Could there be a more fitting month in which to consider our kids than April? Easter baskets and pussywillows are big stuff, fun stuff. Smiles and giggles and running pell mell through puddles – that’s April all right.
But clouds and rain make April a good month in which to remember that not every childhood is idyllic. Some are bleak and mean. Others are unspeakably horrific.
The good news is that in this society, while child abuse is still a reality, it is no longer accepted as “a family matter.” Hurting, scared children are everyone’s business. This month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is a time to practice what each of us could do – no, will do – to help make our part of the world safe for kids, in every possible way.
Prevent Child Abuse America has “Five Rs” every adult should learn and practice:
Raise the issue. Call or write your candidates and elected officials to educate them about issues in your community and the need for child abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
Contact your local school district and faith community to encourage them to sponsor classes and support programs for new parents.
Reach out to kids and parents in your community. Anything you do to support kids and parents in your family and extended community helps reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Be a good neighbor. Offer to baby-sit. Donate your children’s used clothing, furniture, and toys for use by another family. Be kind and supportive, particularly to new parents and children.
Remember the risk factors. Child abuse and neglect occur in all segments of our society, but the risk factors are greater in families where parents:
• Abuse alcohol or drugs
• Are isolated from their families or communities
• Have difficulty controlling their anger or stress
• Appear uninterested in the care, nourishment, or safety of their children
• Seem to be having serious economic, housing, or personal problems
Recognize the warning signs. Some of the warning signs that a child might be abused or neglected include:
• Nervousness around adults
• Aggression toward adults or other children
• Inability to stay awake or to concentrate for extended periods
• Sudden, dramatic changes in personality or activities
• Acting out sexually or showing interest in sex that is not appropriate for his or her age
• Frequent or unexplained bruises or injuries
• Low self-esteem
• Poor hygiene
Report suspected abuse or neglect. If you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring, report it—and keep reporting it—until something is done. Contact child protective services (in your local phone book) or your local police department.