The month of April calls attention to one of the most tragic, widespread problems affecting those dearest to our communities: our children. There were approximately 678,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in the United States in 2018, according to the “Child Maltreatment” report by the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That's about 9 victims per 1,000 children. This April, we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month by acknowledging those who provide support for the victims and for at-risk families.
About Alpine County Child Abuse Prevention Council
Alpine County Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC), located in California, has a mission to encourage and support interactive, community-based programs to ensure that children and families are safe and healthy. Council coordinator Jennifer Hawkins stated, "Child abuse can have a profound negative impact, leaving adverse physical and mental damage. Child abuse prevention in our community is critical, and together, we can make a difference.”
“Steps need to be taken at every level of the social ecology, including communities as a whole, youth-serving organizations and schools, and individuals like parents.”
- Prevent Child Abuse America
The council emphasizes the importance of community engagement and collaboration in the fight against maltreatment. Their efforts are combined with other local organizations including First 5 Alpine (for which Hawkins is the executive director), Live Violence Free, the Alpine County Office of Education, Choices for Children, law enforcement and other county departments, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California . Hawkins stated, “Child abuse is a community matter, and united, we are stronger.” Together, these organizations work to provide parents with education, healthcare, and financial support, which are the keys to building safe and nurturing homes for children.
Throughout the month of April, Alpine County CAPC plans to raise awareness in several ways.
There will be a formal resolution presented for approval by the Board of Supervisors, declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Alpine County, followed by a raising of the Children’s Memorial Flag. They will also support an event called the Rainbow Awards, hosted by Alpine Kids. This will be a local ceremony celebrating teachers and other adults who have made a positive impact on a child’s life.
As per tradition, Alpine County CAPC plans to display pinwheels to promote awareness. The Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign began in April 2008, when the pinwheel was first introduced as the symbol for child abuse prevention by a national nonprofit called Prevent Child Abuse America. The colorful toy stands for the fun, carefree, and safe childhood that all children deserve.
Finally, the council plans to distribute information and resources to families along with a copy of the children's book Cuddled and Carried, which models healthy family relationships. Alpine County CAPC worked with Platypus Media to translate the bilingual book to the Washoe language, making the project even more special for a community that includes many members of the Washoe Tribe.
According to Hawkins, “Alpine County CAPC was drawn to the book Cuddled and Carried as an outreach opportunity for Child Abuse Prevention Month because… the book promotes healthy bonding between the child and the parent. The book is a great opportunity for parent and child to spend quality time together reading.”
Child abuse prevention organizations like Alpine County CAPC have several goals that extend beyond the month of April. Spreading awareness may contribute to:
Increased funding for family support services such as home visiting, peer support groups, and parent education classes
Research for more effective, evidence-based prevention strategies and, in particular, strategies for identifying ill-defined emotional abuse
Availability of mental health services for children affected by neglect or by emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
It is important for adults to look out for—and know how to recognize—the signs and symptoms of abuse. If you suspect a child is suffering from maltreatment or is in a high-risk situation, the best thing to do is to contact your local Child Protective Services (CPS) office or law enforcement agency. Anyone can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect, and a report will never be seen as an accusation. Reported concerns serve as requests for further investigation into whether the child needs help or the family needs assistance.
For specific information about how to recognize signs of maltreatment, you can reference the 2019 Fact Sheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway: “What Is Child Abuse and Neglect? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms.”