As most parents know, there is nothing we wouldn’t do to keep our children healthy and safe. The thought of inflicting harm on our children, or anyone’s children for that matter, is unthinkable.
But the horrific reality is that each year in the U.S., more than 600,000 children are victims of child abuse (Childwelfare.gov). This abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, maltreatment or neglect.
At SAFY, we work each day to not only care for children who have experienced child abuse, but work with families in crisis to prevent abuse from happening.
Our Therapeutic Foster Care program helps children who have been victims of trauma – including child abuse – heal and overcome this trauma in the care of a licensed, loving and safe foster family. Our treatment directors and clinicians work every day with children experiencing foster care and their foster families to help them overcome the trauma of abuse and neglect.
But the way in which all of us will really make a difference in preventing child abuse from happening in the first place is by supporting families. Poverty, challenges with transportation and lack of access to social services, including substance abuse programs, are some of the factors that are typically present in situations of child neglect and abuse. Identifying these challenges and getting families the help they need can many times stop abuse before it happens – stabilizing families and avoiding the need to remove children from the home.
At SAFY, our Family Preservation programs work with families to get ahead of stressors and weather the storms of life. From connecting families to financial aid for groceries and help with bills, to assessing unique social, emotional or behavioral needs of children and providing recommendations for supports, our goal is to help families achieve a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment for every member.
As children are our society’s greatest asset, protecting youth and preventing child abuse is up to all of us. Here is how you can help:
- Know the signs. Sudden changes in behavior, an apparent lack of supervision, unexplained injuries, constantly being dirty or hungry are just a few examples of signs that can indicate abuse or neglect. It’s important to note however that none of these prove a child is being abused. If you notice any of these, talk to the child to see if they will open up about their experience. Most importantly, if you suspect a child is being or has been abused, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
- Talk to your kids about abuse warnings. Abuse can happen from any adult, not just parents or other adults in the home. Parents should make sure their children understand what appropriate and inappropriate behavior in adult and child interactions looks like. Excessive touching, telling secrets, manipulation and controlling behaviors can be violations of boundaries and red flags for physical or sexual abuse.
- Look out for the children in your community. In normal times, community helpers like teachers, pediatricians, daycare workers, sports coaches and other professions that regularly work with children played a key role in being “eyes and ears” to help identify situations of child abuse. But over the past year with children at home more and more, much of that safety net went away. That means it is important for all of us to be even more vigilant about looking out for our neighbors and kids in the community.
- Encourage families to seek help if they are facing a crisis. A crisis can hit any family, disrupting the stability and relationships of family members. If you know a family going through a crisis, encourage them to seek help. Whether it’s from friends, neighbors or an organization like SAFY, there is no shame in asking for help when life feels out of control.
if you suspect a child is being or has been abused, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
SAFY works to strengthen families and communities through therapeutic foster care, behavioral health services, family preservation, older youth services and adoption/post-adoption services in Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, Ohio and South Carolina. To learn more about our services, visit www.safy.org.
As the Assistant Executive Director of SAFY of Ohio, Camron Whitacre ensures programmatic excellence and positive clinical outcomes, boasting a proven track record of successful child welfare program development and a deep understanding of the needs of Ohio’s families and children.
- S. Department of Health & Human Services Child Welfare: https://www.childwelfare.gov/
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/
- National Center for Healthy Safe Children: https://healthysafechildren.org/resource/childhelp-national-child-abuse-hotline