By Jane Lyons
Friends of Children
No one should simply shake their head and sadly lament the horrific story of child maltreatment that has rocked our state recently. Instead of passive despair, let this tragic incident serve as a galvanizing call to action for us all to commit to ending abuse and securing the safety and future of every child.
Yes, we can help end child abuse. We can end it when we all become advocates for children. We end it when we continue to speak up for vulnerable children every day. We help when we speak about the truths of their lives. That is the purpose behind every step Friends of Children takes.
Our CASA volunteers – court-appointed special advocates – put their passion for the
well-being of children into action. Assigned to monitor and advocate for abused and neglected children, CASA volunteers make sure kids don’t get lost in overburdened legal and social service systems, and that their needs come first. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence in their lives.
A CASA volunteer’s intense advocacy can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect. When children grow up in homes where their only adult role models respond to them with violence and disregard for their needs, they repeat that cycle with their own children. When a CASA volunteer intercedes, it can change the course of one child’s life and make an impact for generations.
We know not everyone can be a CASA volunteer – although Friends of Children welcomes more caring adults into our volunteer ranks – but everyone can be an advocate. Here are a few suggestions.
Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, many of which appear before an obvious physical mark: lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression, poor hygiene, or watchfulness, as if waiting for something bad to happen.
Also be aware of warning signs in parents: showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming the child for family problems, or other irrational behaviors.
Stay well informed about how child abuse and neglect is handled in our state. Ask questions that reflect: what resources are available to families under stress; what tools and services are available to social workers so they can protect the children to whom they are charged; whose needs are really being served…those of vulnerable children or a system whose policies are driven by numbers?
Volunteer your time and/or donate to community programs that support children and families.
Your advocacy for children not only can help end child abuse, it will improve the community for everyone who lives here. Children who are abused and do not get the support they need to heal are more likely than other kids to drop out of school, end up homeless, turn to crime, and rely as adults on social welfare programs. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives and dollars.
We have the “cure” to child abuse. It lies within each of us. Now is the time to act.