April is Child Abuse Prevention Month … but you can act to support families and protect children all year round!
The future prosperity of any community depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. When a community invests wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. Yet, when not all children have equal opportunity for healthy growth and development — due to experiences of child abuse and neglect — we put our future at risk.
While April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, you can make a big difference year-round through small acts that help protect children, strengthen families, promote traits that help protect families — and, ultimately, prevent the abuse and neglect of children.
Child welfare professionals are working at full capacity to protect our nation’s children. But, it is clear that the problem is too great and too important to be delegated entirely to these valiant workers. We believe that everyone should become more aware of and involved in helping protect children and support families to prevent abuse and neglect before it occurs.
Childhood should be a time of carefree laughter and lighthearted antics, not tears caused by hurtful hands and hateful words or complete disregard. Childhood often comes with being afraid of the dark; it shouldn’t be about fearing who will come for you in the night. Yet for one in every four girls and one in every six boys, child sexual abuse will forever taint their entire being.
Bottom line, it shouldn’t hurt to be a child.If abuse is not a part of your daily reality, it’s easy to put it out of your mind. In April, our task is to move those thoughts to the forefront and to take action. It’s up to us to fight on their behalf because EVERY CHILD MATTERS. During this month and throughout the year, Windwood Family Services is dedicated to supporting families and reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.
Here is a list of simple tips that can have a positive effect on the well-being and healthy development of children, families and communities.
For your family:
- As a parent, block out 15 minutes a day to play one-on-one with your child — doing anything he or she wants. We know from studies that the more parents engage in positive activities with their children, the less they use negative physical and psychological discipline.
- Tell the children or youth in your life how much you care for them and appreciate them. All children deserve to have someone who is “crazy about them” and loves them unconditionally.
- Work with the kids in your life to explore their heritage and learn their family’s story. Every family has a rich story to tell and our connections to our past help us carry forward our values and traditions.
- Connect with grandparents to preserve cultural heritage. Grandparents are an incredible source of cultural heritage — from traditions to language to food! Encourage them to tell stories to their grandchildren and even visit their schools to share where they come from.
For friends and neighbors:
- Compliment a father — someone you know or even someone in public — on something positive you see him do with his children. Dads contribute uniquely to children’s development.
- Offer your time to baby-sit for the child of a friend, neighbor or family member. All parents need help sometimes — even if it is just to rest or “recharge” for an hour or two.
- Mentor a young dad you know in growing his relationship with his kids. Some young dads may need help with transportation or in identifying helpful resources for their children.
- Support parents looking for a job by offering your professional knowledge and experience in resume writing or preparing for a job interview. Financial stability links directly with family stability and can have a big effect on the emotional well-being of caregivers and their children.
- Encourage single mothers you know, whenever possible, to support the involvement of children’s fathers in their lives. When non-custodial dads work to be involved in the lives of their children, they need the positive support of the child’s other parent or caretaker to encourage the development of that relationship.
- Build community trust and togetherness by inviting friends to participate in a meaningful cultural event in your life. Helping people learn about your culture may help them understand that despite some differences, we have a lot in common — especially the need for support now and then.
- Be a resource and “sounding board” for a dad who is separated from his children. Dads provide qualities and benefits for their children no one else can.
- Arrange a potluck event in your neighborhood to get to know other parents and their kids. Friends and neighbors can give outstanding support to families in times of need or stress.
For your community:
- Sponsor, volunteer at or participate in a cultural event in your community. Families come from different cultural backgrounds that all bring value in creating caring and compassionate communities.
- Do volunteer work for a youth- or family-serving organization in your community. Some families just need a little help from time to time, and community organizations are designed to do just that.
- Take action on legislative issues that affect children and families. Call your elected representatives, join demonstrations and be sure always to vote to show that you support services to help families raise healthy children.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Caring and connected neighborhoods can be powerful in reducing neighborhood violence and supporting struggling parents.
- Create a “Safe Children Zone” in your neighborhood. Host a community meeting with your neighbors to talk about what each of you can do to help create a sense of safety for the children in your neighborhood.
- Volunteer at or donate resources to a local preschool or daycare center. Early education builds the foundation for a lifetime of healthy brain development.
- Ask yours or another faith-based organization in your community about donations — even small ones — that can be made to support families in need. Some families need help providing for their children’s basic needs.
- Contact your local child welfare and family-serving agencies and ask about volunteer opportunities. Each of us has a role to play in creating safe and healthy communities for children.
- If you have reason to believe a child may be at risk of harm in their home, call your local child abuse hotline. Anyone who is worried about the well-being of a child can call to report their concerns.