Child abuse is a community problem, one that affects all of us either directly or indirectly. Research has told us for many years that childhood trauma has long-term negative impact for the child and society. Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the United States, as well as for poor quality of life. Not only do these consequences cost our children their happiness and well-being, they cost our community economically. The rising cost of health care and mental health services, substance abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and drop-out rates affect all of us and have a negative impact on our community. Programs that offer parents, teachers, child care providers, coaches and anyone who is in a child’s life tools to provide children with positive, nurturing environments have been shown to reverse that negative impact. Effective prevention and intervention holds potential for lessening the suffering and trauma experienced by children and greatly reducing these economic costs.
It is easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the headlines, but you can turn that anger and frustration into positive action for victimized children. Here are some positive actions you can start doing today: Ask if the youth-serving organizations in your community have policies in place that govern how adults interact with youth. Do these organizations offer regular trainings for staff and volunteers so that no one is left wondering what their legal or moral obligation is when abuse is suspected? Do they know how to make a report and whom to call? Do they perform background checks on staff and volunteers? How do they monitor adult/youth interactions? Look to see if an organization displays the Partner in Prevention Seal. Contact the Child Advocacy Center to schedule a Stewards of Children training. Lastly, pledge to not keep silent if you see, hear, suspect or in any way become aware that a child is being abused. Sadly, we cannot change what has already occurred, but we can learn from the mistakes made and we can all pledge to become better educated and more aware of what goes on in our own community.
The Child Advocacy Center offers many programs to teach the community how to Recognize and Report Child Abuse and Neglect, and how to protect children from sexual abuse. These programs include: Darkness to Light – Stewards of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Chosen, Internet Safety 101 and Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse. Hundreds of thousands of children are sexually violated by adults they know and trust every year. More than 90% of the time, the child is abused by someone the family knows and trusts, and that is why it is crucial for every adult in our community to become educated on how to prevent and recognize child abuse and how to make a report if they suspect abuse. In Cumberland County, contact the Department of Social Services at 910-677-2450 or call 911.
Roberta J. Humphries, Executive Director, Child Advocacy Center