Sponsoring Organization: HHS – Child Welfare
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we’d encourage everyone to get involved. Children will always be our most valuable resource. By making sure that parents have everything they need—information, skills, and resources—to take good care of their children, we can all contribute to a brighter future by preventing child abuse.
The theme for this year’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month is “Strong and Thriving Families,” and the goal is for individuals and organizations in every community to help build stronger, healthier and happier families. The first step is information: Do you know how to define child abuse? It can be tricky because people often assume child abuse just means physical abuse. The most common type of child abuse, however, is neglect. Putting a child in an unsupervised, dangerous situation is abusive. Exposing children to sexual situations or saying things that make them feel stupid or worthless are also forms of child abuse. Whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional, it’s important to know the warning signs.
Here are some common signs that a child may be going through abuse: A child is very withdrawn, afraid, or always anxious about doing something wrong; is constantly “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen; flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home; clothes are consistently ill-fitting, dirty, or inappropriate for the weather; is frequently unsupervised or allowed to play in unsafe situations; makes an effort to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
Everyone can play a part by being on the lookout for these warning signs. If you suspect that a child is being mistreated, here’s what you can do, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway:
- If you believe the child is in immediate or serious danger, call 911.
- Call or text 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453). Professional crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 170 languages. All calls are confidential. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources.
- If a child is being exploited online (or has been contacted inappropriately online), make a report with CyberTipline.
Sometimes families need support, and by reporting signs of abuse, you can help by connecting struggling parents with resources. Information you report to child abuse hotlines will be made available to Child Protective Services (CPS). A CPS worker can then help the parents or other caregivers get services, education, or other assistance for the child.
Additionally, it is important to note, the risks of child abuse are exacerbated as a side effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Families are facing all new stresses as businesses and schools begin to shut down, people are increasingly facing economic instability, and families are forced to self-isolate. All three of these could potentially increase the risk of domestic and child abuse.
Right now it is more important than ever to report signs of abuse if you see or suspect it. Visit the End Violence Against Children website for information on reducing risk, reporting abuse, and more during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is that effective child abuse prevention works. The partnerships created between child welfare professionals, community organizations and families have been proven to succeed. Get involved and help raise awareness about National Child Abuse Prevention Month in your community. Be the reason our families are strong, and our children have a future they deserve.