Child abuse prevention: the use of the word prevention here is actually antithetical to its true purpose. Prevention implies stopping something from happening – possibly through force or coercion. Further, the implication is that there is an obvious enemy to be overcome. In response to other social ills, we’ve often gone to “war: as in the “war against drugs.” While the act of child abuse is abhorrent, what about the child abusers themselves? Are they the enemy in need of conquering? The answer is no. Child abuse cuts across all socio-economic groups, races and religions. Most people who abuse or neglect their children are ordinary people whose stressors overwhelm their coping skills. What makes ordinary people lash out at defenseless children? Substance abuse, lack of knowledge of child development, isolation, poverty, a history of domestic violence, and many other factors contribute to the likelihood that a child will be abused.
The focus needs to be not so much on the “prevention” of child abuse, but on promotion: promotion of good parenting skills; fair, equal and competitively waged employment opportunities; safe, affordable housing; and access to adequate health care, including access to mental health services ands substance abuse treatment. This is not an exhaustive list but it gives an idea of the scope of both the problem and possible answers.
Child abuse is a complex issue and cannot be “fixed” by one single agency using one single approach. The Department of Children and Families is mandated to protect children. Yet, workers can only do so much. The Department must work in concert with communities. This cannot be an “us – them” dilemma. This is and must be a “together we can” solution.
What can you do to help?
Learn to recognize signs of abuse. Report abuse by calling the DCF Careline (800-842-2288). Mentor a child. Mentor an adult. Volunteer to sit for a neighbor’s child(ren). Offer a friendly ear or shoulder to cry on. Be a friend. Call 211 and ask what you can do in your community.