Each April the Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, supports National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is a cause that continues to grow in relevancy throughout the United States. According to Child Help, the nation’s largest nonprofit group dedicated to helping victims on child abuse and neglect, a report of child abuse is made once every ten seconds (1). That leads to more than 3.6 million referrals being made to child protection agencies each year regarding over 6.6 million children (1).
Unfortunately, about one in four kindergarteners is experiencing some form of abuse at home. In fact, the United States has one of the worst child abuse records among industrialized nations (1). With physical abuse being the number one type of abuse reported (3), an average of four to seven children lose their lives daily as a result of that abuse or neglect (2).
Some of this information may come as no surprise. In recent years, news headlines have been filled with atrocious accounts of child abuse, neglect, and other forms of endangerment (3). Needless to say, children are often times silent sufferers of this abuse, and require the attention and advocacy of their fellow community members to protect and defend them.
How can we help prevent child abuse in our homes, schools, and communities? Education is one of the best ways to help prevent child abuse. Understanding the struggles of being a parent, identifying triggers which may elevate tension and aggressive behaviors, and learning how to appropriately deal with those emotions is critical to fostering a positive home-life (4).
Furthermore, a parent carries the responsibility of helping their child navigate the world as they learn and grow. Allowing mental and physical fatigue to overcome rational reactions and the emotions faced in most day to day situations is not healthy for parents, or children, and can lead to unintended consequences when not properly identified and addressed. Counseling, support groups, and adult learning classes can help parents work through the struggles of daily life in a positive way (4).
If you are looking for guidance on how to identify child abuse, organizations within your community such as schools, churches, after-school activity programs and day care centers are all great resources (4). Remember, it is critical that if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, that you immediately report your observations to a local authority such as the police, child protective services, or another organization dedicated to keeping children safe. Swift responses to suspected maltreatment could prevent severe injury or even save an innocent life.
As a community mental health care organization, we want to help ensure our friends and neighbors are able to enjoy nurturing family relationships. We recognize the goals and structure of each family may be unique, but ultimately everyone wants to be able to feel safe and loved at home. Staying active within our communities, being able to identify the early warning signs of abuse or mental health issues, and having the courage to speak up for those without a voice is critical to ensuring a healthy, happy community for everyone.
1. Child Help. Child Abuse Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/.
2. Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/fastfact.html
3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau (2014). Child Maltreatment 2014. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2014
4. Prevent Child Abuse American. Ten Ways To Prevent Child Abuse. Retrieved from https://preventchildabuse.org/resource/ten-ways-to-help-prevent-child-abuse/.