Know the warning signs of child abuse
Parents have an opportunity to provide a village of support to families in crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,400 children died in the United States in 2013 from abuse and neglect. Mistreatment of children includes physical abuse (hitting, shaking or burning), emotional abuse (threatening, name calling, shaming), sexual abuse and neglect. When children survive abuse, it can affect their overall health, mental health, social development and risk-taking behavior into adolescence and adulthood.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Throughout the Upstate, blue pinwheels — part of the Project Pinwheel campaign — spin in the breeze and serve as a reminder that strong communities protect their youngest members.
Alesia Lowe, clinical director of A Child’s Haven, said parents who are feeling overwhelmed do have options.
“They need to seek professional guidance,” she said. “We can brainstorm ways to decrease their anxiety.”
If parents are feeling pushed to the brink of harming their children or if they are unable to care for them, Lowe said they may need to avail themselves of community resources, including mental health treatment, the South Carolina Department of Social Services, their pediatrician or possibly resources offered by their church.
“They should also get help for themselves,” Lowe said. “They need stress-management skills.”
Parents may need substance abuse treatment or a respite from child care, like Bethany Christian Services’ Safe Families program, which offers temporary care — not foster care — of children.
Lowe tries to get to the root of a parent’s stress, which may involve helping the family get food from a local food pantry or teaching parenting skills for day-to-day care, such as dealing with a crying baby.
“Each situation is different,” she said.
A Child’s Haven offers rehabilitative behavioral health services to teach children skills like sharing, interacting with their peers and not hitting others.
“We offer individual therapy to children where we work on regulating emotions,” Lowe said.
That therapy is also available to parents. The Parents as Teachers program also teaches parents how to interact with their children, focus on developmental milestones and more.
“Most of our parents grew up in dysfunctional homes,” Lowe said. “It’s changing a mindset. It’s hard.”
Lowe said parents have to learn how to do things differently. That includes building a support system and identifying the types of support they need.
“A lot of times when you put it on paper, it’s easier to remember,” Lowe said.
Lowe said the community should make themselves aware of what falls under the heading of abuse and neglect and report situations when warranted. Lowe advises contacting the Department of Social Services to ask if a situation should be reported, should there be a question.
“If you see somebody in need of resources, help them link,” she said. “It takes a community. It’s cliché to say it takes a village to raise a child, but it really does take the community. It’s not just their problem. It’s our problem.”
Find out more
To learn more about defining child abuse and where and how to report it, visit http://www.scchildren.org or https://dss.sc.gov. For tips on positive parenting skills, visit http://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials. For information about Safe Families for Children, visit https://www.bethany.org/greenville.