Are You Preventing Child Abuse?
Today I received a letter in the mail from Tennyson Center for Children. This is an organization in Denver that helps foster kids having emotional problems that my family has supported for many years due to the charitable efforts of Chris and Paul Duncan.
Tennyson Center reminded me that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month as declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. This is an issue near and dear to my heart as many of you know that I was an abused child (this topic will be covered in my next book tentatively titled “10 Lives: A Women’s Spiritual Journey to Recovering from Trauma”) Parents abusing alcohol and drugs are more likely to neglect and abuse their children and that was true in my family of origin.
The good news is that there has been a slight tick downward in cases of abuse although more than 600,000 were still reported in 2020 and we don’t know if the reduction is due to a lack of reporting during COVID. More than 1,750 kids died from abuse or neglect that same year. To me, that’s still too many. And, as data show happy kids grow up to be productive adults.
Everyone involved in this issue has her focus. For me, it is breaking the cycle of abuse. Factors that contribute to intergenerational abuse include a history of being abused, stress, substance use, and mental health issues. My father was abused and had substance abuse issues. Recently, I learned that he suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by his abuse. He didn’t have very good parenting skills and his overarching goal was to prepare his children to handle the difficulties of the world by ridding them of their weaknesses (I believe my biggest one, from his viewpoint, was being born a girl.). Not a great parenting strategy. And, my parents didn’t take advantage of learning better parenting skills when offered.
I did work with a mental health professional before I went ahead and had a child and when my health was good I was a pretty good parent. But good health is not something I was gifted with and our ability to deal with the stresses of life strongly impacts how we parent.
If you see a parent who is struggling, offer to help. There are lots of things you can do. Get her access to a short-term loan to help her get through a difficult period. Help her find good childcare (this is critical as access to good jobs often requires affordable childcare). And help her get mental healthcare if necessary. Parents trying to cope with a crisis aren’t at their best. I know many people out there don’t want more money going to government programs but we must support universal healthcare, early childhood education, and any afterschool programs. This is what keeps kids out of the foster care system. Whether you are pro-choice or not, supporting these programs will help us raise a positive generation of children. And isn’t that what we all want?
This month, please look for organizations showing the sign of a pinwheel. That will let you know if a group is working to prevent child abuse. Give of your time and/or your money. Thanks!