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Child Abuse Prevention – It Takes A Village

By Glenda Henman, Behavioral Health Counselor

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Most people avoid thinking or talking about child abuse and neglect because it is upsetting and difficult. However, in 2014, there were more than 700,000 children who were victims of child abuse and neglect. Knowing how big the problem is means we can take action to reduce this number and support these children as they recover.

We know now that child maltreatment (a phrase that includes abuse and neglect) can have lifelong and even generational impacts on physical and mental health known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). It might be Child Abuse Prevention Month, but at NOAH, we work to prevent and heal child abuse every day.

Impact on Children

People usually think of visual, physical abuse or injuries, but child abuse takes many forms. Emotional neglect, medical and educational neglect, and sexual abuse are other forms of child maltreatment. Too often, these children are also facing other negative experiences like parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.

What to look for:

  • Talking about the abuse
  • Sexual knowledge beyond their age
  • Withdrawing, running away, or avoiding a specific person
  • Nightmares, bed wetting
  • Changes in mood or appetite
  • Being fearful of a parent or caregiver
  • Sudden changes in behavior

Preventing Abuse and Neglect

Many of us here at NOAH, like doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and others are Mandatory Reporters and must report abuse or suspected abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Reporting abuse is an essential step, but we can all be an advocate to prevent child abuse.

The best way to prevent child abuse is by promoting protective relationships and environments. Protective factors are tools and support that help a family stay strong so they can face challenges together like:

  • Social connections
  • Parenting knowledge
  • Reliable and safe support in times of need

If you or someone you know needs additional support, NOAH is a great place to start! Our Community Resource team can connect families to resources, and our Behavioral Health team is here to support parents develop resiliency to face challenges.

Actions for everyone

Whether we have children in our lives or not, we can all take steps to help protect children and support families in our lives and our communities.

  • Read books or articles, attend trainings or classes on parenting, or get involved with trusted resources like community leaders, schools, libraries, clergy, or these organizations:
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Offer to help people in your life who are parents or raising young children.
  • Be a friend to a child you know; remember their name, show them you care.
  • Teach children how to be safe from sexual abuse with age-appropriate, open conversations with your children about bodies, sex, and boundaries. If you need help in having these conversations, or how to prepare, our counselors can help.
  • Find out about local resources and refer families. Learn more on 211arizona.org.  

The phrase ‘it takes a village’ is thrown around a lot when talking about raising children. But all too often, people who need that ‘village’ the most, don’t know where to find it. The best way to make sure children are safe and cared for is with a safe, healthy, supported family.

If you have questions, NOAH’s Community Resource team and Counseling team are a great place to start. Request an appointment today!

National Child Abuse Awareness Month by Katelyn Millinor, LPC

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year NOAH encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our community a better place for children and families. The theme for 2020 is “Strong and Thriving Families.” By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by creating strong and thriving children and families in our communities. Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families. Protective factors are conditions or attributes that lessen risk and promote healthy development and well being. 

Promoting the following protective factors is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect:

  • Nurturing and attachment.
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child/youth development.
  • Parental resilience.
  • Social connections and support.
  • Concrete support for parents.
  • Social and emotional competence of children.

April is a time to celebrate the vital role that communities play in protecting children and strengthening families. Focusing on ways to connect with families is the best thing our community can do to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Visit www.childwelfare.gov for more information.

What is child abuse and neglect?
When a parent, guardian or custodian inflicts or allows the infliction of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment.

  • Physical abuse includes non-accidental physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts or other injuries.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when sex acts are performed with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.
  • Neglect occurs when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury. Neglect also includes leaving young children unsupervised or alone, locked in or out of the house, or without adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Allowing children to live in a very dirty house which could be a health hazard may also be considered neglect.
  • Emotional abuse of a child is evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist, and caused by the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker.
  • Exploitation means use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain.
  • Abandonment means the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision, when such failure is intentional and continues for an indefinite period.

What you can do:
Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.

  • Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
  • Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
  • Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe/uncomfortable).
  • Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review their friend’s lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.

How to Report?
A report of suspected child abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment is a responsible attempt to protect a child. Arizona law requires certain persons who suspect that a child has received non-accidental injury or has been neglected to report their concerns to DCS or local law enforcement (ARS §13-3620.A). You may be a child’s only advocate at the time you report the possibility of abuse or neglect. Children often tell a person with whom they feel safe about abuse or neglect. If a child tells you of such experiences, act to protect that child by calling the toll free Arizona Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445).

Statistics

  • Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children.
  • About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood.
  • The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between 4 and 7 children every day to child abuse and neglect.
  • At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate.
  • Children living in poverty experience more abuse and neglect. Rates of child abuse and neglect are 5 times higher for children in families with low socio-economic status compared to children in families with higher socio-economic status.

At NOAH, we offer behavioral health consulting and traditional outpatient counseling programs and services where these highly skilled and trained behavioral health staff work alongside our medical and dental teams to assess, diagnose and effectively treat the core-symptoms of our patients.