April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month blue ribbons will be placed on trees at the Abbott House encouraging individuals and organizations to play a role in making South Dakota a better place for children and families. Abbott House will also participate in various child abuse awareness activities in the Rapid City area.
Children thrive when they have nurturing, supportive relationships and interactions with the adults in their lives. Like the process of serve and return in a game of tennis, children of all ages naturally reach out to the adults in their lives. When those adults respond in a caring, nurturing and supportive way, children thrive.
In 2016, there were 1,246 victims of abuse or neglect in South Dakota, a rate of 5.8 per 1,000 children according to the Child Welfare League of America. This is an increase of 16.1% over 2015 numbers. Of these children, 89.6% were neglected, 11.2% were physically abused, and 4.5% were sexually abused. Four children died from abuse or neglect reported in South Dakota in 2016.
When children are abused or neglected they are in a constant state of stress. In the absence of supportive relationships to help buffer the stress, they can have a toxic stress reaction. When this happens, harmful chemicals flood the child’s brain and body causing damage to the developing brain architecture, disrupting normal child development. This leaves children vulnerable, causing many of them to adopt risky social and health behaviors, such as smoking, sexual promiscuity at an early age, and illegal drug and alcohol use, among others. These risky behaviors lead to poor physical, emotional, and mental health and even early death.
“Abbott House is using blue ribbons, the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention, to bring attention to the responsibility each of us has to the children in our community and our state,” Eric Klooz, Director of the Abbott House said. “Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and supporting families.”
There must be a continuum of services available in communities to ensure all children have the opportunity to grow into contributing citizens. When communities are successful in assuring that children have the environments and experiences necessary for their healthy development, the next generation responds to that effort with a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship, Klooz said.
When parents have the knowledge, skills, resources, and social support they need they are better able to provide the safe, stable, nurturing environments their children need to thrive. This knowledge helps stop abuse and neglect before it occurs.
“We hope this effort will remind everyone that supporting our children is essential to our future and to their future,” Klooz said.