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Nurturing Communities Can Help Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Artwork done by young Newbridge clients to celebrate National Child Abuse Prevention Month

NewBridge Services is calling on parents, caregivers and community members to help ensure that children are able to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment free of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or neglect.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and NewBridge is shining a light on the risk factors and signs of the various forms of abuse, and what individuals can do to protect children.

“It is so important to underscore the value of strong, nurturing communities in the prevention of child abuse and neglect,” said NewBridge Services Chief Operating Officer Michelle Borden, a licensed clinical social worker. “By bringing awareness and skill-building programs to the community, we can support families at risk, helping them build social connections and knowledge of parenting.”

Child abuse is a nationwide problem that can have lifelong consequences for victims. Child protection services received more than 4 million complaints of child abuse between October 2015 and September 2016, the most recent statistics available, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2018 Prevention Resource Guide. Of those, 676,000 children were found to be victims, most of them of neglect, the guide said.

The good news is child abuse can be prevented when families receive support, and interventions are available. NewBridge Services last year helped 424 abused and neglected children and their families cope with and overcome the trauma of abuse. Knowing the risk factors and signs of child abuse can help families and children get the help they need.

According to the Prevention Resource Guide, risk factors include:

  • Parenthood at a young age, and without a support system
  • Lack of understanding about normal child development that can cause anger and frustration toward the child
  • Poverty, unstable housing, unemployment and divorce, all which cause stress on families
  • Abuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • A parent’s history of being abused as a child
  • Isolation and lack of family and community support

Signs that child neglect may be occurring include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Weight loss
  • Physical/medical problems that go unaddressed
  • School absenteeism

Signs that physical abuse may be occurring include:

  • Unexplained bruises, burns, or welts
  • Injuries that are at different stages of healing
  • Child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver

Signs that a child may be sexually abused include: 

  • Knowledge of sex that is age-inappropriate
  • Regressing to behaviors like bedwetting
  • Becoming withdrawn, or clingy
  • Avoidance of a certain person

Signs that a child may be emotionally abused include:

  • Worrying constantly
  • Experiencing delays in learning and emotional development
  • Suffering depression and low self-esteem
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Having unexplained headaches and stomachaches

Anyone who has reason to believe a child is being abused should call State Central Registry at 1-877 NJ ABUSE (and 911 if a child is in imminent danger). Reports can be made anonymously and callers are not required to provide evidence of the allegation. More information is available here: http://www.nj.gov/dcf/reporting/how/index.html

Prevent Child Abuse America, a national nonprofit that promotes children’s well-being, found that most people do things to help prevent child abuse, including mentoring parents and children, advocating for pro-family policies, and donating to or volunteering with organizations that help children.

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