National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect and promotes the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
When children are nurtured, they can grow up to be happy and healthy adults. But when they lack an attachment to a caring adult, receive inconsistent nurturing, or experience harsh discipline, the consequences can affect their lifelong health, well-being, and relationships with others. Minimum child abuse standards include the following: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and trafficking. Child abuse and neglect affect children of every age, race, and income level. However, research has identified many factors relating to the child, family, community, and society that are associated with an increased risk of child abuse and neglect. Studies also have shown that when multiple risk factors are present, the risk is greater. Some of the most common risk factors include immaturity, unrealistic expectations, stress, substance use, intergenerational trauma and isolation.
In 2018 about 4.3 million reports were made to child protective services concerning the safety and well-being of approximately 7.8 million children. Child maltreatment is a traumatic experience, and the impact on survivors can be profound. Traumatic events may impair a child’s ability to trust others, their sense of personal safety, and effectiveness in navigating life changes. Research shows that child maltreatment, like other trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), is associated with poor physical health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime. In addition to the impact on the child and family, child abuse and neglect affect the community as a whole—including medical and mental health services, law enforcement, judicial, public social services, and nonprofit agencies—as they respond to incidents and support victims. The CDC estimates that the confirmed cases of child maltreatment from just 1 year cost the nation approximately $124 billion over the victims’ lifetime.
The first step in helping or getting help for an abused or neglected child is to identify the symptoms of abuse. Anyone can and should report suspected child abuse or neglect. If you think a child is being mistreated, take immediate action. Many nonprofit, public, educational, social service, and child care organizations in your community play a role in providing support and services to children and families. Parenting education, crisis/respite care, transitional housing, and literacy programs as well as family resource centers, teen parent support groups, fatherhood groups, and marriage education classes support families in important ways. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect need support from caring adults who understand the impact of trauma and how to help. Some key was to do support a child are:
- Help children feel safe. Support them in expressing and managing intense emotions.
- Help children understand their trauma history and current experiences.
- Assess the impact of trauma on the child and address any trauma-related challenges in the child’s behavior, development, and relationships.
- Support and promote safe and stable relationships in the child’s life, including supporting the child’s family and caregivers if appropriate. Often parents and caregivers have also experienced trauma
- Refer the child to trauma-informed services, which may be more effective than generic services that do not address trauma.
The Greater Charlotte Hope Line is a 24/7 hotline for Mecklenburg County residents seeking help for parenting support, domestic violence and sexual assault. 980-771-HOPE (4673)
The Mecklenburg Child Abuse Prevention Team has a website with information and resources related to Child Abuse Prevention Month: https://www.meck4kids.org/
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) ensures that prevention is a priority in North Carolina and that all communities have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to prevent child abuse and neglect at the local level.