An Associated Press analysis has found that reports of child abuse plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, as children are out of the public eye and away from usual reporters of welfare problems. The AP analyzed more than a dozen indicators. (March 29)
“Kasserian Ingera” is a traditional greeting of the Masai Tribe warriors of Kenya, Africa, which translates to, “how are the children?” The accepted response is, “all the children are well,” which I interpret as a profound recognition that all children deserve a life of well-being — to grow, to learn, to thrive and to be loved. Children are the present and the future. I believe a universal and shared value is that all children and their families ought to be well and our community has a vital role in achieving this reality.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month — an opportunity to raise awareness and take action to prevent child abuse and neglect every day. In observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Board of Larimer County of Commissioners (BCC) and our Department of Human Services (DHS) staff wish to highlight key takeaways for folks to consider.
How can child abuse be prevented?
Strengthening families to ensure children grow up safe and healthy benefits our entire community. Child abuse prevention starts with one person who sees a family or child and recognizes that something isn’t right. All residents, community-based organizations, businesses, public and private-sector institutions play a role in preventing child abuse that influences children’s lives now and into adulthood.
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Recently the BCC signed a proclamation declaring April 2021 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Larimer County, urging “all residents to engage in activities that strengthen families and communities” that provide a supportive environment to encourage health, resiliency and to work together to help others who are in need.
Child abuse, neglect signs to look for; where to get help in Missouri
Child abuse includes physical, sexual, emotional and medical abuse, as well as neglect. Learn about signs, risk factors and how to get help in Missouri
Services offered to help
Our DHS Children, Youth and Family Division provides essential child welfare and protection services, and all of these services continued during COVID-19, including virtual settings when appropriate. In some instances, we saw increases in the number of people participating in facilitated family meetings and ongoing support for families. Larimer County practices effective and innovative approaches to serving families focusing on prevention and trauma-informed care. We are working hard to connect families in need of resources with community partners to keep everyone in the family supported, safe and together. Being informed about a family’s past challenges and traumas, and how these affect their futures, is an important first step in stopping the cycle of abuse.
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COVID-19 has posed challenges to serving families, but challenges can become opportunities to help children and youth in new ways. While these are difficult times for many, there is reason to celebrate how we are making a positive difference in young lives. For example, Larimer County was one of only nine counties in the nation — and the only one with a child welfare agency — that was awarded a five-year federal grant, Supported Families, Stronger Communities. This program provides early intervention and prevention services to reduce child maltreatment, supporting families in navigating services, increasing support for children and families, and other promising practices focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and living experience.
You can help prevent child abuse and neglect. Get to know your neighbors and neighborhood; stay connected with your child’s school and learning. Volunteer and participate in community events that benefit children and families, advocate and know what resources are available. After all, we’re all in this together.
John Kefalas is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County.