April is a month that makes a lot of us feel excited for spring and summer! The temperature gets warmer, the sun shines brighter and the flowers are blooming all over the place. But did you know that April is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month? According to childrensdefense.org, 1,825 children in the United States were confirmed to be abused or neglected each day in 2014.
In Oklahoma, we are all mandated reporters— which means, if you see something that you think might be child abuse or neglect, according to the law, you must report it or else you could face a misdemeanor offense. A person who reports suspected abuse in “good faith” is immune from criminal or civil liability.
So what exactly is child abuse or neglect? How do you know if what you see is truly abuse or a style of parenting? Here are some definitions by childwelfare.gov on what exactly abuse and neglect are.
Physical abuse: Non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
Neglect: The failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect can be:
-Physical (example: failure to provide necessary food of shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
-Medical (example: failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
-Emotional (example: inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
Sexual abuse: Includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
Emotional abuse: A pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
*Other forms of abuse may include abandonment or substance abuse.
For a full list on how to identify if a child is potentially being abused or neglected, check out https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/whatiscan.pdf.
So with all of that being said, there are some ways you and your family can get involved in helping bring awareness to National Child Abuse Prevention Month:
-Spread the word through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). And don’t forget to use the hashtag #PreventionMonth!
-Share Oklahoma’s Child Abuse Prevention video with your family, friends and coworkers! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujZZOmZfPlU
-Put up a blue ribbon on your tree, door, or anywhere else you can think of! The blue ribbon is the symbol for child abuse prevention to represent the blue color of a child’s bruise.
-Encourage your child to color a picture of “My Happiest Day” and post it on social media. To print the Oklahoma’s coloring page, find it here: https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/Coloring%20Template.pdf.
-Encourage your child to color a pinwheel in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month found here: https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/PW1.pdf.
Get involved and spread the word this month on preventing child abuse and neglect!
If you suspect something, report it. Oklahoma’s Child Abuse Hotline is available 24 hours a day—call 1-800-522-3511. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911 or local law enforcement.
For the babies,