Advocate staff report
Each year, child advocates devote the month of April to bringing awareness to how all Kentuckians can do their part to help prevent child abuse.
Jill Seyfred, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, said the month is designed to celebrate the things communities can do to become places that actively support families and children.
“By ensuring all parents in our communities have access to resources such as quality childcare, parenting education classes and tips, and substance abuse and mental health programs, we make progress toward what the month stands for: Child Abuse Prevention,” she said.
Cities and towns that work to create good school systems and to ensure affordable housing is available in safe neighborhoods are less likely to see stressed, isolated families who don’t know where to turn, Seyfred said.
When a community cares about early childhood development, that community’s students are more likely to come to school ready to learn, she said.
“We know, for example, that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can be responsible for not only an increased likelihood of criminal behavior, but also increased substance abuse, health problems such as heart disease and obesity, and increased likelihood of risky behavior such as smoking,” Seyfred said.
To prevent those negative outcomes, children need a healthy environment, something child advocates attempt to foster by supporting protective factors which include:
• Parental confidence and knowledge
• Strong bonds between parents and children
• Family social connections – to decrease isolation
• Family knowledge of child development
• Effective problem solving and communication skills
• Concrete support in times of need
• Children who are socially and emotionally capable
Child Abuse Prevention Month is about fostering those protective factors that will hopefully prevent child abuse from happening in the first place, Seyfred said.
“So this April, learn more about what you, your school, and your community can do to support child abuse prevention,” she said. “It’s a shared responsibility and we are stronger together.”