By Paige Pait
April is “Child Abuse Awareness Month,” a time for all of us to reflect on a terrible social ill many children endure at the hands of strangers and, more often, relatives.
Every year, this month comes and goes and, preoccupied with our busy lives, we tend to forget the children for whom neglect and abuse are an everyday reality.
But we must not forget. We cannot afford to forget.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2003 that 906,000 children were victims of abuse and close to 1,500 died of abuse or neglect that year alone.
The first critical point of intervention is inside families. The second point of intervention is in communities.
Every one of us can get involved in one way or another to help protect, defend, and keep our children safe from harm.
First, we can help children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect by signing up with community organizations who offer foster parenting opportunities and open up our hearts and homes to children in need.
Second, obliterating child abuse takes all of us working together to make a difference, so arming ourselves with the facts and statistics on child abuse in our area and what we can do to prevent it is key.
Organizations dedicated to fighting child abuse provide multiple opportunities to take a stand against a horrible social ill that still plagues our communities.
The most critical things to remember are: Never strike in anger, take time out if needed to cool off, be firm but clear and calm with rules, give your children space, teach children respect and, if your gut tells you a child might be in trouble, listen to your instincts.
See, for example, “24 Ways You Can Prevent Child Abuse” at www.kidspeace.org.
And the teen website, www.TeenCentral.Net, allows kids and teens who may be suffering from abuse to reach out to peers and trained counselors and get help.
If we work together, we can help end child abuse, one child at a time.
Paige Pait is program manager for KidsPeace Raleigh in Raleigh, N.C.