STUART, FL — APRIL 17, 2014 — Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This month, we observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which seeks to prevent child abuse while promoting the well-being of children. While child abuse is highlighted in April, it is equally important for communities to come together in awareness all year long.
The facts on child abuse
Nurtured children grow up to be healthy and happy adults. However, those with insufficient or inconsistent nurturing suffer lifelong consequences related to everything from health to personal relationships. Child abuse comprises neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse, and abusers are typically know by their victims: they can include parents, family friends, babysitters and other relatives.
Research from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that while child abuse is declining, the numbers are still too high: in 2012 alone, child protective services received approximately 3.4 million reports concerning the well-being of 6.3 million children, and 1,640 children died due to abuse and neglect.
Child abuse is an equal opportunity affliction, and affects boys and girls of all ages from a diverse range of backgrounds. However, studies have shown that some factors are associated with increased risk. The most common risk factors include young and/or immature parents, unrealistic expectations, stress, substance abuse, international patterns of abuse and isolation.The risk is compounded when multiple risk factors are present.
Know the warning signs
Signs and symptoms of maltreatment include malnutrition; poor hygiene; unattended physical and medical problems; unexplained bruises, burns or welts; pain; bleeding or swelling in the anal or genital area; age-inappropriate knowledge of sex and/or sexual play; extremes in behavior; and delayed physical, emotional or intellectual development.
If you suspect child abuse, neglect or mistreatment, report it immediately. The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports of suspected abuse, neglect or abandonment 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You can file your report online, by fax at 1-800-914-0004, or by phone at 1-800-962-2873. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline can be reached at 1-800-422-4453.
Prevention and Intervention Strategies
While traditional child abuse prevention and intervention methods focused on eliminating risk factors, the focus has shifted to prioritize the importance of effective protective factors. Research shows that facilitating more meaningful connections within families and throughout communities promotes optimal child development.
Starting at home
Stronger families are one of the most effective preventative measures against child abuse. Spend time every day nurturing your children and engaging them in everyday activities — from grocery shopping to nature walks. Expanding your knowledge of parenting and child development is also a valuable pursuit. Your family physician is a valuable resource for discussing parenting questions, as are family members, friends and your child’s teachers.
But it’s not just about meeting your child’s needs: research shows that parents who take time to care for themselves — both physically and emotionally — have better resilience during times of stress. The establishment of a trusted social connections and a support network is also a critical component. Additionally, a multitude of community resources offer help in areas including housing, food, education and counseling. Knowing who to call for support when you need it is an effective preventative measure.
Join in the fight against child abuse and help promote healthy families by sharing this important message with your friends, family and fellow community members.
Dr. Jeffrey Gorodetsky, family physician, and the staff of JSG Medical Practice operate a hybrid practice with the choice of concierge medical care or traditional medical care. JSG Medical Practice is located in Stuart. For more information on this topic and other family health and medical issues, visit http://www.jsgmedical.com or call 772-223-4504.