Child Abuse Prevention Is Everyone’s Responsibility
Our children are our future and a gift from God. In light of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we’ve gathered some information on the signs of child abuse, what to do if a child comes to you, how to report child abuse, and ways to prevent child abuse.
Signs of Child Abuse
Note: This list is not exhaustive. Trust your gut instinct if you suspect abuse and report it.
- Unexplained injuries – visible signs of abuse in the form of unexplained bruises or burns, sometimes in the shape of objects; child may have unconvincing explanation of the injury
- Changes in behavior – scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive
- Returning to earlier childhood behaviors – fear of the dark or strangers, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting
- Changes in eating – the stress caused by abuse can lead to weight gain or loss
- Fear of going home – kids may express anxiety/apprehension about leaving school or going places with the abuser
- Changes in sleeping – frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep, thereby seeming tired or fatigued
- Changes in school performance/attendance – difficulty concentrating in class, or excessive absences, especially if adults are trying to conceal injuries
- Poor personal care/hygiene – appearing uncared for, consistently dirty or have severe body odor, lack proper clothing for the weather
- Risky behavior – kids abused may participate in risk-taking behavior such as drug use or carrying a weapon
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors – demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or explicit sexual language
If a Child Comes to You
Should a child come to you and report he or she is being abused, it’s important to remember the following tips.
- Keep calm and just listen. Try to remain as neutral as possible as the child speaks to you about the abuse. Do not display disgust or shock, as the child might think it has to do with them and not about what has happened to them.
- Don’t promise not to tell. Instead, say you’ll promise only to tell people who need to know and that you’ll let the child know beforehand.
- Reassure the child they did the right thing by telling you.
- Write down everything while it’s fresh in your mind.
- Report the abuse. You have the power to help a child who is hurting and in danger. You can report anonymously should you so choose.
“Don’t let fear of getting involved prevent you from reporting concerns. It’s our responsibility as a community to prevent abuse,” says Andrea Requenes, Regional Director at Arrow Child and Family Ministries.
How to Report Child Abuse
To report cases of child abuse, contact your local Department of Family and Protective Services. In the state of Texas, this number is 1-800-252-5400. Nationally, you may contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Ways to Prevent Child Abuse
Scott Lundy, President and CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries (Arrow) and President of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, declares, “There needs to be a revolution at the taxpayer level to reach out to our elected officials to demand that more funding be allocated to child abuse prevention services. We have to be able to begin to slow the rate at which children are being abused at home. It takes the right prevention services to make this happen.”
In order to strengthen parents and families and prevent the cycle of child abuse from occurring, it’s important that parents and caregivers feel they have a support system in place and resources readily available to them. Here’s how you can help.
- Be willing to be a support system for your neighbors and their kids and grandkids
- Volunteer in the community by becoming a mentor to kids, or donating time or resources to community organizations
- Help a family under stress. For example: babysitting, running errands, or helping with chores
- Get involved in a local school by attending their events (plays, sports games, performances), join the parent-teacher organization, or even start a neighborhood watch
Additionally, make sure to check out the Safe Families for Children program. Safe Families provides breathing room and support for parents in crisis who may need help caring for their children until they can get back on their feet. Volunteers in this program aim to reduce the risk factors for child abuse by coming alongside parents before a situation escalates.
New Program Coming Soon
Arrow Child and Family Ministries in partnership with several area agencies in Houston is excited to announce a new program coming soon called ParentingHelp. Preparing to launch in April, the program will offer resources such as in-home training and support services for families at risk for abuse. For many, these resources couldn’t come at a better time. Those looking to take advantage of the program can expect to receive parenting and discipline techniques as just some of the many benefits through ParentingHelp.
Want to know more? Attend an informational meeting to learn ways you can be involved in a child’s life.