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Preventing Child Abuse in Your Community: How you can help

President Nixon signed the first Federal child protection legislation on January 31, 1974; however, April was not proclaimed Child Abuse Prevention month until 1983. As the president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH), I am acutely aware of why the prevention of this heinous issue is so important.

Every child deserves the right to grow up in a safe and healthy environment. However, this is not the case for many children. Five children die every day in this country due to abuse and neglect. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Often, children and teens are abused and neglected by the people who are closest to them, including family.

Through their perpetrators, child abuse victims suffer many forms of abuse. Physical injuries such as severe bruises, burns, strangulation and human bites are inflicted. Constant criticizing, belittling, insulting, rejecting and withholding love, affection, support and/or guidance are some examples of emotional abuse. Neglect is caused by the failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education. Finally, sexual abuse includes rape, incest, molestation or pornography.

Everyone can contribute to the prevention of child abuse. The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides the following information about getting involved to strengthen your community and families.

Baby steps
• Meet and greet your neighbors
• Go to a parents meeting at your child’s school
• Participate in an activity at your local library or community center

Small steps
• Set up a playgroup in your community at homes or a local park. Consider inviting people who may not have children at home, like local seniors.
• Organize a community babysitting co-op
• Volunteer at your child’s school through the school’s administration or the parents’ organization
• Encourage local service providers to produce a directory of available services that are easy to find in the community

Big steps
• Organize a community event (a block party, father/daughter dance, parent support group)
• Run for an office in the parents organization at your child’s school
• Attend local government meetings (city council or school board meetings) and let them know how important resources are in your community. Let them know how parks, strong schools and accessible services help to strengthen families in the community.

If you or someone you know needs help, call your local law enforcement agency or Child Protective Services Agency. In Franklin County, call the Franklin County Children Services 24-hour child abuse hotline at 614-229-7000 or visit their website . Outside of Franklin County, call the 24-hour National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or visit their site.

I have intentionally written this blog as April is coming to a close because it is my sincere hope that we work to prevent child abuse every day.

Karen Days, MBA
Karen S. Days is the president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing (CFSH), which takes an integrated team approach to breaking the cycle of family violence and child abuse. Karen previously served as the president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence (CCAFV) since its founding in 1999 and was interim president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which was merged with CCAFV to create the new CFSH. Karen previously spent 10 years working in the criminal justice field. Currently, Ms. Days is serving as a board member of the Columbus Board of Health, Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility, Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the Learning Circle Education Services, Advisory Board of the State Victims Assistance Act (SVAA), and Ohio Dominican University Board of Trustees. She also served on the Columbus Police Foundation Board, Mount Carmel Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, YWCA Columbus, YMCA Metropolitan General Board, and the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Central Ohio. She has received the “Women of Achievement Award” from the YWCA and the “Karama Community Leadership Award” from the Columbus Urban League. Karen earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology/Criminal Justice from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Ohio Dominican University.

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