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Child Abuse and Neglect

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Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse is an ugly thing: this is a fact that most of the world can agree on. However, there is a form of child abuse – the beatings with objects, the hitting and physical abuse – that is most prevalent in the media and dramatized in movies and shows. In these depictions, child abusers are usually very sketchy men or ugly, overweight females who tower over victims. And while there are cases that conform to these stereotypes, the majority of child abuse is neglect, which more subtle and often slips under the radar of so many.

Child abuse statistics can be quite staggering:

1 in 7 children are victims of abuse or neglect

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse

16% of children experiencing abuse experience multiple forms of abuse

76% of children experiencing abuse are victimized by a parental caregiver (2018)

Child neglect is the failure of parents, or caregivers, to provide the essentials that are needed for a child to grow and be healthy. During the first years this means providing sufficient breast milk or formula, diapers and a safe place to sleep. It also means providing adequate medical care. Neglect does not hinge on intent: some parents may neglect children due to addiction, toxic domestic relationships, or their own mental health issues. For others, it is a question of access and the ability to afford all that a child may need.

Unfortunately, children with lower socio-economic are up to 5 times more likely to be abused. I have seen throughout my career that families often are not the stereotypical abusers present in the media. They are parents who are drowning in stress and debt, doing the best they can with what they have, but often not able to make the best choices for themselves or their children. It’s not an excuse, it’s an observation. Love is often deeply flawed, and I do believe without a doubt that the majority of parents who victimize their children do indeed love them.

But being a parent is hard and it can become an impossible task for parents experiencing issues such as addiction, domestic abuse, homelessness or mental health issues. This is why parents need not only financial safeguards, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children – supplemental nutrition program) but social safeguards to check in on them. Provide a mental health break, a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. When parents are cared for and supported, they can take care of their children better.

This is why it is so important that community members – neighbors, friends, acquaintances – report child abuse and neglect. While DCFS (as it is know in Illinois) is highly flawed, at the core it is meant to protect children AND provide resources to families so that they can do by their children.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, please call: 1-800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873)

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