Child abuse concerns all of us so the focus needs to be how do we prevent abuse and neglect. Part of this answer is to provide parents, families, schools, neighbors, and our communities with knowledge and resources. Statistics in Missouri show 71,572 child abuse incident reports occurred in 2011. Of those reported, 13,788 children had more than one report during that same year. We know there are many incidences that go unreported. Child abuse is a problem in Missouri as well as throughout the nation.
April is national child abuse prevention month so we would like to share a few ideas about how each one of us can help prevent this tragedy. Young parents are especially vulnerable but all families need encouragement and support in stressful times.
Protective factors for families:
• Supportive family environments
• Nurturing parents
• Stable family relationships
• Establish rules and monitoring
• Parental employment
• Adequate housing
• Access to healthcare
• Access to social support services
Protective factors for communities
• Caring adults outside the family who serve as role models and mentors
• Individuals and communities support parents and take responsibility for preventing abuse
We need to remember that it is not just the month of April but all year long that we need to be active citizens, friends, extended family members who attempt to bridge those gaps for those families who do not have all those protective factors in place. This can be a simple as to offer to babysit and provide a break for parents or to contribute to faith-based or other community service providers seeking to offer concrete support to families in need.
How do we prevent abuse? Identify the warning signs that could trigger abuse and report if you witness abuse or neglect.
• Learn to identify the warning signs that trigger abuse and neglect.
• Seek help if you feel you are at risk of abusing or neglecting a child
• Report known or suspected case of child abuse immediately
• Be a support to a child or parent in need
• Alert others to the problem and help them recognize and understand the impact of physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse and neglect
• Be involved in your children’s life (activities, school, friends, internet)
• Talk with your child about how to be safe and what to do if they need help. Let them know that secrets are not safe.
• Teach your child to say, “No, get away, and to tell someone” if anyone tries to touch him or her inappropriately. Tell them, “Your body belongs to you.”
• Go through rules with your babysitter while your child is present
• Listen to what your child has to say, and remember to remain calm
Who to call if you need to report:
• Notify the Child Abuse Hotline in your state and/or local police
Missouri: 800-392-3738 or 573-751-3448
• Make sure to get necessary medical and psychological help.
Belva Giesing, is Chief Nursing Officer at Crittenton Children’s Center and a member of the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board for the City of Lee’s Summit.