April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The number of children abused in this country is staggering.  And those numbers reflect abuse as defined below.  That’s a pretty high bar.   Imagine all the kids who suffer lesser but still harmful and debilitating abuse and neglect.  I encourage each and every person to do something in the coming months to help a child at risk.  It could be volunteering an afternoon at a fundraiser, it could be providing support and friendship to a struggling parent, it could be becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister.  Just do something.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In 2009, 3.3 million reports of suspected abuse were made to Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies involving about 6 million children. Of those screened for investigation, about one-quarter or 693,174 children were found to be victims of child abuse. About 70,000 additional children were found to be the victim of abuse more than once.

  • More than 1,676 children died as a result of child abuse in 2009.
  • 80 percent of children who died were younger than age 4.

What is child abuse?

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the federal law that sets guidelines for states and allocates funding to both investigate and prevent child abuse, defines child abuse and neglect at a minimum as:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Each state sets its own definitions for child abuse and neglect as well as the evidence necessary to substantiate child abuse claims.

What types of abuse do children suffer?

  • More than 75 percent suffered neglect
  • More than 15 percent suffered physical abuse
  • About 9.5 percent suffered sexual abuse; and
  • About 7.6 percent suffered psychological abuse

What federal efforts are made to reduce child abuse?

Community-based grants are offered through several federal programs to help states develop, operate, expand, and enhance community-based, prevention-focused programs and activities designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. More than 3 million children received preventive services through 44 states in 2009.

Information provided by Child Care Aware.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Janice St.Clair on April 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The basic principles:
    Act if you feel safe doing so, and forgive yourself if you don’t. But if you can, do speak up. In overwhelming percentages of situations, people stand around feeling helpless. Often, when someone does speak up at all, it’s by yelling something angry at the abusive adult, which escalates the situation.

    -Take a breath (or three) and calm yourself. People tend to mirror the emotional state they are faced with, and you want the other person to mirror calm collectedness.

    -Compliment the child. “What a beautiful little boy you have!”
    -“Side with” the person who has lost it. “Kids that age can really push your buttons, can’ they? I’m a nanny for young kids, and some days are so long and so hard! ”
    -Or address the child kindly “Are you giving your mom a hard time today? Oh, look…you have bunnies on your shirt! This one is hopping, and this one is peeking over the grass, (etc. til the child calms a little)” then address the adult.

    -Offer help: “May I put him in my cart and walk along with you while you shop?”
    -If you have an SPCC inservice, they will bring cards you can carry, with tips on taking young children out shopping and to restaurants, etc. You can give one to the person saying “I found these tips helpful when I take the kids out. This is an extra copy.”

    The idea is to get the adult through this one incident, not to worry about the whole picture. In doing so, you are planting a seed…a different way to deal with stress. (YOU were stressed, and you calmed yourself and acted positively.) And to demonstrate to other bystanders that intervening positively is possible. They can mirror your approach if they see another incident elsewhere, and your actions spread like ripples in a pond.


  2. Posted by Janice St.Clair on April 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Have you ever been out with the kids and seen someone “lose it” with a child? Sometimes you can tell that cruel words or a smack is a pattern in this family, sometimes it seems as if someone just snapped. What can a bystander do? Even when I’ve intervened, I’ve been haunted by what may still happen to that child when there are no witnesses.

    If you are in a nanny group, I recommend contacting your local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and asking for a speaker to come and present on “When Adults Abuse Children in Public…What a Bystander Can Do to Intervene”. I’ve hosted this event twice, and thrown it open to the community. Some agency owners came, and parents, along with nannies. It was a real win-win project, and even helped elevate nannies in local public opinion.


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