pinwheelpicApril is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  Look for pinwheels planted in pots and in the landscaping of local businesses, child care providers and other supporters. Every child deserves to be happy, healthy and safe!

Sounds of Silence

(Indulge me in a 19 second pause before you read the rest of this information)

These are the sounds of the children who died in NC last year because of abuse. Each second represents a child lost. They cannot speak for themselves so we, the Beaufort and Hyde County Community Child Protective Team, will. The CCPT is a consortium of mandated members, representing local agencies and organizations who are committed to addressing the child protection needs within our county. Annually, a report is made to you reflecting the work of the Team, as state law dictates.

April is Child Abuse Awareness month. Fortunately, there were no reported fatalities due to abuse or neglect in Beaufort or Hyde Counties last year. But in Beaufort, there were 794 reports of child abuse and neglect in 2011, 90 of which were substantiated. 119 children were found to be in need of services. And in Hyde, there were 16 reports of child abuse and neglect, five of which were substantiated. We want all children to live in stable, loving, and stimulating environments – at home, in school, and in the community.

Prevent Child Abuse released the findings of a study they commissioned that reported the top 5 reasons most often cited by parents for child abuse and neglect. They were: increased alcohol and drug abuse by parents (69%), lack of parenting experience or skills (67%), abusive parents were abused as children (64%), presence of non-family members living in the home (48%), and kids are harder to control these days (39%). A. Sidney Johnson III, ED of Present Child Abuse America sums it up well, “As a society, we’re good at helping parents make sure the baby dresses well and is fed properly, but when it comes to helping them learn how to become good parents, they’re on their own.”

So what’s a parent to do? In Beaufort County:

1) Enroll in a FREE parenting class through Beaufort/Hyde Partnership (BHPC) for Children or Cornerstone Family Worship Center. BHPC offers a 14-week Incredible Years program focusing on assisting parents/caregivers with strategies for children ages three to five with challenging behaviors. Cornerstone offers a 14-week parenting skills class known as the Nurturing Project for families with children birth to 18 years of age.

In Beaufort and Hyde Counties:

2) Join a playgroup – weekly preschool programs.

3) Make a referral to the Parents As Teachers program at BHPC, in-home parent education services, for a family you think could use additional family support.

4) Teach your child about the different kinds of abuse and how to spot it. Children need to know what adults can and can’t do and whom they can talk with once something happens. Parents need to educate when children are able to understand – even at the preschool age. A child needs to know that he/she can come to you when he/she thinks someone is being abusive and that you will hear what he or she says, protect him or her and help him or her NO MATTER WHAT. If you’d like more information, please call Child Connections at 975-4647, ext. 1.

So what’s a community to do? According to Mr. Johnson, “Support positive parenting, foster the health and development of a child, and prevent child abuse and neglect before it has a chance to materialize. As a community, we need to commit to finding ways and resources to support families and children through local, state and federal collaborations. There are precious few local resources available to assist parents with parenting education, but there are huge negative consequences for our inactions.

Of course there are signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign is not proof of its occurrence, but when you see these signs appearing repeatedly or in combination, you should take a closer look at the situation and consider the possibility. The following are signs of possible child abuse or neglect:

The child: shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance; has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention; has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes; is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen; lacks adult supervision; is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn; comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The parent: shows little concern for the child; denies existence of – or blames the child for – the child’s problem in school or at home; asks teachers or other caretakers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves; sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome; demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve; looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.

The parent and child: rarely touch or look at each other; consider their relationship entirely negative; state that they do not like each other.

There are actually four types of abuse –

1) physical abuse, which involves hitting, kicking, choking, shaking, starving, burning, etc.;

2) sexual, which involves fondling, sex, forcing a child to undress, telling a child “dirty” stories, etc;

3) emotional, which involves ignoring, terrorizing, blaming, belittling a child;

4) physical neglect – not providing adequate housing, warm clothing, medical care when a child is sick or injured, locking a child in a closet or room, leaving a child alone for extended periods of time, placing a child in a physically dangerous situation.

Children who witness abuse are often-unintended victims, displaying some or all of the above signs. Also children under stress from a variety of sources might also show these signs. Report your suspicions by contacting Child Protective Services at DSS, police, hospital or emergency hotline. This can be an anonymous call! The child’s safety is of utmost concern. If you have abused your child or think that you might, talk with a friend, relative or your child’s doctor or other trusted adult immediately. These people can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you.

Powerless children need powerful friends, investing in children does make good cents and children are our future. All are catchy phrases, but incredibly meaningful ones. Please remember these sounds of silence and dedicate yourselves to acting in the best interest of our children before it is too late. On behalf of the Beaufort and Hyde County Child Fatality Prevention Teams, the Beaufort/Hyde Partnership for Children and the many friends of our Beaufort and Hyde County children, we would like you to offer your personal pledge to support any and all efforts to reduce child abuse and neglect in our county, our state, and our nation.