Kids Grow Strong in Caring Communities

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Kids Grow Strong in Caring Communities:
Together We Can Prevent Child Neglect

Parenting can be hard. Sometimes stress can be overwhelming.

  • We all face problems and do our best to bounce back.
  • We all need help from time to time -some problems are too big to handle alone.
  • Everyone needs connections to friends and neighbors.
  • Parenting is easier with knowledge and support.

Childhood shapes adults. Children are shaped by their experiences and influenced by the people around them.  Their minds and bodies grow best when they are nurtured and protected from harm.

  • All children need to feel loved and accepted.
  • Childhood is easier when you can be yourself and you’ve learned how to get along with others.

What is child neglect? Neglect happens when parents don’t provide the care (physical, emotional, medical, educational) or adult supervision that children need.

Neglect hurts everyone. Neglect harms children, the adults they become, and the society we share.

  • Neglect can change the way a child’s brain develops, limiting the child’s future potential for success.
  • The more often a child experiences neglect, the more likely he or she will harmed.

We can prevent child neglect!  Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment, yet it’s the hardest to identify, prevent and treat. That’s why the whole community needs to step up to help. Kids grow strong in caring communities—with a healthy environment, loving family, and friendly neighbors.

What can parents do? Find someone to talk to, and ask for help when you need it. Meet your neighbors and other parents. Ask doctors and teachers what’s normal to expect for your child’s age. Build a support network of family and friends. Identify community resources that can help you meet basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) or emotional needs (counseling, respite care). Manage your resources wisely. Create opportunities for kids to be together and play. Teach children to greet others, share, take turns, listen, solve problems, accept differences, and help others..

What can everyone do? Be there for parents: listen to them and share what you know. Donate time or money to community organizations. Meet your neighbors, and lend a hand—share a meal, offer a ride, share hand-me-downs, keep an eye on neighborhood kids. Be there for kids: listen to them, show them they matter, be a good role model. Create a safe, supportive, environment for kids, where they feel they belong and are encouraged to express themselves, develop their skills, pursue their hobbies, and follow their dreams.

Questions  & Answers
Adapted from an interview with “SB Latino” magazine

Explain Child Abuse Prevention Month. When did it begin, what is it for, who is involved?

The first National Child Abuse Prevention Month took place in 1983.  Since then, the month of April has become a time for sharing activities and information to build awareness and knowledge about how communities can prevent child abuse and neglect. 

In Santa Barbara County, the Child Abuse Prevention Council has coordinated local activities since 2001. The Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC) meets throughout the year to coordinate community efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.  CAPC membership is open to all interested persons and currently includes over 20 active members who represent public agencies and community-based non-profits as well as parents and community members.

What is this year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month focused on, and why?

This year our April campaign is focused on child neglect. Neglect is failure to provide the supervision needed to keep a child safe and/or to meet a child’s physical, emotional, medical or educational needs. Neglect is common, harmful, and preventable.

What strategies are being used in this campaign to reach families?

Child abuse and neglect prevention is a year-round effort, working with parents, professionals and community members.  Members of the Santa Barbara County Child Abuse Prevention Council have joined with the Network of Family Resource Centers and the Child Care Planning Council to reach as many families as possible throughout the year. The Strengthening Families Framework helps everyone focus on building protective factors that reduce risks and act as a buffer against child abuse and neglect.

Risk factors that may increase the risk of child neglect include (among others) substance abuse, mental illness or other health problems, family discord or violence, social isolation, and poverty.

Protective factors that may decrease the risk of abuse include a parent’s resiliency, knowledge of parenting, network of supportive friends or family, and ability to get concrete help when needed; and a child’s social competence and access to a loving family.

Together we can help decrease the risk factors and increase the protective factors.

Are your outreach efforts bilingual?

It is important to deliver messages in both English and Spanish whenever possible.  The CAPC parent group, Padres para Siempre, has been very successful in reaching many families by teaching about Protective Factors using an interactive Parent Café model.  Cafés have been offered primarily in Spanish through parent meetings, ESL classes, and outreach at special events. The message is also shared through a booklet produced by the parents for other parents.

