Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri exists because child abuse exists and impacts children and families in our community. The Center assists with child abuse and neglect investigations and teaches children and adults to prevent, recognize, and report child sexual abuse.
In 2020, Children’s Center served 1,000 children who experienced one or more forms of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect. Since opening its doors in 1997, the Center has served over 19,000 children. Child abuse is a severe public health problem that affects one in seven children. No community, neighborhood, or family is immune from child abuse. But the good news is that it is preventable!
Each April, we build awareness in the communities we serve. It is essential that we proactively educate adults about their responsibility to protect our kids and empower children to use their voices. Awareness is one of our tools to help prevent child abuse.
Throughout April, you will notice gardens of blue pinwheels throughout the community. The blue pinwheel symbolizes a healthy, happy childhood free of the worry, abuse, and neglect that many children do not experience. These pinwheel gardens are planted to create awareness and remind us that the need to protect our children is still there and still great.
This year, Child Abuse Prevention Month’s focus is to shine a light on the most important thing we can do for children: support families and help them thrive before they reach a crisis. Each year, thousands of children experience abuse at the hands of individuals who were supposed to protect and care for them. Risk factors of child maltreatment are parental stress, substance abuse, and poverty.
Protective factors help families thrive and help reduce child maltreatment while building resilience in families! We can help strengthen the protective factors of families in our community in many ways. If we as a community, holistically, come together to create ways to support families, we can make a difference in children’s lives today and in future generations.
How can you help families within our community improve their protective factors? When your friend calls to vent, listen. If your friend seems stressed and needs a moment to hear themselves think, offer to watch their children. If you notice you have a new neighbor, stop by and introduce yourself. You may be the only person in the community who has reached out to them.
Take some time this month to learn how protective factors can strengthen families and how you can help prevent child abuse at childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth.
One of the most important things we must mention is if you see something, say something. Even if you are unsure about whether you should, if you notice something about a child that causes you alarm, call the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 800.392.3738.
You can save the life of a child. You can be their hero!
Desiree Breidenstein, Community Outreach Coordinator
Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri