It’s a topic that no one wants to think about. Most people wonder how can anyone hurt a child? Still, there are nearly 6,300 children each year removed from their New Jersey home because of abuse or neglect. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and one of the most important things we can do to help children thrive is to support families before they reach a crisis. Prevention starts with communication.
Let’s talk about how we can help children and families thrive. The most common type of maltreatment is neglect. Support for parents is prevention for kids! Everyone talks about 9-1-1 or 4-1-1, but 2-1-1 has actually been around since the year 2000 when the Federal Trade Commission designated it for information and referrals to social services. The phone number and the website 211.org offer a free, confidential hotline to connect people with local resources for food, employment, crisis support, health, and housing assistance.
The Center for Disease Control has been working to prevent child abuse at the societal level. The CDC’s Essentials for Childhood framework is a strategic way to build a society that allows every child to thrive. Even if an adult doesn’t have children of their own, they can play a role in protecting the youth. The future of our country relies on the next generation. Aside from the physical and mental health impacts child abuse can create, child maltreatment is costly. The CDC reports the total lifetime economic burden associated with child abuse and neglect was about $592 billion in 2018. Everyone benefits when a child has a safe and stable environment to thrive in. To promote positivity, we must understand that we all share responsibility for the well-being of children and that it’s okay for parents to ask for help. Nelson Mandela says it well in the following quotes:
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
“Safety and security don’t just happen; they are the result of collective consensus and public investment.”
“We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
Community members can play a big role in child abuse prevention even if they don’t personally know their neighbor. Supportive communities have libraries, parks, and playgrounds. Setting up a free library outside of your home or volunteering on a weekend to clean up a neighborhood playground can make a difference. Developing and maintaining a supportive community helps families thrive. This public health approach focuses on the entire population and not just individuals.
CASA programs have a record of public service. Volunteers help protect the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children. Governor Phil Murphy declared April 2022 as CASA Child Advocate Month. In the last fiscal year, family court judges assigned CASA volunteers to 3,321 children in New Jersey. In the proclamation, Governor Murphy wrote “We are extremely proud of New Jersey’s CASA volunteers for their commitment and dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of the children they serve and their advocacy for services that support family reunification.”
Making new connections can be challenging, but it is possible. Apply to become a CASA Volunteer at https://casaofcamdencounty.org/get-involved/. You can also read more about protective factors to prevent child abuse and neglect at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/promoting/protectfactors/.