Opinion | Help build a strong community and prevent child abuse
Cathy Hyde, CASA of the Continental Divide development and events coordinator
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, CASA of the Continental Divide encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Summit County a better place for children and families.
When children experience prolonged and significant adverse childhood experiences without adult support to buffer those experiences, it becomes toxic and impacts their brain structure. This toxic stress can lead to a number of barriers that impact their ability to reach their full potential as well as contribute to health problems later in life, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The great news is that we know how to combat these issues by increasing “protective factors” in our communities and in our families’ lives.
Now it is more important than ever to focus on building community and increasing support around families. When parents are stressed and have few social connections and limited access to resources to support their families, the risk to children of experiencing toxic stress and child maltreatment is great. Research shows that five protective factors have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect:
Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience. When a parent can manage their stress, a child is less likely to experience abuse.
Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities.
Families that have access to community resources during times of trouble are more likely to weather life’s storms. Community resources like housing and food assistance, child care and mental health supports can help reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
Knowledge of parenting and development
Parental knowledge about childhood development reduces the likelihood of abuse and neglect as parents can develop appropriate expectations, communication and consistent rules and boundaries.
Social and emotional developmental well-being
Positive childhood experiences and loving relationships in the home and in the community help to build the skills a child needs to thrive.
You can help increase these five protective factors for all families in our community to strengthen families and create great childhoods.
April is a time to celebrate the important role communities play in protecting children. Your participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing you can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. Particularly in these trying times, we need to pay attention to our neighbors and their well-being. If you see something, say something.
We all have the ability to make great childhoods happen. Looking for ways you can help prevent child abuse? Share your tips, stories and resources.
- Share mindfulness or stress management tips
- Stay connected. Check in with friends, use phone and online options to share your real experiences and advice.
- Share tips, resources and stories about programs that have helped you get through tough times. Hearing stories and recommendations from other parents who have accessed support is incredibly impactful.
- Share tips, resources and activities on parenting and child development.
- Share activities on building social and emotional competence of children and try to model what good social and emotional skills look like. Children mirror the behaviors of the adults around them.
Pinwheels are a national symbol of support for #greatchildhoods and the prevention of child abuse. Visit CASA’s pinwheel garden on Lake Dillon Drive in Dillon and make a commitment to make a difference.
Plant a pinwheel garden at your home, school or office to show your support. Spot a pinwheel? Inspire a conversation. Take a picture and share it with your friends and family. Help us celebrate great childhoods and increase awareness in the community on how to strengthen families. Support the work of CASA of the Continental Divide by getting your own pinwheels at MtnCASA.org/events/child-abuse-prevention-month.
For more information about child abuse prevention programs and activities or to learn about volunteering, call 970-513-9390 or visit MtnCASA.org.
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