April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention month and marks the time when Missouri KidsFirst (MKF), the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF) and other child advocates reaffirm their dedication to putting kids and families first. Planned activities throughout the state united many organizations and people behind a Stong Families, Safe Kids effort that must be carried out all year long.
“Everyone must share in the responsibility to protect our children.” said Jay Wood, Missouri KidsFirst executive director. “Child abuse and neglect are community issues. Parents, educators, public officials, faith-based and local organizations all play an important role to strengthen families and help children reach their full potential.”
In most cases, isolation, stress and unrealistic expectations of children serve as the underlying causes behind child abuse. Engaged and supportive communities can be successful in preventing many abusive situations by offering and sustaining home visitation programs, parent education, mentoring opportunities, crisis intervention and other evidenced-based practices.
“We know that the abuse and neglect of children negatively impacts brain development, can cause long-term health issues, and destroys the ability to establish healthy relationships,” said Kirk Schreiber, CTF executive director. “Our focus must be to change behavior by supporting prevention efforts that offer ways for families and children to lead productive and safe lives. Certainly, the cost of prevention is less costly than treating the effects of abuse that can so often last a lifetime.”
Research shows that nurturing and attachment, knowledge of positive parenting and child development, parental resilience, forming social connections, and establishing concrete supports for parents are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect. These five protective factors help to equip parents with the necessary tools to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect and permit a community to protect its children by supporting healthy families.
“Heightened awareness about the importance of child abuse and neglect prevention can help break the cycle of abuse,” said Wood. “It’s important that the energy developed around prevention during the month of April is extended throughout the rest of the year.”
Numerous child serving organizations hosted events and public awareness activities in their local communities to promote prevention. On April 9, Governor Matt Blunt presented a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month in Missouri. April 18 was designated as Go Blue Day throughout Missouri in which MKF and CTF encouraged everyone to wear blue on that day to show support for Missouri’s children. On that same day, Senator Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond celebrated Blue Ribbon Month and CTF’s 25th Anniversary during an event at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
There are many ways each person can make a difference:
- Be informed – gain knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development.
- Offer support – reach out to parents and families who need help.
- Be involved – volunteer at a local child serving agency in your community.
- Contribute to organizations that work to protect children from abuse and neglect.
- Wear a blue ribbon, the national symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention month or purchase a CTF prevent child abuse license plate for your vehicle.
Parents may call the ParentLink warmline at 800-552-8522 for specific parenting information and resources. Anyone who suspects child abuse and neglect should make a report to the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-3738.
Missouri KidsFirst is a statewide network of individuals, programs and organizations committed to protecting Missouri’s Children by improving the response to child victims and ending the cycle of child abuse in our communities. For more information, visit www.missourikidsfirst.org.
Celebrating twenty-five years (1983-2008), CTF is Missouri’s foundation for child abuse and neglect prevention and provides grant distribution, public education and awareness.