In a perfect world, all children will grow up in a beautiful home with white picket fences and two loving parents giving them all of the love and attention they deserve. They will be wanted, cared for, and well fed. There will be no drugs, violence, neglect, and sexual abuse. Sadly, this is not the reality for tens of thousands of children living in the state of Texas currently.
As a current foster mom, I am reminded of the reality of child abuse every day when I look into the faces of my innocent kids. There are 4 major types of abuse that we often see in foster kids: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. In our training we were told that many of our foster kids would come to us with one or more types of child abuse.
Physical abuse can start as early as in utero when the birth mom chooses to take drugs, drink alcohol, and/or not seek proper prenatal care.
I received my then eight-week-old foster baby as she was on the last stretch of withdrawal from methamphetamine. She cried inconsolably, refused to be held, and avoided eye contact. Watching her going through drug withdrawal broke my heart, and it made me love her even harder than I could possibly love anyone. When we finally made it past the withdrawal, she began to blossom into this beautiful and happy baby. Although the drugs were no longer in her system, she was left with a lot of developmental delays, and being out in public would overstimulate her senses and send her into fits. This is the reality of child abuse.
I’ve had a child that was found with her teenage mother in an abandoned building with no running water or electricity. A couple of other families shared this abandoned building with them, and one of them was a registered sex offender. This sweet little girl stayed with us for a short period of time, but I loved her spunk and love for food! She never complained about what I made for dinner and drank milk by the gallon. My kids watched in awe as she chugged milk, and she even motivated my children to eat and drink healthier options too. She had terrible eczema all over her body, but she never cried about it or asked me for help. She would find the huge bottle of lotion that we had and lather her entire body with it by herself. This sweet child was a victim of neglect, and because of it, found herself shaped into this self-sufficient three-year-old. I often found myself feeling sad thinking about her and comparing how carefree my biological kids were when they were 3 years old, and how being homeless has made this child greatly independent and self-sufficient for her age. This is the reality of child abuse.
Sexual abuse. I can’t even go there with those two words.
I pray for all of my children daily, and especially for my foster children who have left my home. I pray that they are protected always. I haven’t had a child come to me who was a victim of sexual abuse, but usually their birth mothers were victims as kids. The stories that were shared with me are too horrific, and it’s the kind of stuff that you don’t easily forget. The betrayal, the loss of innocence, the mistrust of adults, and a lifetime of mental anguish are too much for any child to bear. Children of sexual abuse will never truly heal, and it breaks my heart. I wish there was a reset button for them and that I could take them before this abuse ever starts. This is the reality of child abuse.
Emotional abuse includes all actions that will leave a child psychologically damaged, including verbal and mental abuse. This abuse usually goes hand-in-hand with other types of child abuse, and the effects are irreversible.
Emotional abuse can often times be difficult to identify if the child doesn’t speak up or it’s not witnessed by someone. Every month a caseworker shows up to our house for a welfare visit. We sit and talk about the child, and then she walks around the house peering into random places. She jokingly says that she is making sure that we aren’t keeping our child locked in a cage. The first time I heard that I laughed uncomfortably — but sensed that there was some truth behind her comment. I remember reading a recent news story that they discovered parents locking their own children in closets and not feeding them. Then there is the story about how these two kids were chained in the back yard. This type of abuse will most likely leave these children with psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the reality of child abuse.
According to Texas Health Steps, in 2014 there was a total of 65,334 reported child abuse cases in Texas alone, and 153 of those cases resulted in a child’s death. Keep in mind that these are reported cases, and there are so many kids out there that are still living this nightmare daily. Our kids count on adults to keep them safe. How can these babies grow up to be well-rounded individuals in society when they’ve endured child abuse their whole childhood? If they can’t trust their parents to keep them safe, then we, as a community, need to be vigilant about reporting suspected child abuse to proper authorities so that we can end ongoing violence against children.
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s rise together and put a STOP to child abuse.