The hotline phone number is (800) 422-4453.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available through online chat, in English or Spanish, or by calling (800) 799-7233. Teletypewriter (TTY) users can call (800) 787-3224.
  • Love is Respect offers advice to young people who have questions about dating relationships that may be abusive. Assistance is available through online chat, by texting loveis to 22522*, or by calling (866) 331-9474.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available through online chat in English or Spanish, or by phone at (800) 273-8255. Services are also available online for the deaf and hard of hearing.

People who work directly with children and families are Mandated Reporters. They are required by law to report any suspected case of child abuse. Medical personnel, police officers, firefighters, social workers, teachers, child care providers, and school staff are examples of people who are mandated reporters. Learn more about the identification and reporting of abuse on the California Department of Education website.

Prevention and Intervention
The abuse of a child can be triggered by a variety of different situations. Parents may not have the knowledge they need to understand their child’s development and needs, or they may not know how to guide their child’s behavior in a positive way. If there is significant financial stress or domestic violence in the home, parents may feel isolated and overwhelmed. Members of the community can work with parents to create a support system that gives the family the tools they need to thrive.

The following are ideas for how you, extended family members, friends, neighbors, and other people in the community can reach out to those families who may be in need of support:

  • Make connections. When you are out grocery shopping, standing in line at the bank, dropping your child off at school, or on your lunch break at work, you can make connections. Make eye contact with someone and smile. Ask them, “How are you today?” You might be the only person who smiles at them that day. It may not seem like much, but it is a connection, and it is a start. If you see that person again, the opportunity to start a conversation and offer emotional support or advice is there.
  • Strengthen relationships. Spend quality time with your friends and family. Be attentive to any help friends and family members may need. You can offer to be the person “on call” for someone with a new baby who may need advice or a break away from the baby. Build a system among your friends and family for carpooling to school or work, babysitting, and sharing other responsibilities that can be overwhelming.
  • Build your knowledge. Attend community meetings and events. This is a good way to learn about the services available in your area and make friends. Look for free classes about child development and parenting skills at public libraries, community centers, or agencies with resource and referral programs near you.
  • Ask for help. Whether it is asking for help that you need for yourself, or getting help for someone else, take that first step and ask. If you do not know where to start, contact your local resource and referral program. They can connect you with services for child care, financial aid, medical assistance and more. Asking for help can feel awkward, but it is also a sign of strength. It means that you recognize you need support and you are willing to do what is needed to improve your situation.
  • Spread the word. Help prevent abuse by sharing the need for prevention with others. Download and share these free images from We Can End Child Abuse and Neglect on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Making people aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. You can also share information from the links within this article and the resources below.

References and Resources

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