|Several programs have been shown to have a positive effect on preventing child abuse and neglect according to Jinny Hopp, human development specialist, University of Missouri Extension. For example, home visiting by volunteers or professionals (such as Parents as Teachers), education of new parents immediately after child delivery, parent education classes and family preservation services have all been shown to help.
Other successful programs include time-out programs for stressed care givers, education of children about self-protection, programs targeting pregnant or parenting teenagers, media programs and campaigns, community coalitions that target the needs of families and employers who institute "family friendly" policies.
Child abuse takes many different forms but can be generally placed in one of five categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and "other," which includes abandonment, prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs and threats to harm the child.
If you witness or suspect that a child is a victim of abuse, you must help. A toll free hotline number is available to report abuse and get help for both the parents and children who are in violent situations. It is 1-800-392-3738.
According to Hopp, we all have a part in raising children (our nation's future parents and workers) but it is easy to become overwhelmed by what an individual could do to help. For starters, Hopp suggests being a nurturing parent yourself. "Children need to know that they are special and loved. Learn about how children can grow and mature and have realistic expectations of what your child can and cannot do," said Hopp. She also suggests helping a friend or relative with their children, getting involved in activities that build families, volunteering to help children and voting with children and families in mind.
Most adults, no matter their background, find being a parent challenging. Most adults also want to do the best they can. Unfortunately, adults who were physically or emotionally abused as children do not know any other way to behave with their own children, according to Hopp. Other times, parents who are isolated, under stress or living with limited resources find themselves losing control with their children.
"Adults abuse children in different ways. Physical abusers tend to be lonely, angry, anxious and unable to make and keep close relationships. Neglectful adults, on the other hand, seem to be immature and unable to make life decisions," said Hopp.
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