By Rachel Autry
(Editor’s note: Rachel Autry is the advocacy and recruitment coordinator for Tri-County CASA.)
This month, April, is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month dedicated to taking notice of—and working to change—a large problem in our communities.
Child abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional or mental, and in some cases, a victim will experience more than one kind of abuse. Child abuse often goes hand-in-hand with child neglect, and neither crime is limited to a “certain part” of the population.
It’s a problem that transcends racial boundaries—with Caucasian children slightly more likely to be victims than African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American children. Contrary to popular perception, children from middle-class families are more likely to be abused than their poor and extremely poor neighbors. Sadly, it is children 2 years of age and under who experience abuse the most of all age groups, and special-needs children are abused at a higher rate than non-special-needs children.
Abuse and its frequent partner, neglect, have life-long consequences for their victims. Child victims of abuse and neglect have a lower chance of graduating from high school, will have trouble getting or keeping a well-paying job, and often have trouble socially. These children are more likely to become victims of other crimes and to die from overdose of drugs or alcohol. They’re also more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and cancer, tending to have more health problems in general throughout their lives.
But abuse can be prevented. Children grow in communities, and communities can play a large part in creating strong, resilient families and safe, happy children. Children in safe and loving homes are not only more resilient to adversity but are also able to recover from past traumas. When the community creates resources for those having trouble with finances, education, housing or health, it not only helps to lower the rate of child abuse but also helps victims excel in life. Those who become foster or adoptive parents or volunteer with organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs also help child abuse victims.
Georgia has a hotline for supportive family resources at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373), as well as an interactive resource map on the Prevent Child Abuse Georgia website. You can learn more about our local CASA program at tri-countycasainc.org or on our Facebook page at Tri-County CASA, Inc., GA. Georgia’s Child Abuse Reporting hotline is 1-855-422-4453.
All this month, let’s sow seeds of change so we can grow a better tomorrow together!