Valley News -

By Teresa Stivers
Special to Valley News 

Changing the lives of Inland Empire's at-risk children makes a positive impact that goes beyond National Child Abuse Prevention Month

 

Last updated 5/2/2018 at 9:25am



In the minute it takes to read this paragraph, 250 babies will be born around the world. You will blink a dozen times, a hummingbird will flap its wings 4,000 times and the Earth’s 7.6 billion human hearts will beat, collectively, more than 600 billion times. One hundred and sixteen people will get married, and another 144 people will celebrate moving into a new home.

And, across the United States, six new reports of child abuse will be filed.

Abuse is a widespread epidemic impacting the physical, mental and emotional states of children. These negative effects don’t end with adulthood. In fact, without intervention, the community’s most fragile children will continue to live with the effects of a broken childhood long into their adult years. Agencies tasked with providing support and services for these children need the community’s help.

While the nation is one of the world’s most advanced, the children suffer some of the worst statistics among other industrialized nations. So, just how pervasive is child abuse in America?

Four children died from abuse and neglect each day in 2016.

In that year alone, 4.1 million allegations of maltreatment were made to child protection agencies nationwide involving some 7.4 million children. Some 3.5 million children were the subject of at least one CPS report and a staggering 676,000 children were deemed victims of chronic trauma, child abuse and neglect. Nearly 10,000 of those victims reside in San Bernardino and Riverside counties alone.

As a result, many of these children are placed into foster care.

Studies show former foster youth, those most likely to have experienced maltreatment and abuse, are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than combat veterans.

Often, the lingering effects of child abuse impact a victim’s health, leading to mental health disorders, addiction, suicide, depression and teenage pregnancy, as well as long-term health issues such as heart, liver and pulmonary diseases. Children with adverse childhood experiences have their average life expectancy decrease by two decades, as opposed to those without childhood trauma.

This month and beyond, Walden Family Services encourages every member of the community to make the Inland Empire a better place for children and families, by equipping moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and every family member with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to care for children.

The first and most crucial step in helping a child heal is being aware of what abuse is. Child abuse can take one of four forms: sexual, physical, emotional and neglect or maltreatment. Understanding how abuse impacts a child will help the community recognize the negative effects of abuse to seek assessment and help.

Children who are abused may miss developmental milestones, be emotionally withdrawn, sad, worried or afraid, have a poor sense of self, be unable to relax or manage stress, face academic and social challenges or struggle with controlling their emotions and learning right from wrong.

Second, there are key strategies that can help children and youth overcome childhood traumas, as well as discipline techniques that will prevent future abuse and re-traumatization.

All children experience trauma differently. It’s important to be patient with their reactions and remain present. It’s also difficult for abused children to regain trust. Caregivers must be unwavering with their words and create a support network that will allow the child to grieve and express their feelings. Show love and support verbally, physically or through an encouraging note and teach healthy behaviors by example.

Living through abuse or neglect does not mandate a child to a life of poor health or negative behaviors.

Walden believes these children have a greater capacity to experience and offer love, compassion, hope and lessons on resilience to their communities. That’s why they are committed to lowering and reversing abuse statistics by making sure every child has a loving family and environment that not only fosters healing, but also promotes growth and success.

With parents, guardians, and caregivers keenly focused on creating protective environments that promote health and wellness, a child will not only heal, but thrive.

For information about the local child abuse prevention programs available, visit http://www.waldenfamily.org.

Teresa Stivers is CEO of Walden Family Services, a Southern California-based foster care and adoption agency supporting all children, including those with special health care needs and development disabilities, LGBTQ and emancipated youth. Since joining Walden in 2010, she has overseen the launch of programs for young people too old for traditional foster care as well as pregnant and parenting teens.

 

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