April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, EBCI Public Health & Human Services encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our community a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by creating strong and thriving children, youth and families in our community. Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families. Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate risk and promote healthy development and wellbeing.
Promoting the following protective factors is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect:
- Nurturing and attachment
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Concrete support for parents
- Social and emotional competence of children.
April is the time to celebrate the important role our community plays in protecting children and strengthening families. Now is the time that our community must be more vigilant than ever to prevent child abuse. Children could face a heightened risk of abuse and neglect as coronavirus related school closures and state and local stay home orders keep children and families in their homes. Even children in families with strong protective factors could face an increased risk as parents take on new roles of being their child’s teacher, providing round-the-clock care and worrying about job security. Couple all of this with the need to social distance for the health of our community, children and families can begin to feel disconnected, isolated, and hopeless.
There are some tips for remaining physically distant while staying emotionally and socially connected:
- Connect with family: call, skype, facetime, zoon with family members; look at photo albums and discuss family heritage, create a family tree, write letters to relatives
- Connect with friends and neighbors: go outside and greet and talk to neighbors and passerby from a safe distance, play online games together
- Connect with culture: read books about your culture, cook a meal together that reflects your cultural heritage, virtually visit more than 1,200 museums around the world via Google Arts & Culture
- Connect with yourself: meditate or do yoga (Cherokee Choices posts a nightly yoga class at 8 pm on their Facebook page), journal or read, exercise, take a bath
- Connect with your children: play card and board games, make art or do crafts together, cook and bake together—talk about math as you prepare the recipe, make a photo book together, sing, play, and dance
The most important thing that our community can do to protect our children and strengthen our families is to make reports and ask for help. Everyone in our community is a mandatory reporter. This means that if you suspect child or adult maltreatment is occurring you are required by law to report what you know.
While the Family Safety Program offices are closed, the staff in the program continue to provide services. If you need to make a report of child or adult maltreatment you can call 497-4131 and ask to speak with the on call social worker. Additionally, behavioral health services continue to be available at Analenisgi, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm, you can call 497-9163 ext. 7500; after hours for Adult Services, call (828) 269-0301; and for Child Services, call 736-9797.
For more information on Child Abuse Prevention Month and for tips on managing stress during the pandemic please visit:
– EBCI Public Health and Human Services release