April – recognized nationally as Child Abuse Prevention Month – is our organization’s focus 12 months out of the year through our mission – to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities. April only provides yet another opportunity to recognize everyone can play a part in promoting the well-being of the children and families in our communities.
The 2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections* is a great source for recognizing the signs of child abuse and understanding WHY child abuse happens – it also includes specific parenting issues and concrete steps parents and caregivers can take to promote child well-being.
What are the warning signs of abuse?
The first step – in helping or getting help for an abused or neglected child – is identifying the symptoms of abuse. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, there is the possibility of maltreatment.
What are the four major types of child maltreatment and their symptoms?
- Signs of malnutrition
- Poor hygiene
- Unattended physical or medical problems
- Physical Abuse
- Unexplained bruises, burns, or welts
- Child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver
- Sexual Abuse
- Pain, bleeding, redness, or swelling in anal or genital area
- Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, or others
- Age-inappropriate knowledge of sex
- Emotional Abuse
- Extremes in behavior, ranging from overly aggressive to overly passive
- Delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development
Why does child abuse happen?
Although child abuse and neglect affect children of every age, race and income level, research has identified many factors relating to the child, family, community and society that are associated with an increased risk of abuse and neglect. Studies also have shown that when multiple risk factors are present, the risk is greater. Some of the most common risk factors include the following:
- Immaturity. Young parents may lack experience with children or be unprepared for the responsibility of raising a child.
- Unrealistic expectations. A lack of knowledge about normal child development or behavior may result in frustration and, ultimately, abusive discipline.
- Stress. Families struggling with poverty, unstable housing, divorce, or unemployment may be at greater risk.
- Substance abuse. The effects of substance use, as well as time, energy and money spent obtaining drugs or alcohol, significantly impair parents’ abilities to care for their children.
- Intergenerational patterns of abuse. Parents’ own experiences of childhood trauma impact their relationships with their children.
- Isolation. Effective parenting is more difficult when parents lack a supportive partner, family or community. These circumstances, combined with the inherent challenges of raising children, can result in otherwise well-intentioned parents causing their children harm or neglecting their needs. On the other hand, evidence shows that the great majority of families who experience these circumstances will not abuse or neglect their children. Protective factors, such as the ones discussed in this guide, act as buffers to help many families who are under stress parent effectively
We need your help.
- Foster Today. More than 1,900 Texas children depend on Upbring Foster In Texas (FIT) every year to provide safe, loving foster homes through one of our 14 local offices. The program staff is engaged in addressing the immediate need for more families willing and able to help foster infants, teens, siblings and children with special needs.
- Provide support to the children and families during quarterly events and group meetings.
- Work closely with Foster In Texas’ field staff and gain valuable experience in social work and office management.
- Make a Gift. Your support to the client care fund is used to buy items for children as they come into care, training, quarterly family events and more!
Contact your local FIT office to learn about other opportunities to provide resources and compassion for the foster children in our care.
*This information was summarized from a chapter in the 2015 Prevention Resource Guide, created with information from experts in national organizations that work to prevent child maltreatment and promote well-being. This Resource Guide provides many strategies to support communities in their efforts to prevent child abuse. You can download a tip sheet and find resources for parents at www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/promoting/parenting.