Communities need to protect children

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

This month and throughout the year, the Iron-Dickinson Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN) Council encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making the community a better place for children and families.

By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can

help promote children’s social and emotional well-being and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities, said Kristina Demboski, CAN Council chairman.

Research shows that when parents possess six protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted.

The six protective factors are:

– Nurturing and attachment.

– Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development.

– Parental resilience.

– Social connections.

– Concrete supports for parents.

– Social and emotional developmental well-being.

“April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children,” Demboski said.

“Everyone’s participation is critical, she said. “Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.”

Child abuse consists of anything that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health.

Prevention is the best treatment for child abuse. Communities need to be involved in preventing child abuse. Even small personal interventions in public can help prevent abuse.

If you witness abuse, experts offer these suggestions:

– Offer understanding and assistance. A calm, sympathetic, physical presence is likely the most effective response. Sometimes a parent’s anger is fueled by embarrassment at the scene a child is making.

– Try saying one of the following: “Children sure can wear you out. Is there anything I can do to help?” “It looks like you’re having a difficult time. May I help you with anything?” “Children his/her age can be a handful. May I get him/her a drink or hold something for you?” “Most 2-year-olds can’t sit still for long periods of time. Would it help if I found something for him/her to play with?”

– Move the anger away from the child. Start a conversation with the adult. Ask a question to provide distraction. Compliment or praise the parent. Say something positive such as “It’s tough to shop with a toddler, I admire your effort.”

– If the child is in imminent danger of injury, call 911.

Prevention of abuse comes in many forms, such as the following:

– Know where your child is and who they are with.

– Set a good example for other parents by being a good parent.

– Help your children tell you if something has happened to the private areas of their body by giving a name to those parts.

– Have an open relationship with your child so that if they are being abused, they feel comfortable telling you.

Misconceptions and not knowing who to call are two reasons that abuse is unreported. Myths about child abuse include:

– Myth: By law, abused children must be removed from their homes immediately. Fact: This is the least likely outcome.

– Myth: Child abuse cannot be reported anonymously. Fact: In most states, including Michigan, you don’t need to provide your name.

– Myth: The person reported for abuse is entitled to know who made the report. Fact: The person reported for abuse does not know who made the report.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you may call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. More information is also available at www.childhelp.org.

For more information on ways that you can help or learn new methods of interacting with children in a positive way, contact the Iron-Dickinson CAN Council at irondickinsoncan@aol.com or by calling 906-367-4866.

Educational material, resources and parenting classes are offered to the community free of charge.