April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
Whether or not you have children of your own, we can all agree that protecting children is our most important responsibility. Our children are our most precious assets, and we all have an interest in protecting those who can’t protect themselves.
However, it seems like far too often we see stories on the news about a child being abused or neglected. Crimes like this shock and anger us to the core because they involve children, the most vulnerable among us.
The effects of child abuse can last a lifetime, and can often affect future generations, too. Being a victim of abuse or neglect at a young age can influence a child for life, and can lead to criminal activity and violence as adults. Or even worse, being a victim of child abuse or neglect can lead to a vicious cycle of similar treatment of one’s own children.
Every year across our nation, over 3 million children are victims of violence. In fact, violence and neglect against children is reported an average of every 10 seconds.
Unfortunately, the problem is no less prominent right here in Alabama. In 2006, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) investigated more than 19,000 reports of child abuse and neglect statewide.
The Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect—formerly the Children’s Trust Fund—is the only state agency focused entirely on the prevention of abuse and neglect of Alabama’s children. Although the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect works tirelessly to ensure the safety of every child in our state, prevention of child abuse and neglect is everyone’s responsibility.
Perhaps the most effective way to eradicate child abuse is through community-based preventive programs in schools, churches, or local recreational centers. Many victims of child abuse go on to perpetuate the cycle by abusing or neglecting their own children years later. Through early education and intervention, we can end the cycle and stop the violence before it starts.
Even with all of the publicity and awareness about child abuse, countless other cases go unreported. Many children don’t report until years later—if ever. In fact, it is estimated that the actual number of child victims is even three times greater than statistics show. This is where we all can help make a difference.
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of violence against children. These can include when the parent or caregiver fails to maintain the child’s proper hygiene or care, appears to lack love or concern, has alcohol or drug problems, has emotional problems or mental illness, was abused as a child, or has high stress factors.
If you know of reason to suspect that a child is, or has been, a victim of abuse or neglect, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. By reporting these atrocities, you may save a child’s life.
Another great way to show your support for eliminating abuse is by purchasing a Children’s Trust Fund license plate.
It’s tax deductible, and approximately 92 percent of the proceeds directly fund community-based prevention programs.
Our future depends on the quality of life we provide to our children today. By fully addressing these issues, we can do our part to help ensure that Alabama’s children at least have the possibility for a nurturing and violence-free environment during their most vulnerable years.

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