In federal fiscal year 2004--the latest for which statistics are available--an estimated 3 million children were allegedly abused or neglected and received investigations or assessments by state and local child protective service agencies. About 872,000 children were confirmed to be victims of child maltreatment. (Updated data, for FY 2005, should be available April 2007 at www.ndacan.cornell.edu or www.childwelfare.gov.)
Sadly, these statistics fluctuate little from year to year, and they don't tell us about the child abuse cases that go unreported. What they do reflect is that somebody took the time to report a child in harm's way.
In 2004, human service professionals--including educators, law enforcement and legal personnel, social service personnel, medical and mental health professionals, child care providers, and foster parents--made 56% of all reports of alleged child abuse or neglect. Friends, neighbors, relatives, and other nonprofessionals in our communities submitted all other reports of child abuse and neglect, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
It's heartening to know there are caring adults in our community who are coming to the rescue of hurting children. But preventing child abuse is just as important as reacting to it. Every April for 25 years, communities have renewed their commitment to protecting every child from harm by organizing events and public awareness campaigns around National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
To do their part, many child advocacy organizations have developed their own public awareness initiatives in honor of the month. CWLA asks members and other child advocates to fly a Children's Memorial Flag on the fourth Friday in April. A 16-year-old California youth designed the flag for CWLA, and today communities in all 50 states raise it. Prevent Child Abuse America chapters distribute blue ribbons for friends, neighbors, and community members to wear as a symbol that they want to prevent child abuse, and National CASA chapters promote candlelight vigils, or Light of Hope Events, as awareness efforts in April.
This issue of Children's Voice features articles about how CWLA staff, members, and the general community are doing their part to support the safety and well-being of children all across the United States not just during April, but through long-term projects and organizational goals.
Providing family support services--particularly for families in crisis--is also crucial to preventing child abuse and neglect. In "Loyal to a Cause," we learn how Terry and Faye Zealand are linking families coping with AIDS and HIV to services and opportunities through the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children (ARFC), an organization they founded more than 20 years ago. The Zealands are acutely aware that lacking a support network in times of crisis puts families at significantly greater risk for abuse and neglect. Medical care for infants, afterschool programs for teens, and housing for adults affected by AIDS and HIV are just some of the wraparound services provided by ARFC.
We also learn in this issue that someone doesn't need to work for a child advocacy organization or have a social work background to contribute to child abuse prevention efforts. "In the Garden They Grow" tells us how concerned individuals in communities nationwide have taken up shovels and donned gardening gloves to plant a tree or flowers to honor the life of a child lost to violence and to raise awareness.
We hope these stories will both inform you and inspire you to raise a Children's Memorial Flag this April, wear a blue ribbon, or plant a garden. We also hope if you are a parent you will devote April to showing your child how much you care, or, if you work with caregivers, that you remind them to show their love for their children each day, in some small way.
One helpful resource is a calendar on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website that suggests an activity to do each day with a child. Again, these activities are simple and something anyone can do, including complimenting a child's accomplishment, reading a book with her, leaving a note in his lunch bag, talking with her about what to do in an emergency, looking for figures in the clouds together, or telling him that you love him.