April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Each year, over 600,000 children in the United States experience abuse or neglect, ushering many of them into the dependency of court and foster care systems. A child in foster care, on average, will move into multiple homes and attend multiple schools. All this chaos and inconsistency has long-term effects.
According to the Center for Disease Control, at least one in seven children have experienced abuse and/or neglect in the past year. Rates of child abuse and neglect are five times higher for children in families with low socio-economic status compared to children in families with higher socio-economic status. Children and youth who have spent time in foster care are more likely to face incarceration, homelessness, and unemployment. They are less likely to graduate high school and more likely to be trafficked.
CASA of Caroline supports and promotes volunteer advocacy so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe and have a permanent home as quickly as possible to thrive. But thriving families depend on strong support systems. Support can come from family, friends, neighbors and others in the community. We all have a responsibility to keep our eyes on children in the community and report abuse and neglect so that social services and others can intervene to help the family. To do that, we all need to be aware of the warning signs of child abuse and neglect.
- Unexplained or suspicious bruises, welts, burns, or fractures
- Unkempt or malnourished appearance
- Depression, anxiety, or sudden mood swings
- Disturbed sleep
- Abrupt changes in behavior (eating habits, school performance, withdrawal, aggression)
- Fear of a certain person or place
- Self-harm or suicide attempts
- Wetting or soiling accidents not related to toilet training
- Pain during urination and/or bowel movements
- Unusual knowledge of body parts or sex
- Acting out sexually with toys or other children
The police are not out knocking on doors to make sure every child is safe. It is incumbent on all of us to keep our eyes on children and report any suspicions to the authorities. If you suspect a child in Caroline County is experiencing abuse or neglect, call the Caroline County Department of Social Services at 1-800-917-7383 or the Caroline County Sheriff’s Department at 410-479-2515.
To show support for preventing child abuse, join CASA of Caroline in the Denton Community Garden, located between 3rd and 4th Streets in Denton on Wednesday, April 5 at 4:30 p.m. for the third Pinwheel Planting Ceremony. The Town of Federalsburg and the Federalsburg Lions will also be holding a Pinwheel Planting Ceremony on Thursday, April 6 at 4 p.m. in the Men for Change Garden, located on the 100 block of North Main Street beside the Federalsburg Town Hall.