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  • Marisa Bortz

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Since 1983, the month of April has been named Child Abuse Prevention month. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual, and can include neglect, exploitation, and more. As of 2020, approximately 683,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect. It has been estimated that at least 1,840 of those children died due to abuse or neglect. This month, we recognize the importance of communities working together to prevent child maltreatment and help families to thrive. Especially in this month, communities are encouraged to raise awareness about child and family well-being and collaborate to enforce effective strategies that support families and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Child Abuse Prevention Month was created because child maltreatment was both widespread and often invisible. We can do our part in the protection of children by focusing on increasing protective factors and positively approaching, in a trauma informed way, children who have had adverse childhood experiences. Support for kids in early childhood can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life trauma, with long lasting benefits for a child’s learning, behavior, and health. Most child abuse can be prevented, and with the help of the community, we can greatly minimize child abuse and its effects.

Something to focus on this month are protective factors. Protective factors can promote the well-bring of children and families while reducing the chance of maltreatment. This approach aims to engage families in a positive way, emphasizing their strengths, while identifying the places where they can grow with support. There are many positive outcomes that come from focusing on these protective factors, namely, children and families growing in resilience. These factors are:

  • Nurturing and attachment

  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development

  • Parental resilience

  • Social connections

  • Concrete supports for parents

  • Social and emotional competence of children

On the opposite side, there are also Adverse Childhood experiences (ACEs), which are traumatic events that occur before a child reaches the age of 18. These adverse experiences, including abuse, can lead to negative outcomes for children in their future. Research shows that children who suffer from the stress of maltreatment often struggle in their behavioral, physical, and cognitive abilities. It's necessary to understand what ACEs are and their impact so we can learn to support children and families, build resilience, and promote more trauma-informed interventions to help minimize future negative outcomes. These adverse experiences could include:

  • All types of abuse and neglect

  • Parental substance use or mental illness

  • Parental incarceration

  • Domestic violence

There are many ways you can help this month, including raising awareness of child abuse and how to prevent it through conversations and social media. You can also put pinwheels in your yard or business to raise awareness and remind the community that we all play a role in the lives of children. The pinwheels represent the joyful, safe childhood we want for all children. Another way that you can help in the prevention of child maltreatment is looking out for the signs. If you suspect that abuse might be occurring, contact authorities. You do not need proof. Listed below are some signs that may be present in children experiencing abuse or neglect. If you see something, say something!

Remember, almost all cases of child abuse are situations that can be prevented. Future cases of child abuse can be prevented through the willingness and effort of all community members, and that includes you! For further information, training, and awareness on how to prevent child abuse, call us at (740)-266-3988.


SIGNS OF CHILD ABUSE

  • Acting out sexually, or knowledge of sex that is not age appropriate

  • Nightmares/changes in sleeping

  • Unexplained injuries or Frequent headaches or stomach aches

  • Self-destructive and risk-taking behavior (hair pulling, cutting, drug and alcohol use)

  • Depression or unstable moods

  • Lack of personal hygiene or care

  • Returning to earlier behaviors (bedwetting, thumb-sucking)

  • New or unusual fear of certain people or places

  • Weight loss/gain, change in appetite

  • Changes in school performance and attendance

  • Separation anxiety

  • Swelling, redness, soreness, bleeding, infections, or other changes in the genital area

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