Child Abuse Prevention Begins With Me

April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Prevention is the action of stopping something from arising. Let’s focus on “arising”. Arising or emerging into existence is something that we want to eliminate when it comes to child abuse. For Family Advocates, our solution is to provide the Family Strengthening Education Program (FSEP) and its services.

According to the CDC, “Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.” Preventing these ACEs from ever happening involves a series of strategies that include:

  • Strengthen economic supports to families
  • Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity
  • Ensure a strong start for children
  • Teach skills
  • Connect youth to caring adults and activities
  • Intervene to lessen immediate and long-term harms

Knowing these strategies, FSEP is able to utilize a research-informed approach to “increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.” (Center for the Study of Social Policy’s) The Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework is the basis for FSEP along with other complimentary education tools.

Knowing all of this is available, is great, but what can you do to prevent child abuse? By taking some of the following steps, you too can make an impact on the series of strategies shared earlier:

  • Get Organized. Join other parents in bringing your children together for some safe and supervised playtime.
  • Volunteer Your Time. Donate your time to an organization (like Family Advocates) that serves your community, its children and families.
  • Evaluate Yourself. Abuse comes in all forms. Words and actions can leave long term wounds. Be a nurturing parent and use your actions to show children and other adults how to properly deescalate and settle conflicts.
  • Get Educated and Educate Others. Be aware of the services in your community that provide respite care, parenting education, and after-school programs which all provide prevention.
  • Support Prevention Programs. All to often, intervention occurs after abuse has happened. Invest in programs that stop abuse before it begins.
  • Know What Child Abuse Looks Like. Unexplained injuries. Depression. Fear of a certain adult. Difficulty trusting others or making friends. Sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Inappropriate sexual behavior. Poor hygiene. Secrecy. Hostility. Any one of these may indicate a child is being abused or neglected.
  • Know What Child Abuse Is. Do you know what constitutes maltreatment? It’s not just physical or sexual abuse. It includes neglect or failure of parents or other caregivers to provide a child with basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, and care. It can also manifest in emotional abuse through rejection, being berated or continuously isolated.
  • See It – Report It. If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence…report it. It can be anonymous. Wouldn’t you rather report and be wrong and nothing comes of it, than not report and be right and the abuse continues?
    • Statewide call: 855-522-KIDS (5437)
    • Treasure Valley: 208-334-KIDS (5437)
  • Invest in Children. Encourage civic leaders to commit to supporting the children and families of our community. Push for legislation to better protect our children and improve their lives. Take action and donate to organizations that support the prevention of child abuse.

Family Advocates challenges you to pick one thing for the month of April that you will do to help prevent child abuse in our community. It might be to Wear Blue on Fridays and let people know that you stand in solidarity with the victims of child abuse. Maybe you will learn more about volunteering with a prevention program like Family Advocates (volunteer@familyadvocates.org). Or, maybe you will register to participate in the Family Strengthening Education Program 10-week course and learn all you can about The Five Protective Factors and sharpening your parenting skills (enroll@familyadvocates.org).

We all need hope in our lives. Hope implies that there is the possibility of a better future. Shane J. Lopez Ph.D. said in Psychology Today, “People don’t hesitate – they each have a working theory of hope based on their experiences.” So, “experiences” we mentioned early… Adverse Childhood Experiences. Clearly there can be a damper on one’s hope if your “experiences” are adverse. There are individuals out there who need the community to support them, to see them, to help them find hope. If we can prevent this from happening to a child, we have positively impacted their future and their possibilities are endless.