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Child abuse prevention tips: what to watch for, what to do

Apr 17

Written by:
4/17/2014 10:37 AM  RssIcon

The following article was written by Mary Ness and Kathy Bergum, St. Louis County Children and Family Services supervisors:

You can hear the crying before you even turn down the aisle at the grocery store.  A four-year-old in tears is kicking the cart, pointing at candy.  Her mom grabs her arm and yanks it, yelling at her for being a “selfish brat”.  Meanwhile, her little brother bumps into a display of cans, knocking some to the ground. Mom grabs him up roughly, with a little shake.  She tries to pick up a can rolling away, while both children’s crying grows louder.  

You feel worried about your nephew.  He has always had a sunny disposition, but for several months he consistently seems sad. When he comes over he doesn’t want to play his favorite games with his cousins.  His mom has a new job and a new boyfriend. 

The kids from the apartment next door seem to show up around meal time. If you invite them to stay, they eat in a rush and ask for more. Last week, two of them knocked on the door and said their mom told them to ask if you had a frozen pizza they could take home.

The potential for child abuse and neglect is around us every day. As community members, each of us can play an important role in keeping children safe. The ideal time to intervene with families in trouble is before situations become dangerous to children in our neighborhoods, schools and families. If we can move past feeling that it is “none of our business” or a “family matter”, we can make a difference in preventing child maltreatment.  

How do I help?

Distract the child or the parent: Sometimes helping a parent reframe behavior or focus on the positives of their child can help.  “She is a determined little one, isn’t she?”  Distracting a child with a question, a song, or pointing to something interesting can change the direction of negative interactions.  “I like your bear! Does he have a name?” 

Use empathy, not assumptions or judgment: Most parents love their children and want to take good care of them.  Many factors can impact the care of children including poverty, mental health issues and a child’s temperament.  Keep in mind that what you see is not the whole story.

Let a parent know that she or he is not alone in facing challenge: You might say, “I remember when my kids were that age.  They like to make their own decisions don’t they?” Commenting on positive parenting strategies will reinforce them.  “You are sure being patient!” or “I like how you gave him choices.”  

Offer practical assistance: Offer to pick up the cans at the grocery store rather than glaring at the mom as you push by her.  Ask, “How can I help?”  A meal, occasional babysitting for neighbors or relatives can provide a much needed break.  

Offer information: In the context of a relationship, you might let parents know if there is a mom’s group at your church, an Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program at your neighborhood community center, a group of single dads that meets at the park.  

Make a referral: Let parents know that there is help and support available.  St. Louis County provides a wide variety of voluntary services to families. In-home parent education, assistance with housing, dealing with children’s mental health issues, caring for a child with developmental disabilities, addressing parent-child conflict and daycare assistance are available. 

Make a report: Sometimes it may be necessary to make a report to child protective services. Know that social services’ first priority is to keep children with their families whenever it is possible to create safety in the home. If a child needs to be removed, social services will work with families to solve problems so that children can return as soon as possible. Making a call to child protection can be a difficult decision, but we share a responsibility to vulnerable children to intervene when necessary.

Become a foster parent: There is a great need for loving, stable homes for children who cannot be with their parents. Children who have caring adults outside of their immediate family are more resilient and successful over time. Please consider how you can be that person. 

To ask for help, offer to be a foster parent, or to make a child protection report, call (218) 726-2012.


2 comment(s) so far...


Re: Child abuse prevention tips: what to watch for, what to do

wide variety of voluntary services to families. In-home parent education, assistance with housing, dealing with children’s mental health issues, caring for a child.

By edward on   4/29/2014 9:36 PM

Re: Child abuse prevention tips: what to watch for, what to do

Drinking too much is dangerous and can lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes and violence.

By Gabs on   4/29/2014 11:16 PM

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