April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The 2013 Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Needs Assessment shows that child abuse and neglect is one of the top health concerns in Cascade County.

Child abuse and neglect can have serious, long-term emotional and physical effects on those who experience it. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is a great time for everyone to learn what they can do to prevent child abuse in our community.

The financial cost for the victims and our society for the total lifetime estimated financial cost associated with just one year of confirmed child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect) is approximately $124 billion.

Partner agencies of the Great Falls Early Childhood Coalition are participating in several events to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect, such as Pinwheels for Prevention and Wear Blue Day. The Dandelion Foundation is hosting its first “Million March Against Child Abuse” on April 5, 2014 at the Cascade County Courthouse. See http://dandelionfoundation.org/ for more information.

Many agencies in Cascade County provide supports for caregivers of young children, such as “Parents as Teachers” home visiting services and “Circle of Security Parenting” groups. Please visit the Great Falls Early Childhood Coalition’s website at  http://www.gfecc.org for a list of providers and services and to volunteer your time on the many committees.

“It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child”

Parenting is, arguably, the most stressful job anyone will ever have. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, sometimes these feelings can lead to child maltreatment. When you start to feel this way, step back and follow these tips below:

  • Leave the room. This can be difficult if your child is crying, but leaving him or her alone in a crib or other secured area for a few moments is better than putting the child in a position where he or she is the target of your frustration.
  • Take timeouts when stressed. When a child’s behavior irritates the parent, taking a timeout is an excellent child abuse prevention strategy, but the parent must do this before the situation escalates. Think about why you are angry. Is it your child or something else? What are some strategies for dealing with the issue?
  • Be aware of triggers. Learn what triggers a negative interaction with your child.
  • If your child is looking for attention, stop what you are doing and devote a few minutes to your child.
  • Close your eyes and imagine you are hearing what your child is about to hear.
  • Take a deep breath and count to 10, or even 20.
  • Call a friend and get involved with other parents.
  • Take a walk outside if someone can watch your children.

Often parents just need a quiet moment to sort out their thoughts and feelings. Find a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor that can watch your child for you periodically so you can have a little time to yourself. Parenting may be very stressful, but is can also be very rewarding.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. The Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who can provide assistance through crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

Community members, even if they do not have children, can play an important role in preventing child abuse and neglect. Supporting families, friends, neighbors, and their children is extremely important. Offer to help a friend or neighbor with their children by offering to babysit, preparing meals, or donating clothing and toys. Anything you can do to make life less stressful for a parent or guardian can help to prevent abuse or neglect.

Recognizing child abuse is often quite difficult. Emotional abuse and neglect, and even physical abuse, may leave no visible marks or bruises on a child. The most noticeable signs may be changes in the child’s usual behavior or performance in school. A child may act withdrawn, cautious, frightened, or display attention-seeking behavior. Behavioral changes may depend on the child and type of abuse. The better you get to know the children around you, the easier it will be to spot any signs of abuse or neglect. See more about recognizing abuse here.

Circle of Security-Parenting

“The Circle of Security is a relationship-based early intervention program designed to enhance attachment security between parents and children.” (www.circleofsecurity.net). Infants and toddlers that form healthy attachments to their caregivers are more likely to have higher self-esteem, better relationships with their parents and others, and perform better in school than those who do not. The Circle of Security can:

  • Help parents raise their children with love, warmth, and emotional intelligence.
  • Connect parents with their infants and toddlers.
  • Break old, destructive patterns of parenting.

Circle of Security training is offered in Great Falls, free of charge, to anyone interested in attended. Please see current information for parenting groups hosted by providers at  http://www.gfecc.org.

To learn more about child abuse and neglect, and how you can help prevent it, visit the following sites: