Child abuse will kill 1,800 children in the U.S. this year.

That’s according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child abuse or neglect “may stunt physical development of the child’s brain and lead to psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, which could later lead to high-risk behaviors, such as substance use.” Also, children who experience maltreatment can experience other trauma that includes parental substance use, domestic violence and poverty.

The need for child prevention services is dire and urgent. 

Sad little child girl sitting alone with teddy bear on floor

2019 statistics detailing child abuse, or child maltreatment termed by the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, are staggering:

  • 4.4 million child maltreatment referral reports received.
  • Child abuse reports involved 7.9 million children.
  • 91.4% of victims maltreated by one or both parents.
  • Only 3.4 million children received prevention and post-response services.
  • 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect 

“Extensive clinical experience has demonstrated the destructive effects on both child victims and child witnesses of abuse and neglect,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. “Child maltreatment contributes to the development of lifelong anxieties, disturbance of behavior, depression, suicidal behavior, sub- stance abuse, and severe disturbances in personality formation.” 

VCS sees the great need to devote time, expertise and resources to preventing child abuse and supporting victims as they work toward healing. VCS services in support of child abuse prevention include the Parenting for Women and Parenting for Men Classes in English and Spanish (a 12 session Parent Education curriculum), El Grupo de Madres (aka our Haverstraw Mother’s Group), and the VCS Parenting Apart Program. 

Each of these programs is unfunded, a problem compounded by the national trend, reflected locally, of a widespread increase in demand for services triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

VCS experienced a cascade of referrals and registrations over 2020-21. This included a doubling in attendance for the Parent Education Classes for Men and Women in just the first six months of 2021. Counseling intakes in Parenting Apart also doubled in 2020 and a surge is expected for 2021 because the pandemic closed courts that would have mandated registrations. A large influx of applicants is certain to follow as the courts reopen.

To fund these programs, VCS will direct the proceeds from its 17th Annual Golf Outing on Aug. 2 to its child abuse prevention services, as it does every year. Prevention is the operative word here. And just as important is understanding the topic, as explained by medical professionals. 

According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time.” These include:

  • Physical abuse. 
  • Sexual abuse. 
  • Emotional abuse. 
  • Medical abuse. 
  • Neglect. 

“A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend.” 

Red flags include:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities.
  • Changes in behavior.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • An apparent lack of supervision.
  • Frequent absences from school.
  • Reluctance to leave school activities and go home.
  • Attempts at running away.
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide.

At VCS, child abuse prevention is done through education and support. Both Parenting for Women/Parenting for Men Classes, and El Grupo de Madres are available to anyone raising a child. The 12-session curriculum covers core parenting topics such as child development, discipline, and skill building. Parenting Apart offers both COPE and Individual Counseling. COPE is a four-hour, state-certified class followed by 12 individual sessions that cover the separation/divorce process; how everything affects children, what parents can do to help their children adjust; how children react; tools for parenting apart; tips on common parent pitfalls; and skills for listening to children.

It’s all very hard work. United together, we can take a stand to prevent child abuse. Please consider participating in the VCS 17th Annual Golf Outing on Aug. 2 at Rockland Country Club in Sparkill.

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