How common is neglect? Do you have local statistics?

Neglect is too common. While rates of physical and sexual abuse declined by 50% in the past 10 years, rates of child neglect remained steady. Neglect accounts for over 75% of confirmed cases of child maltreatment in the US, and was the sole cause or a contributing factor in 68% of child maltreatment-related deaths.

Local statistics: In Santa Barbara County, 52% of reports to the Child Abuse Hotline were for neglect; while 21% were for physical abuse and less than 8% for sexual abuse. In 2013 there were 7,654 calls to the Hotline in the County, resulting in 4,793 referrals to Child Welfare Services.  One-third of reports involved children ages 0-5 years. One-quarter of the referrals become active child welfare cases.  The other families are referred to community organizations and family resource centers where they can be connected with helpful services and supports.

Although neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment, it is the most difficult to identify, prevent and treat effectively.

How is neglect harmful?

Neglect is a serious problem. It harms children, the adults they become, and the society we share. Neglect can change the way a child’s brain develops, negatively impacting the child’s future potential for success.  The more often a child experiences neglect, the more likely he or she will harmed.

The consequences can be severe. Possible long-term health and financial consequences include: Social, emotional or physical delays; Negative impact on health, learning and ability to succeed; Mental health challenges, substance use, delinquency and crime; and Need for specialized services and interventions.

Why does neglect happen?

People tend to think that child abuse and neglect is something that happens when bad people do bad things and that it’s someone else’s problem. We want to change this idea.  We know that parenting is hard. Sometimes stress can be overwhelming, and sometimes adult behaviors harm children. We all face problems and do our best to bounce back. Problems like domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse are harder to manage, can get in the way of healthy parenting, and often require specialized help.

How can neglect be prevented?

As community members, we can support parents and be there for children. Parenting is easier when you know what to expect at each age and when you have support from teachers, doctors and other parents.  Everyone needs connections to friends and neighbors, and we all need help from time to time. There are so many ways to support parents and be there for children:

  • Be there for parents – listen without judgment, offer encouragement, help them find their strengths, share what you know, be a good neighbor.
  • Support your community by donating time, skills or money .
  • Be there for kids – listen to their ideas and support their dreams, be a good role model, surround them with good influences, create safe environments where they feel like they belong.
  • If you are a parent, ask for help, take care of yourself, learn about your children, strengthen your relationships, help children express themselves, keep them safe and show them they are loved.

We want people to know that prevention is a shared responsibility, and that all kids can grow up strong if they live in caring communities.


A more complete list of risk factors

“Risk factors” are environmental, family, parent and child conditions that increase parental stress and place children at greater risk of being harmed or endangered by neglect. They include:

  • Poverty, isolation, neighborhood distress
  • Single-parent households, family discord, domestic violence
  • Unemployment, low socio-economic status, young maternal age
  • Health problems, mental illness, substance abuse
  • Young children and children with developmental delays

A more complete list of protective factors

“Protective factors” are certain societal, community, family, or individual conditions or attributes that help parents cope, increase family well-being and reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. They include:

  • Resiliency: the flexibility and strength to cope with stress and “bounce back” from crisis.
  • Knowledge about parenting and child development.
  • People: emotionally supportive friends, family, or neighbors to call for sympathy or advice. (AKA social connections.)
  • Help, when needed, to provide a family with basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) and services (child care, health care, mental health services).  (AKA concrete support.)
  • Social skills in children: the ability of kids to express themselves and interact appropriately with others. (AKA social and emotional competence of children.)
  • Love. A strong, warm, caring relationship with parents early in life gives children what they need to thrive for a lifetime : love, trust, acceptance, positive guidance and protection. (AKA nurturing and attachment.)

