One of the greatest tragedies of our times is child abuse/neglect. So what is child abuse/neglect? As defined by the Department of Defense, child abuse is “the physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect of a child by a parent, guardian, foster parent, or by a caregiver, whether the caregiver is intrafamilial or extrafamilial, under circumstances indicating the child’s welfare is harmed or threatened. Such acts by a sibling, other Family Member, or other person shall be deemed to be child abuse only when the individual is providing care under express or implied agreement with the parent, guardian, or foster parent” (IAW 42 USC Section 5106g). Important note: A person can be guilty of child abuse/neglect if they witness it and neglect to report it.
Shockingly, a report of child abuse/neglect is made every 10 seconds in the United States. To put things into perspective, according to the “360 Yearly”, New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Protective Services documented a total of 35,856 abuse and neglect reports in fiscal year 2014. In Dona Ana County alone, there were a total of 2,467 reports made, and 849 of these reports were substantiated child victims, meaning “the victim(s) is under the age of 18, a parent/caretaker has been identified as the perpetrator and/or identified as failing to protect, and credible evidence exists to support the conclusion by the investigating official that the child has been abused and/or neglected”. If not addressed immediately, child abuse/neglect leaves a lasting and devastating impression on a child. A National Research Council report noted that child abuse/neglect can leave a legacy of brain damage, aggressive and antisocial behaviors, drug abuse, teen pregnancy as well as juvenile and adult criminal behavior.
So what has been done about it and what can still be done? Child Abuse Prevention Month has been observed each April since its first presidential proclamation in 1983. The observance serves to educate parents and the community about warning signs and helpful resources, to remind us of those who suffered, and to reinforce that the safety and well-being of children is a shared community responsibility. The majority of abuse/neglect cases stem from situations and conditions that can be preventable, when community programs and systems are engaged and supportive. A body of research, according to the Children’s Bureau, has identified factors known to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect. These factors include parental resilience, nurturing and attachment, social connections, knowledge about parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children, and concrete supports for parents.
Within the military community, Child abuse/neglect is a top priority. The Department of Defense is actively working to prevent abuse by sponsoring a variety of programs on military bases, such as the Family Advocacy Program. This program works to strengthen Families and promote parenting skills and resilience through awareness, education, and intervention. Here, at White Sands Missile Range, you can learn more about child abuse/neglect trainings, workshops on managing stress and anger, and much more through the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program Manager, Espy Garcia. ACS is located at Building 250, Rock Island Avenue and Garcia can be reached at (575) 678-2306 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be on the lookout this month and all year long for interesting articles about child abuse/neglect. Also, join ACS in promoting Child Abuse Prevention Month by wearing blue on April 9. We would love to see how your Family, Unit, and workplace participate in this event; so send your pictures to the ACS Outreach Coordinator at email@example.com. Or, like us on Facebook at “WSMR Army Community Service” and post your pictures there.
Remember, everyone has a role to play in creating a safe and healthy community. Preventing child abuse is everyone’s business at White Sands Missile Range. If you suspect child abuse/neglect, have the courage to report it to the Department of Emergency Services at 678-1234, New Mexico Central Intake at 1-855-333-SAFE (7233), or the DoD Child Abuse and Safety Hotline at 877-790-1197. Your intervention could help save a child.