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.