A more complete list of ideas for parents

  • Express yourself.
    • Find someone to talk to.
    • Ask for help. Reach out in times of crisis.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Eat healthy and get regular exercise.
    • Give yourself credit for what you do and what you’ve been through. Keep things in perspective.
    • Plan ahead, and adapt to change.
  • Ask the experts.
    • Ask your child’s doctor for a developmental screening for your child (ages and stages). Have realistic expectations based on your child’s developmental stage.
    • Establish relationships with your child’s doctor and teachers. Ask questions.
    • Seek parenting advice from trusted peers: friends, family, online forums.
    • Attend parenting education classes or school or community events for parents.
  • Meet people.
    • Make friends with neighbors and other parents. Start a conversation. Meet their children.
    • Host a get-together, where each guest brings a friend.
    • Find people with common interests and do things together
  • Build a support network.
    • Build a support system of emotionally supportive family and friends: surround yourself with people who make you feel confident and competent. Share your interests, hopes and dreams.
    • Identify resources now in case you need them later (government agencies, charities, sliding-scale services) for physical needs (food, housing, financial assistance) and emotional needs (counseling, faith community, respite care).
  • Manage your resources wisely
    • Distinguish between needs and wants.
    • Identify budget-friendly resources: resale shops, giveaways etc.
    • Be thankful for what you have, even if your resources are limited. Help children understand the value of things.
  • Foster and guide social interaction for kids.
    • Create opportunities for kids to be together. Participate in play groups. Show interest in what your children do with their friends.
    • Teach/create opportunities for kids to solve problems. Teach them to separate emotions from actions.
    • Teach kids to greet others, share, take turns, and listen to each other.
    • Teach children to accept differences and to help everyone, especially those in need
  • Keep kids safe.
    • Communicate clear boundaries, expectations and limits.
    • If you have a partner, talk with them to be sure you are giving consistent messages.
    • Teach children how to be safe.
    • Make good health a priority.

A more complete list of ideas for everyone

  • Be there for parents.
    • Listen to parents.
      • Listen with empathy, and without judgment.
      • Help parents see their strengths.
      • Share hope and encouragement.
    • Share what you know.
      • Share what you know works in parenting.
      • Share what you know about community resources.
    • Support your community.
      • Donate time, money, goods, services, or skills to community organizations that help parents and families.
      • Participate in community events.
      • Consider the needs of parents when planning events; offer child care.
    • Support your neighbors
      • Meet your neighbors.
      • Share a meal. Lend a helping hand. Offer a ride. Share hand-me-downs.
      • Keep an eye on neighborhood kids.
      • Step up: actively connect parents with help or community resources.
      • Offer assistance in emergencies.
  • Be there for kids.
    • Listen to children.
      • Spend time with children, and talk to them.
      • Listen to what they say, without judging.
      • Respond with empathy. Show them their voices matter.
      • Help children express their feelings and opinions.
    • Be a good role model.
      • Model respect, kindness, and empathy.
      • Set a good example and admit when you are wrong.
      • Surround children with good influences.
    • Create a safe, supportive, trustworthy environment.
      • Help children feel like they belong.
      • Recognize strengths and build self-esteem.
      • Encourage children to express themselves.
      • Encourage children to pursue their dreams.

Source: CAPC


Effects of Spanking

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Does research show are any long-term effects of spanking, and are these in line with what we want for our kids? Research on spanking has been varied and sometimes blurred because it’s been wrapped up with research on excessive force or abuse.

However, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa combined 20 years of published research on spanking to shed some light on this topic. This evidence is instrumental in moving the debate on spanking from an ethical one—do I have the right to spank my kids?—into a medical one.

Here’s what they found:

Spanking reduces grey matter – Grey matter is a major component of your nervous system. It includes areas of the brain involved in sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions, and memory, and influences your learning capability.So spanking can actually be impacting our kids’ ability to learn.

Emotional difficulties: Spanking teaches kids that we learn through pain. This affects their desire and eagerness to learn. Who wants to learn if it means a painful process?

  1. It undermines trust between parent and child and breeds hostility toward authority figures.Kids learn to mistrust authority figures as spanking teaches them that someone who says they care or love you, will happily hurt you in an attempt to “teach” you a lesson.
  2. It is a strong predictor of vulnerability to depression, typically in girls. This is because kids internalise that they are bad or naughty, and this forms the basis of their self image. It also teaches girls that it’s acceptable for someone who loves them to hurt them.
  3. Spanking is also a predictor of antisocial tendencies, which usually manifest in boys.

