By Julie Ahern, NP, Manager, Pediatrics
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, Whittier Street Health Center encourages all individuals, families, and organizations to play a role in making Roxbury and the surrounding communities a better place for all children and families.
The principal types of maltreatment of children are neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.
- Neglect is the failure of the parent or caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to provide a child with minimally adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision, medical care, emotional stability and growth, and other essential care. However, inadequate economic resources or the existence of a handicapping condition need to be considered.
- Physical and emotional abuse is any action that creates an injury or substantial risk to a child. Physical abuse includes beating, shaking, kicking, burning, or other types of bodily harm that can result in bruises, fractured or broken bones, internal injuries, or death.
- Sexual abuse occurs when an adult has any sexual contact with a child. Sexual exploitation and molestation are also considered abuse.
The rate of reported child abuse is higher in Massachusetts, at 53.8 per 1,000 children, compared to the national average in the United States of 46.1. In Massachusetts, the rates of reported abuse were higher among African-American (23.8) and Hispanic (21.8) children than their white counterparts (7.9). Children living in homes were domestic violence was present were also at a higher risk of child abuse (6.7 versus 2.2). Children with disabilities (intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, learning disability, physical disability, or behavioral problems) are also at higher risk for child abuse.
Research shows that when parents possess six protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse is reduced and positive outcomes for the children and families are increased. 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
Whittier Street Health Center offers many programs to assist parents in attaining the information, skills, and resources they need to promote the children’s social and emotional well-being and to help prevent child maltreatment within the families and our community. Some examples of these programs include:
- CenteringParentingTM and CenteringPregnancyTM
- Parenting and Stress group
- Decision Arts program
- Substance abuse groups
- Stress Relief groups for adults
- Teen Violence workshops on healthy relationships, internet safety, and bullying
- Vibrant Communities outreach groups in the local housing developments
- Nurturing Fathers’ program
Whittier hosts a series of programs to raise awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month. During the week of April 7 to 11, from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, the Whittier Youth Services Enrichment (WYSE) program held workshops on promoting safety and engagement in healthy, peaceful activities.
“April is a time to celebrate the important role that we can play in protecting our children,” said Brenda L. Daley, LICSW. “When children feel safe, comforted, and protected, they thrive in all areas of their development. Whittier Street Health Center is here to support all of our families and promote wellness in the Roxbury community.”
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2013). Child maltreatment 2012. Available from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment.
- DCF Child Maltreatment Statistics annual report 2012 – http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/researcher/family-services/dcf/child-maltreatment.html
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – http://www.missingkids.com/Home
- Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County – http://www.suffolkcac.org/