April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, a time to reflect on our responsibility in the recognition and support for those that are affected by child abuse and neglect. The traditional adage of, “It takes a village to raise a family” is so paramount in our responsibility to this social issue. So this month, it is a CALL TO ACTION for all of us to recognize, support and act on our understanding of the identification and effects of child abuse and neglect.
There are many factors that lead to child abuse and neglect, so in finding a “cure”, we have to turn our attention to the risk factors that may lead to a child being abused or neglected. Some of those risks factors include, but are not limited to:
- Generational patterns of abuse or neglect (parents that suffered emotional or physical abuse as a child are more likely to inflict emotional and or physical abuse while parenting: we parent the way we are parented!),
- Use of substances (drugs or alcohol),
- High stress in the home due to financial issues, domestic violence, and lack of adequate resources to assist families in the care of their children
The effects of child abuse and neglect are categorized by: physical, psychological, behavioral, and social consequences. All of these effects are inter-related, which impacts the treatment/healing process for children. The degree of the impact of child abuse and neglect is also determined by the child’s age and developmental stages at the time of the abuse, the type of maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect), the frequency, duration, and severity of the abuse/maltreatment, and the relationship with the perpetrator of the abuse. (www.childwelfare.gov).
There are a number of ongoing mental health concerns that are often linked to issues of child abuse and neglect, which include, but not limited to, poor attachment, difficulty with staying in relationships, depression, aggressive acts or low impulse control, not valuing safety and belonging, inability to handle strong emotions, as well as, being prone to substance abuse and suicide. In our treatment of child abuse and neglect, we often work to increase the child’s and families’ protective factors to decrease the impact of the trauma that they may have suffered. The treatment of child abuse and neglect is often times a lengthy process, with collaboration between education, therapy and sometimes medication management to assist in healing the trauma.
This month as we turn our attention to child abuse and neglect, I am asking that we all evaluate how we can assist in this social issue. Our children are our future, if we can limit the exposure to child abuse and neglect or at least detect the issues early on, we are starting the healing process. We can make a difference in the lives of children and families, just by understanding the warning signs and long term effects of child abuse and neglect. There is no greater love than a parent and a child, we need to strengthen our parents and children to continue to fight child abuse and neglect.
To report child abuse and neglect, please call the CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE at 1-800-800-5556.
Written by: Deanna Szyndrowski MS, MBA, LMHC, Chief Executive Officer of SCAN, Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana. SCAN protects children, prepares parents, strengthens families and educates our community to Stop Child Abuse and Neglect. Learn more at www.scanfw.org.