Additional research shows that:

Hitting devalues children – Self-Esteem is a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. This view of oneself is created early in childhood and is heavily influenced by how your kids think you perceive them.Kids that are spanked get the message that they are bad and naughty.

  1. They also learn that they are weak and defenseless. Spanking can make your kids feel smaller and weaker, overpowered by people bigger than them.
  2. The simple fact is spanking doesn’t improve behaviour. The truth is, if spanking worked, you would only have to be spanked once. A child who is hit feels wrong inside. When kids’ self-perception is that they are wrong, bad, or naughty,they act out to make these perceptions true.
  3. Most kids are spanked when parents get angry. This teaches the wrong message about anger. Spanking teaches kids that hitting is an acceptable response to anger.

Like all of the articles I write, this isn’t about parental guilt. It is about recognising that if you’ve used this method in the past and want to stop doing so, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Explain to your kids that this was wrong and you will not do it again. Apologise to them. It emulates how they should behave when they’ve done something wrong.
  1. Know that kids still need structure. You need to explore other skills and tools to help you connect and guide your kids to become the type of adults you’d like them to be. The Guidance Method is a great approach.

The next time you get into a heated situation, tell your kids you are taking a time-out. Go to a different room if you can and cool off. Try doing a small task; working with your hands helps to calm you down. Then once you’re calm, talk to your kids about the boundaries you’d like to set. Your discipline will be much more valuable and effective.



Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Domestic Violence does not increase at Super Bowl

It’s true. There seems to be no correlation between football and increased domestic violence. But, we welcome the opportunity to share some real numbers with you:

  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
  • Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
  • Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern.
  • Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.
  • The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
  • Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.

Teaching Children How To Greet Strangers for the Holidays

Monday, December 2nd, 2013


The holiday season is upon us and families are planning gatherings. It is wonderful when extended families get together. We want our young children to know their relatives and feel loved; yet, we put them in the oddest situations.

We want our children to perform all their tricks – singing, dancing, saying the funniest things – for people they barely know. We want them to hug and kiss people they rarely see – though we’ve taught them to keep their distance from strangers. I remember when I was a little girl and was forced to kiss Great Aunt Rose. I saw her only at special occasions. I saw her as a huge, imposing woman though I was small so she probably wasn’t as big and scary as I remember. She had a distinct aroma which I now know was some combination of bad perfume and, perhaps, moth balls. I was intimidated and never voluntarily approached her. I’m sure she could have been a lovely person but all I remember is my parents and grandparents saying, “Did you kiss Aunt Rose? Kiss Aunt Rose.” Perhaps you have a similar story.

If we want children to feel warmly about family, we need to give them a chance to feel secure. We may know every distant relative but they are strangers to children who cannot differentiate between our conflicting messages. We give our children time to get to know other children, teachers and friends. We need to show the same understanding at family gatherings and ask well-meaning relatives to give our children time to get to know them. After all, that is the goal. We want our children to feel comfortable enough to get to know them. When the children feel comfortable, they will perform and will say the cutest things. When they feel intimidated, they will not. As your young children encounter new relatives, be sure to:

  • Introduce them. “Kiss Aunt Rose” is not an introduction. Just as you would in any other situation, introduce your child to the new person. “Cindy, this is Aunt Rose. She is my aunt, too. Aunt Rose, this is Cindy” will make a child feel more comfortable.
  • Let your children see you affectionately greet people first. Your children trust you. If you are warm with family, they will learn to be, too. They are far more apt to give the relatives a chance if they see you hugging, kissing, conversing, laughing and relaxing with family. You are their role model. Give them the opportunity to observe your behavior.
  • Privately ask your children if they would like to sing or dance rather than in front of everyone. When we are respectful of our children’s feelings, they learn that their feelings matter. Healthy relationships with our children depend upon honesty and validation of feelings. Avoid embarrassing them (at least until they are older and you can pull out those awkward baby bath pictures).
  • When departing, ask them if they would give people hugs and kisses rather than demanding it. They get to decide who touches them in every other arena. When children in the playground try to hug them and they are uncomfortable, we give them the words – “Tell him to stop.” When siblings get into physical altercations, we give them the chance to say and demonstrate that that they don’t like that. They should always have a choice about intimate touching.

