More child abuse reports now? YES!
Parents and child caregivers are stressed and overwhelmed from the economy.
Overwhelmed parents and caregivers find it difficult to handle the stress. So when the kids scream and want a new toy or act out, parents take it out on their kids. We saw it with Hurricane Katrina, 9-11 and every other disaster. This is a time when many parents are at their breaking point.
As we face difficult times it is imperative that we do not overlook our children who are react to their parent’s overwhelm and stress. And we must not overlook our children who are at risk and peril on a daily basis … and at even greater risk in times of stress.
No family is without stress and overwhelm today. But even in these difficult times, we must remember:
· Understand the problem
Child abuse and neglect affect children of all ages, races, and incomes. Over 3 million children are victimized each year and those are only the ones that are reported. The actual number is three times greater.
· Understand the various forms
Child Abuse is physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, shaken baby syndrome, neglect and abandonment, and death.
· Understand the causes
Most parents are loving and nurturing and wouldn’t think of hurting or neglecting their children. Yet some parents were themselves abused or neglected and they continue the cycle. Very young or inexperienced parents will likely not know how to take care of their babies or what they can reasonably expect from children at different stages of development. Extraordinary circumstances that stress families can be poverty, divorce, sickness, disability …which can play a part in child abuse and neglect. Parents who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to abuse or neglect their children.
· Support programs that support families
Parent education, community centers, respite care services, and substance abuse treatment programs help to protect children by addressing circumstances that place families at risk for child abuse and neglect. Donate your time or money, if you can.
· Report suspected abuse and neglect
Some states require everyone to report suspected abuse or neglect; others specify members of certain professions, such as educators and doctors. Regardless of whether you are mandated by law to report child abuse and neglect, doing so could save a child—and a family. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the police, your state child abuse hotline or your local child welfare agency.
· Spread the word
Help educate others in your community about child abuse and neglect. Distribute brochures at your local public library, recreation or community center, government center, church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other faith institutions, grocery stores, and other public places.
· Strengthen your community
Know your neighbors’ names and the names of their children, and make sure they know yours. Give stressed parents a break by offering to watch their children. Volunteer. If you like interacting with children, great, but you do not have to volunteer directly with kids to contribute to prevention. All activities that strengthen communities, such as service to civic clubs and participation on boards and committees, ultimately contribute to the well-being of children.
· Be ready in an emergency
Everyone has witnessed the screaming-child-in-the-supermarket scenario. Most parents take the typical tantrum in stride. But what if you witness a scene—in the supermarket or anywhere else—where you believe a child is being, or is about to be, physically or verbally abused?
Responding in these circumstances technically moves beyond prevention to intervention, and intervention is best handled by professionals. Still, if you find yourself in a situation where you believe a child is being or will be abused at that moment, you can help the situation by calmly approach the parent and offering the following:
· “I guess their right when they say parents need a lot of patience.” “It looks like you’ve both had a very long day.”
· Ask if you can help in any way — Can you carry some packages? Play with an older child so the baby can be fed or changed? Call someone on your cell phone?
· If you see a child alone in a public place—for example, unattended in a grocery cart—stay with the child until the parent returns.