April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. The designation is a reminder that child abuse and neglect is a serious issue that plagues our nation. There are 500,000 children in the out-of-home foster care system in The United States but many more children that suffer abuse daily.
In 2009, more than 3.6 million children had referrals and investigations as victims of child abuse and neglect. That is enough children each week to completely fill the seats of Candlestick Park in San Fransisco. Imagine that! An entire football stadium filled with children that have been beaten, harmed, hurt, neglected or shamed by individuals in our community. Tragic!
Daily, the massive statistic on abuse and neglect translates to over 9,800 children suspected as victims of child abuse and neglect in the United States. This breaks down to over 400 children per hour or nearly 7 children every minute. Now that is shocking … every 60 seconds in the United States, the “land of opportunity”, a child is suspected to be a victim of child abuse and neglect. And, these are the lucky children that receive a referral for investigation. Imagine what the statistics would look like if every child that was abused and neglected was referred for investigation and help.
Child Abuse Prevention month is designed to bring awareness to the issues of child abuse and neglect in our community, to rally support for families and children to stop abuse and neglect, and to create a support system and care system for those that have suffered abuse and neglect. It is time we take the conditions of children seriously in our communities and stop abuse in its tracks while also serving foster children and former foster children to end the cycle of abuse and neglect.
What can you do to help?
Advocate. Become a voice for voiceless children. The foster children in the system, former foster children and current abuse and neglect victims do not have a voice. No one is speaking out or up for them and their needs or issues. It is up to our great communities, individuals and organizations to report suspected abuse and neglect and rally support for existing victims.
Another step you can take is to get involved in transforming lives of potential abusers and those abused. The foster care system is not a perfect system but it is the system we have to reach children and youth as alternatives to their negative and unhealthy family situations. As such, our communities need passionate and compassionate and caring foster parents to stand in the gap and serve children that have entered the system at no fault of their own.
Another segment of the abuse and neglect population that we cannot afford to overlook is the “emancipated” or former foster youth in our communities. These youth that “age out” of the system at 18 years old do not have a safety net or mentoring structure to help them through vulnerable years of life. As a community, we must rise to the challenge to parent these youth that have had no parents. Otherwise, we will create a structure that simply repeats the cycle of abuse and neglect as the former abused now become abusers. What else do they know?
One last step you can take to transform our nation by ending child abuse and neglect is to educate yourself about abuse and neglect. There are warning signs that a child is being harmed and in most communities there are supports to help families end abuse. You need to be aware of what is happening in your neighborhood and community and respond with compassion and urgency when you suspect child abuse and neglect. At least, know the hotline number to call in your community for abuse and neglect investigations. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Below, are links to sites that have a wealth of information regarding child abuse and neglect. Additionally, there is a link to a document that is a great resource to stopping the cycle of child abuse and neglect and helping children and youth find success.
For more information call 661-326-8304 and discuss how you can help foster children and former foster youth in Kern County through partnership wioth Covenant Community Services, Inc. (Covenant).
Covenant Community Services, Inc. is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) social service organization serving foster children and their families in Kern County and through replication efforts, the United States and the world. Covenant serves foster children and their families through a variety of programs and services. Covenant is meeting the needs of “hurting and hopeless” children/youth and families through partnerships with local churches, community-based organizations, individuals and businesses. Covenant exists to transform our community with the love of Jesus Christ one foster child at a time!
Articles for further reading and education about Abuse and Neglect
Help Guide for Child Abuse and Neglect – a comprehensive guide including research, education and prevention strategies
Child Maltreatment 2009 – A report by the US Administration of Children and Families
Child Abuse Gateway – a site by the US Department of Human Services
Prevention Tips – a resource site with tips and strategies to prevent abuse and neglect