Remember that love and affection build over time. I may ask if I can have a kiss or a hug and if the answer is no, so be it. I recognize that children who rarely see me will not have the chance to know me and I really don’t know them. They get to treat me like a stranger – after all, we are strangers. I keep a fair distance, smile at them and let them approach me. I want children to want to show me their skills because they are proud of themselves and want to make me smile. When children hug me, I want it to be because they know and like me. It is about their feelings of warmth and security, not mine. Encourage your family to help you teach about relationships, comfort, respect, socialization and self-worth by giving your children the space to feel safe and comfortable. The rest will come.

Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush

All Rights Reserved

Stop spending your days saying, “No…don’t”

Monday, September 30th, 2013

“I feel like all I do is say, ‘No.  Don’t do that.’”  I have heard that statement from weary parents so often.  As much as you know that you have to teach your children and keep them safe, it is hard to spend every day feeling so negative.  We certainly don’t want our children to think of us as the people who only say “no” and “don’t.”  Early in my career, I worked in an early childhood center where the use of the word “no” was forbidden.  I thought it was insane at the time but, actually, it taught me a great deal about how to instruct children.

Discipline should be instructive and phrasing requests or commands in the negative teaches the wrong lesson.  Not only is it less than productive, it doesn’t relate to the thought processes of young children.  When a young child reaches for something and we say, “No.  Don’t touch that!” we are asking the child to reverse an action.  That is a multi-step directive.  The developmental goal for an average 4 year old is the ability to follow a 3 step process.  Think about how many steps are required for “No.  Don’t touch that!”   At a minimum, the child has to (1) resist an impulse, (2) stop moving, (3) consider what to do with the outstretched arm, and (4) pull the arm back.

Why does your child continue to reach for the outlet when you say to stop?  Two reasons – your child cannot resist strong impulses because the frontal lobe of the brain is still developing and your child cannot process all of the steps of a negative command.  It’s that simple.  Your child cannot.

When we remember that discipline is simply another thing we have to teach, we can consider a better way to address the children who cannot.  Let’s use the outlet scenario without the impossible negative command.  Your child reaches for the outlet.  Instead of saying what not to do, tell your child what to do.  What do you want your child to do when reaching for the outlet?  You want your child to “Put your hand down.”  Simple.  No reversing required.  The urgency in your voice will, hopefully, supersede the impulse and signal your child that there is danger.

It is also important to remember that yelling is counterproductive.  Yelling teaches children that In order to solve a problem, you must become emotional and angry.  They learn that the only way to respond to a situation you don’t like is to become loud and negative. Yelling demonstrates that it is acceptable to yell at people who you are smaller than you.  When there is a lot of yelling at home, we see it at school.  Children who are yelled at yell at others.  Parents who were yelled at tend to be yellers.  I applaud those parents who make a conscious decision to speak to their children with more respect than they were spoken to as children.  Sometimes, there is an urgent safety concern and our immediate response is to raise our voices to get the children’s attention.  It is even instructive to say to your child, “I’m sorry I yelled.  I was afraid for your safety.”  Everyday discipline, when no one is in danger, requires no yelling at all.

Tell your children what you want them to do in a tone of voice that demonstrates that you are serious but not emotionally out of control.  All those years in the “no is forbidden zone” taught me this – “Please put the brush down.”  “Walk indoors.”  “Stay on the curb.” “Crayons are used on paper.” “Use quiet voices.” “Be kind.” – all said with respect and followed by an explanation of why we don’t grab, run, go into the street, write on the wall, scream or act with meanness.

Think about the negative commands that you seem to give over and over again.  Turn them around.  Enter the “no negative words zone.”  Think about what positive action you want your child to do.  You may have to repeat those requests many times but you teach your children so much more by being direct and positive.

Reposted with permission from

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