April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
By Dave Hamolsky
April is National Child Abuse Prevention (NCAP) Month and the theme for April 2015 is “make meaningful connections with children and families.” NCAP Month is promoted and organized by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Unfortunately, in fiscal year 2013, 6 million children were reported to child protective services. Of those reported, 75% were neglected and most of these children were under the age of 5. As we witness in our work, there are profound effects of child abuse and neglect experienced by survivors, families and communities. To put this in monetary terms, the yearly cost to society is estimated to be $80.3 billion (Institute of Medicine, 2013).
Other disturbing national statistics include:
- In the United States, 1 in 10 boys and girls will be sexually abused before they are 18.
- Every 11 seconds a child is reported abused or neglected in the United States.
- 13,700 children are abused each day in the United States.
- Four of these children die each day as a result of abuse and/or neglect.
- More than 80% of abused children are abused by their own parents.
(Retrieved 2105 from http://grscan.com/information/facts-about-abuse/)
In Massachusetts during FY 2013 there were 37,867 (50.1%) screened-in reports and 37,693 (49.1%) screened-out for a total of 75,560 referrals. This means that for every 1,000 children in the state of Massachusetts, about 54 children are involved in a report of abuse or neglect. Of those 54 children approximately 27 are involved in an investigation and the remaining 27 are not investigated by state child protective services. (DHHS, 2015)
In Massachusetts the victimization rate was highest for children younger than 1 year (37.1 per 1,000 children). Victims who were 1, 2, or 3 years old had victimization rates of 20.2, 17.2, and 18.3 per 1,000 children of those respective ages in the population. In general, the rate of victimization decreased with age. It is also important to note that Massachusetts rates for children from 0-3 years are significantly greater than the national rate. (DHHS, 2015)
At LUK many of the child victims with whom we work also are “disabled” as defined by some of the categories listed below. In some situations a child with a disability may be at risk for abuse or neglect because a disability often brings additional stressors into already significantly stressed families. Of the total child victims in Massachusetts, 3% of the population was identified as having a disability. Of those 3%, the top three disabilities were: Other Medical Condition (51%); Learning Disability (17%); and Emotional Disturbance (15%). Another disturbing finding in Massachusetts is that 58.7% of child victims are first time victims! (DHHS, 2015)
While these statistics are very grim and disturbing we also know these numbers represent real children, youth and families and real lives. Many of us work with this population every day, and we witness the profound effects that abuse and neglect has on people’s lives. We also witness the extraordinary resilience of children, youth and families.
“There are many protective factors approaches in development and use by various agencies, programs, and practitioners who seek to prevent child abuse and neglect and promote child well-being... The most important message is that focusing on protective factors is critical and sorely needed for the prevention of child maltreatment and promotion of child and family well-being.” (DHHS/ACF’s 2015 Prevention Resource Guide.)
So, all is not lost! We do the work every day! We make a difference every day! The six (6) protective factors which follow from the 2015 Prevention Resource Guide are ideas, methods and practices that we do.
- Nurturing & Attachment
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
- Parental Resilience
- Social Connections
How Workers Can Help: Identifying and building on parents’ current or potential social connections, skills, abilities, and interests can be a great way to partner with them as they expand their social networks.
5. Concrete Support for Families
How Workers Can Help: Most parents are unlikely to use or identify with the words “concrete supports.” Instead, they might express a goal such as, “My family can get help when we need it.” Working with parents to identify their most critical basic needs and locate concrete supports keeps the focus on family-driven solutions.
6. Social and Emotional Competence of Children
How Workers Can Help: As a partner with parents, your role may simply be to explore how parents perceive their children’s social and emotional development and how that is affecting the parent-child relationship. They may choose to communicate its importance in terms of the desired outcomes: “My children feel loved, believe they matter, and can get along with others.”