April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month; a time when communities come together to raise awareness of the impact, prevalence and factors that contribute toward child abuse. Child abuse is a complex problem that requires a local, state and national strategy to successfully shift the tide.

According to the 2016 Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities Report: Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, “every day, four to eight children in the United States die from abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or caretakers. No one knows the exact number, and there has been little progress in preventing these tragic deaths. Most of the children who die are infants or toddlers.” Additionally, according to the Florida Critical Incident Rapid Response Team Advisory Committee 2015 Report, “overall, child deaths in the State of Florida typically involve a child age 3 or younger and involve a variety of different manners of death, ranging from unsafe sleeping, drownings, natural causes, inflicted traumas, SIDS/SUID, and accidental trauma.”

Based upon research findings it is evident young children are at greatest risk of physical harm and injury and in the most tragic situations even death; armed with this information it is apparent citizens play a vital role in the identification of risk factors that place children in harm’s way. Programs such as Healthy Start, Healthy Families, the CSSP Strengthening Families Initiative and the 5 Protective Factors, Brevard C.A.R.E.S., DCF Protective Investigations, and services offered by Children’s Services Councils and Community Based Care agencies all provide a framework and support for at risk families to promote healthy outcomes of children. Long term solutions to positively impact this national problem requires a coordinated effort where all local citizens become involved and educated.

As stated in the Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities report, the research found that “no single agency, working alone, can be expected to possess the expertise required to effectively eliminate all child abuse and neglect fatalities. Responsibility for protecting children must be shared among many sectors of the community, all working together, to strengthen prevention and early intervention, surveillance, CPS agency intervention, and cross-system collaboration.”

Child abuse prevention begins with each one of us and branches out beyond our personal sphere of influence to the community at large. Every day each one of us encounters neighbors, family members, colleagues, and those who cross our path who may be experiencing stressors. A small random act of kindness and support can make a meaningful difference in the life of an innocent child. As we commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month and throughout the year let’s make it a priority to, as William Author Ward states,

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.”

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”   — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman


Patricia Nellius