April to raise awareness of child abuse, on national and local scale

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7.5 million children are affected by child abuse and five children die per day from abuse.

American SPCC

7.5 million children are affected by child abuse and five children die per day from abuse. Spreading statistics like these from American SPCC is part of raising awareness for April being recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Prevent Child Abuse America reported that evidence shows the early experiences in a child’s life are greatly formative for the rest of their life, both positively and negatively. Additionally, those who receive stable and nurturing environments are more likely than those who do not to have good mental and physical health, and are more likely to succeed educationally and socially. American SPCC wrote that, “Child abuse is not just a family problem. It’s a social health issue.” 

“Child abuse takes many forms: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, neglect, exploitation, Shaken Baby Syndrome, bullying, and more,” reported American SPCC

In an effort to expand initiatives in combatting child abuse, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation that officially recognizes April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The goal is to “improve prevention initiatives, enhance trauma-informed responses to assist children and adolescents impacted by sexual violence, and work toward healing and justice.” 

Child abuse takes many forms: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, neglect, exploitation, Shaken Baby Syndrome, bullying, and more.”

American SPCC

“During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and throughout the entire year, it is imperative that we join together as one Nation to combat child abuse in all of its forms — through neglect, mistreatment, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse,” the proclamation read

Biden wrote that as America is coming out of an unprecedented year with the greater stress and hardship, “children and families need our support more than ever.” From this, the proclamation continued that the pandemic has “increased the risk for child abuse and neglect” due to “child care facility closures, social isolation, and increased financial instability.” 

“The shocking truth is that neglect is the number one form of child abuse in America,” reported American SPCC. “More children die from neglect every year, than from any other form of maltreatment.” 

The shocking truth is that neglect is the number one form of child abuse in America. More children die from neglect every year, than from any other form of maltreatment.

American SPCC

On a local level, Jasper County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) works every day to help children who are in situations of abuse and neglect. For Jasper County, more than 450 children are in foster care every night and Jasper County CASA is only able to serve 133 of those children currently. Erin Smith, Jasper County CASA volunteer coordinator, discussed what National Child Abuse Prevention Month means for their organization. 

“I think designating a month for child abuse prevention awareness is honestly just really valuable,” Smith said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how prevalent it is and how many people it affects and how child abuse can affect people for their entire life. And so, making sure people are aware of it and it is happening and that they could do something about it. I think that’s really valuable, personally. And for CASA it’s great because it allows us to talk about our mission and what we do, and encourage people to apply and think about donating or maybe becoming a CASA, so they can also take those proactive steps to help prevent child abuse.” 

74 percent of child abuse victims are neglected and 92 percent of cases parents are the abuser.

American SPCC

Jasper County CASA is helping raise awareness and prevention of child abuse this month by posting on their social media. Smith said their social media efforts are to not only raise awareness but to also provide education. But their efforts lie past the deemed month of Child Abuse Prevention. 

“… Then outside just this month, we train and recruit community advocates to advocate for children who are victims of abuse and neglect,” Smith said. “So, our day-to-day mission is really to help kids who are in that situation and be their voice, and to make sure that they are able to find a safe, permanent home away from that abuse.” 

Those who train to become a CASA for the organization receive the opportunity to impact a child’s life who has been impacted by abuse or neglect in some form. CASA’s are there for the child through their legal case and act as a positive influence in their life and “to be a support and to make sure their voice is heard in court.” 

I think designating a month for child abuse prevention awareness is honestly just really valuable. I don’t think a lot of people realize how prevalent it is and how many people it affects and how child abuse can affect people for their entire life.

Erin Smith, Jasper County CASA

“So, all of the kids we serve are victims of abuse or neglect,” Smith said. “We would have a CASA who is trained and sworn in by a judge, appointed to the case, and they become a consistent and caring adult in that child’s life. … We also just really advocate for them during the case to make sure that where they’re staying is safe, and that all their needs are being met while they’re in the system and while things are kind of getting figured out with their case. We make sure that they’re safe the entire time. That’s kind of how we would prevent child abuse and do that kind of stuff. We’re just another set of eyes and ears who are there to protect that kiddo.”  

Smith encourages anyone interested in getting directly involved to help raise prevention and awareness of local child abuse to take one of Jasper County CASA’s training courses. Their spring course is currently in session and their summer course begins in June. 

“We really just want people to know we can educate them,” Smith said. “I guess that’s a big part of our class, too, is training and we teach you a lot of to recognize child abuse, mandated reporting stuff. So that’s all engrained in the CASA training, too.” 

Jasper County CASA

“… We’re just another set of eyes and ears who are there to protect that kiddo. … I would encourage anyone with a heart for kids to apply

Erin Smith Jasper County CASA

Requirements for applying include individuals must be 21 years or older, have a high school degree, pass a background check, and complete an interview. Following, individuals would then complete a 30-hour training class in order to become a CASA. Currently their courses are taught online, but Smith hopes they may be in-person come June. 

“… I would encourage anyone with a heart for kids to apply, you can go on our website and start the application process,” she said. “Also, just follow us on social media, you can learn a lot. This month we’re going to post quite a bit about child abuse prevention and sort of educate you there. …” 

To report abuse or neglect, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). If a child is in immediate danger, contact 911. 

As American SPCC reported, 74 percent of child abuse victims are neglected and 92 percent of cases parents are the abuser. If you suspect a child is exposed to an abusive or neglectful environment, trust your instincts and report it. To report abuse or neglect, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). If a child is in immediate danger, contact 911. 

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