Child Abuse and Prevention

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April is Child Abuse and Prevention Month. According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, 128,005 children were referred to local Department of Social Services agencies for possible abuse and neglect in the state fiscal year 2013-2014. An economic analysis released by Prevent Child Abuse America in May 2012, estimated the annual nationwide cost of child abuse and neglect at $80,260,411,087. The report estimates, North Carolina’s annual share is $2,057,467,000 for 2012. Regardless of the dollar amount, every child deserves to have a great childhood and when kids get a good start in life; it paves the way for a more prosperous future.

We hear so many times that only “bad people” abuse their children, it’s not always the case. Not all abusers are intentionally harming their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem.

While physical abuse might be the most visible sign and it might be the most shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious. Child abuse is more than bruises or broken bones. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid is also child abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is “serious emotional harm”.

Abused children cannot predict how their parents will act. Their world is an unpredictable, frightening place with no rules. Whether the abuse is a slap, a harsh comment, silence, or not knowing if there will be dinner on the table tonight, the end result is a child that feels unsafe, uncared for, and alone.

Parenting can be challenging. When we begin a new job, we receive training and instructions and even a set of rules or guidelines to go by, but when we become a new parent, we receive no such training. Some caregivers never learn the skills necessary for good parenting. Children don’t ask for much; they need predictability, nurturing, structure, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the biggest step to getting help. If you yourself were raised in an abusive situation, that can be extremely difficult. Children experience their world as normal. It may have been normal in your family to be slapped or pushed for little to no reason, or your mother was too drunk to cook dinner. It may have been normal for your parents to call you stupid, clumsy, or worthless. Or it may have been normal to watch your mother get beaten up by your father. This is “NOT” normal. It is only as adults that we have the perspective to step back and take a hard look at what is normal and what is abusive.

Remember, you are the most important person in your child’s world, you are the role model, and ask yourself “what kind of child do you want to produce”. Let’s stop the abuse” it’s worth the effort to make a change, and you don’t have to go it alone. Help and support are available.

For additional information, contact Shirley Smith, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, at the Hoke County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension at 875-2162 or email Also, a national hotline is available by calling 1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368) or for additional information visit the website: