5 Ways You Can Help Prevent Child Abuse {National Child Abuse Prevention Month}

I have to be honest; I was not expecting my first ever blog post for Houston Moms Blog to be over a subject as weighty as child abuse. In fact, I was planning on writing over something like “Why My Sarcastic Parenting is Making My Kids Stronger,” or “5 Reasons Why Kids That are Potty Trained are Overrated,” but when I found out that my first post would debut in April, which is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to use this platform to share about how we can all be involved in this fight to end child abuse.

A couple years ago I went to a leadership conference, which I often get the chance to do with my job, and I distinctly remember one of the keynote speakers getting up on stage and asking us all to answer this one question — “What breaks your heart?” Now he didn’t mean like what occasionally makes you sad or makes you think, “Man, that’s too bad!” He meant what is the one thing that literally wrecks you when you are encountered with it. The thing that keeps you up at night or produces uncontrollable tears, even weeping at times.

Well, for me, that one thing is child abuse.

The reality that there are people, not just in our world but in our community, that prey on the most vulnerable group in our society – children – is and should be heartbreaking. Because the bottom line is, if any group of people in this world should have the opportunity to live out joy and love every single day of their lives – it should be children. And we as adults, especially moms, should do everything in our power to fight for that to be the reality in the life of every child. Period.

5 Ways You Can Help Prevent Child Abuse {National Child Abuse Prevention Month} | Houston Moms Blog

And while I love our great state of Texas {like, for real, you would be hard pressed to find someone that loves Texas more than I do}, there are some statistics that are true of Texas that I am not at all proud of, for instance…

  • In Texas, more than 2 children die from child abuse or neglect on average every week, 182 children are confirmed victims daily, and more than 7 children are maltreated every hour.
  • Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 in the state of Texas.
  • 85% of all kids that are victims of child abuse are under the age of 5 years old.

And it doesn’t get much better for just Houston…

  • Houston is the largest hub for human sex trafficking in the nation, and the I-10 corridor between El Paso and Houston has been identified as the main human trafficking route in the United States.
  • Most of those victims entered into sex trafficking between the ages of 12 – 14 years old.

Those statistics are beyond alarming, I mean, 85% under the age of FIVE?!? This is not something we can turn a blind eye to and simply plead ignorance. Behind each one of these numbers is an actual child, just like the one{s} living in your house right now. And while some demographics can contribute to a child being more vulnerable to abuse than another child, unfortunately child abuse has affected every ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and religious group. But here is the good news for what seems to be a hopeless situation — together we can work to prevent this atrocity and help abuse to never be part of another child’s story.

That is what this month is all about, prevention awareness. So here are 5 ways in which you can prevent child abuse in your circle of influence ::

1} ASK QUESTIONS

I know this may seem like a ridiculously obvious thing to do, but I am telling you after working directly with families for the last 13 years {and entering into the age of playdates and sleepover as a mom of four children}, this does not happen nearly as much as it should. So let me explain what I mean. Any time your child is going to be away from you, whether that is with an individual or an organization, you need to make sure you are asking any and all questions pertaining to your child’s safety.

For instance, if it is with an organization {like a church or childcare facility}, ask about background checks, safety policies, ratios, where your child will be while you are gone, who they interact with, and who will be caring for them. How an organization answers these questions will give you a ton of insight into how diligent they are about your child’s safety. If they are going on a playdate, sleepover, or to a house without you, first of all, go with your gut and never leave them if you at all feel uncomfortable. But if you do feel comfortable, be sure to ask about internet safety, who will be at the house while your child is there, and what the sleeping arrangements will be, and always state what your expectations are of the adults responsible. And then feel free to drop in unannounced, pick up early, and drill your kid with follow-up questions when they come home!

2} SEXUALLY EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN

While it may be super adorable that your two-year-old has cute slang terms for their body parts, teach them the anatomically correct names for their private parts. And make it a natural part of conversation from a young age so that your kids aren’t embarrassed to talk to you about their bodies, and so they know what is off-limits and to whom. Educated kids are safe kids.

3} PROTECT YOUR CHILD ON THE INTERNET

For the love, do not hand your kid a brand new tablet with unbridled internet access and think just because they are little they won’t possibly get exposed to anything inappropriate. That is naive parenting. As parents, we all want to think that our kids are perfect little angels, but kids are curious {and that is totally normal}. Just be sure to set them up for success and give their curiosity boundaries. Many child predators begin interactions with children via chatrooms on the internet, so make sure you are monitoring their internet activity. Here is a review of the top 10 best parental safety softwares for 2016.

4} SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE FIGHTING FOR VULNERABLE CHILDREN

If we really want to get in the game and end child abuse in our community, then we need to not only take preventive measure where our kids are concerned, but also support the prevention of other children as well. Here are a few organizations that I personally support :: The Children’s Assessment Center, Child Advocates of Fort Bend, Love 146 .

5} CONSIDER EXPANDING YOUR FAMILY THROUGH FOSTERING AND ADOPTION

This may seem like a radical action to you, and that’s because it is! But it is so needed! Children in foster care are 10 times more likely to be victimized by child abuse than a child with a loving family. Next month I am going to do a post more specifically over this topic, in light of National Foster Care Month, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But in the meantime, check out all the amazing resources offered by the DePelchin Children’s Center for those open to foster care and adoption.

Child abuse prevention definitely can and should start in your family, but it can’t end there. There are so many kids in the Houston area that need us to advocate on their behalf, and even more kids that hopefully will never even know that they needed us because of the preventative work that we can do today.

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