Awareness in April

April is Child Abuse Awareness month, representing a great opportunity to collaborate with other organizations to prevent child abuse and neglect in your community.

We have made progress in our policies to protect children. Today, federal, state, and local organizations—both governmental and non-profit—are involved in their protection. It wasn’t always the case. A little bit of history can be told through the story of Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen was orphaned and placed in a home where she became a victim of abuse. In 1873, Etta Wheeler, a humanitarian and passionate advocate, learned of the abuse and set out to protect the young child. At the time, no laws existed to protect children from physical abuse in the state of New York, but there were protections for animals. Ms. Wheeler used the support of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals to rescue Mary Ellen from the abusive home in 1874. This case led to the creation of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first child protection agency in the world.

And while we have come a long way from the days of Mary Ellen, too many children continue to be victims of abuse and neglect. Nationally, 12 per 1,000 children under the age of 18 are confirmed victims of abuse and neglect. In Iowa, the numbers are below the national average, with 9 out of every 1,000 children being confirmed victims. Iowa data shows victims of abuse and neglect are disproportionally younger with 48% under the age of six. As we think of some of the most important years of a child’s life, those from birth to age five are critical for brain development. It is essential for our children’s futures to make sure they are in safe, nurturing home environments.

Last month, the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, established by the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, released their report. The report concludes a two-year process of reviewing reports, conducting focus groups, and listening to testimony about child abuse and neglect fatalities.  The Commission concluded by recommending immediate and long-term solutions to address the concerns.

As we look to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa has suggestions for taking action in your community.

  1. Speak Up!  Share important messages or post one of their images on your social media page; display posters at your workplace; write a personal statement of why you support the cause.  Find awareness resources here.
  2. Plan an Activity.  Designate a day to wear blue for child abuse prevention; sponsor a coloring contest; plant a pinwheel garden. Find more ideas if you are a parent or represent a program or community partner.
  3. Connect. The small actions you do every day — bringing a meal to a new parent, listening to someone’s story or organizing a neighborhood gathering — build the foundation children need to become healthy, successful adults. Seek out ways to make connections with the children and families in your life.
  4. Share on Social Media.  Share your success with others by using #Pinwheel in your social media posts.

We encourage you to share your voice in April to highlight the important role we all play to ensure our kids are safe and protected in our communities.