April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month! In observance of this national event, and in partnership with The Center for Alexandria’s Children, Smart Beginnings Alexandria will focus increasing awareness and providing education and support to families in an effort to prevent child abuse across our City.
Every child deserves a safe, loving family and to have his or her basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, met. Child abuse or neglect is when a parent or other caregiver does something that harms, or will likely harm, a child, or when a parent or other caregiver fails to do things that will keep a child safe and healthy.
Did you know…
- Young children are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, VA statistics show that young children (infants up thru early elementary school ages) are the most likely to be abused or neglected and children younger than 4 account for the vast majority of child fatalities.
- Chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause toxic, traumatic, biological responses to the developing brain, often with long-term consequences for health and wellness. That is to say, healthy relationships and environmental stimulation during early childhood is critical and hard to make up for later.
- And parental isolation is a risk factor for abuse. Parents of young children (particularly children who are not in preschool) are particularly vulnerable to being isolated.
What does it look like?
Child abuse can include neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation. Abuse can occur face-to-face or online. You don’t have to prove that abuse or neglect occurred. Suspicion is enough to make a call and report.
What can you do if you suspect child abuse or neglect?
Call 703-746-5800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to report your suspicions. Don’t hesitate. When you report what you’ve seen or heard, you may help a child to stay safe. If you’ve noticed warning signs of abuse or neglect, call and report. You don’t have to “prove” that abuse has occurred, reasonable suspicion is enough.
This pandemic over the last year has taken a toll on our collective consciousness. And many of us have experienced stress and isolation myriad of stressors, and are still processing our last year in quarantine. Risk factors for abuse have increased as a result. However Risk factors are not predictive factors because of protective factors [Dr. Carl Bell, Univerity of Illinois]
Families gain what they need to be successful when key protective factors are robust in their lives and communities! The Center for the Study of Social Policy identified five characteristics that have been shown to make positive outcomes more likely for young children and their families and to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. They are:
- Social connections
- Parental resilience
- Concrete supports
- Social emotional development of children
- Knowledge of parenting and child development
AS A COMMUNITY, WE CAN AND SHOULD MAKE EFFORTS TO END CHILD ABUSE, HERE’S HOW YOU CAN PLAY A PART! Follow us all month on social media for to learn about the ways in which our collaborative community and network promote the protective factors. All month long we’ll be sharing tips, links and information to ensure that the environments that our City’s children grow up in are nurturing, stable and engaging.