There are many everyday things that can be done to prevent child abuse and neglect and to ensure that children have the opportunity to grow up in safe, stable, and nurturing environments.
Whether you are a parent or a community member, there are things that you can say and do to support other parents and build strong families that keep kids safe and healthy.
Things you can say to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect
Take time to talk with parents in your neighborhood or community, especially those who are more challenging to get to know.
Parents who feel socially isolated or depressed have fewer coping skills, which can put them at increased risk for harming their children.
Offer words of encouragement to parents and/or children you encounter in public places. To a teen parent consider saying, "What a lovely, sweet baby you have." To a parent whose child is having a meltdown offer sympathetically, " I remember those days" or "Looks like you are having a tough day." For anytime, "What a great parent you are."
Parenting is a tough and often overwhelming responsibility and parents, particularly fragile parents, need encouragement. Positive feelings about themselves and their child increase parents' abilities to think of alternative strategies helping them to parent better in the moment.
Investigate and share information about community resources with other parents.
Libraries, community centers, schools, scouting, clubs, sporting event, church, or park districts can connect parents to other adults and provide outlets and breaks for parents while also offering opportunities for kids.
Encourage a struggling parent to get help.
Take the time to listen. Reassure the parent that it is ok to ask for help. Identify sources of financial, emotional and parent support within your community and share that information.
Advocate for state and local politicians to create legislation and allocate funding that supports families within your community.
The most effective prevention of child abuse and neglect involves getting help for parents and families early - before lasting harm occurs. While providing that help requires resources, it is far less costly, both financially and in terms of human suffering, than intervening after the abuse is happening.
Talk with, observe and really listen to children in your neighborhood or community.
One caring adult makes a huge difference to a child who is struggling. Children need adults who are willing to speak up for them, get them help or just be there for them when they need support.
Report suspected child maltreatment.
You don't have to know or prove abuse; you just have to suspect to make a report. Let the experts make the determination if abuse is occurring. There are numerous ways for child protective services to intervene. Reporting suspected child abuse or neglect can provide families with the opportunity to get resources and assistance that they need.
Things you can do to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect
Show your support for child abuse and neglect prevention.
Blue is the color of child abuse and neglect prevention month so wear blue during April or change the background of your Facebook profile picture to the color blue. Attend local prevention events.
Share gently used items such as outgrown clothing, toys, or sporting goods with other parents and children.
Financial need can put a lot of stress on struggling parents reducing their ability to cope and, potentially, increase their risk of harming their children.
Organize a car pool, potluck, or babysitting cooperative
Every parent needs support and opportunities to socialize, but parents that are struggling need it even more. Be deliberate and invite single parents, parents with challenging children and/or parents that seem isolated to participate.
Offer to drive a parent and child to a school or local event or simply offer to pick up another child and take them with you when you are taking your own.
Helping to provide transportation provides more opportunity for the child and supports overburdened parents..
Bring a meal or bag of groceries to a busy or low-income parent.
Overburdened and/or financially struggling parents are under a lot of stress which can reduce their ability to cope and, potentially, increase their risk of harming their children.
Invite a parent and his or her children to your home to socialize.
Every parent needs support and opportunities to socialize, but parents that are struggling need it even more. Be deliberate and invite single parents, parents with challenging children, and/or parents that seem isolated to participate.
Offer to be a parent helper by babysitting or playing with young children while their parent is near.
Parents still get a break when you are attending to their child, even if they are not out of the home. Time for a shower, folding a load of laundry or simply doing anything without a child in tow relieves stress. Plus you can model good parenting behaviors and child interaction skills.
Encourage all parents to attend parenting classes.
Every parent can benefit from new parenting knowledge and strategies. The more parents are encouraged and supported to invest their time in parent education; the more natural it becomes for everyone to value and make such an investment.
Invite another parent to attend parenting classes with you.
Help another parent overcome personal barriers to participating in parenting education by demonstrating how valuable parenting knowledge is to you and how much you want to share it. Knowledge of normative child development and an array of parenting strategies are important protections against child abuse.
Support local organizations that offer parenting classes, respite services, or free parent-child resources and activities.
Your financial contribution, volunteer hours or promotion of local organizations that support parents can make a huge difference in the ability to continue offering services, the variety of services available and the number of parents reached.
Learn about the protective factors that make families stronger and increase the likelihood that their children will be safe and healthy. Then share that information with others.
The 5 protective factors (parental resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, social connections, concrete supports in times of need, social emotional competence of children) are attributes and skills that help families withstand challenges and promote the healthy growth of their children.