Your involvement is needed in child abuse prevention

Published 9:30 am Thursday, April 18, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Barb Sorum

April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. As I ponder what I could possibly say that would help you understand how important it is for all of us to do what we can to prevent child maltreatment, it’s actually quite simple. Community! I’ve spent the past 20 years working with Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, learning, teaching, presenting, meeting incredibly dedicated people, while helping mentor Minnesota communities in best practices of child abuse and neglect prevention initiatives. But, what has remained the most important aspect in my life are my family, my friends and my supportive community. Freeborn County has been my home since birth.

Barb Sorum

Barb Sorum

I’ve had the opportunity to publicly share my childhood experiences, struggles parenting five children, and now watching them parent my beautiful grandchildren. The support of my siblings, close friends and the family enhancement systems available throughout Freeborn County were all instrumental in helping me become a strong healthy parent. We’re naturally taught how to parent by the way we were parented. When that example is negative, abusive or neglectful, we then have the obligation to our children to learn a more nurturing, understanding and positive way to parent.

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Successful initiatives to help create healthy communities where children and families thrive need community members, business leaders, agencies, faith-based groups and families to work together to make lasting improvements to the community’s infrastructure. Partnerships are a great way to make communities more supportive to families and help ensure child, youth and family well-being. Many life events bring stress and risk into a family’s life — domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, loss of a job, foreclosure, having a child with special needs, even just the process of entering into parenting for the first time.

Some tips to help you keep your family strong follow specific proven protective factors such as:

• Nurturing and attachment: Take a few minutes at the end of each day to connect with your children with a hug, a smile, a book or a few minutes of listening and talking. Find ways to engage your children while completing everyday tasks (meals, shopping, driving in the car). Talk about what you are doing, ask them questions, or play simple games (such as I Spy).

• Knowledge of parenting and child development: Explore parenting questions with your family doctor, child’s teacher, family or friends. Subscribe to a magazine, website or online newsletter about child development. Take a parenting class or parenting support group (most are free or have sliding fee scales). Sit and observe what your child can and cannot do. Share what you learn with everyone who cares for your child.

• Parental resilience: Take quiet time to reenergize by taking a bath, writing, reading, laughing, etc. Engage in some type of physical exercise, walk, stretch, do yoga or lift weights. Share your feelings with someone you trust. Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself.

• Social connections: Participate in neighborhood activities such as potluck dinners, street fairs, picnics or the annual family fun fest. Join a playgroup or online support group of parents with children of similar ages. Find a faith-based community that welcomes and supports parents.

• Concrete supports for parents: Make a list of people or places to call for support. Ask your child’s school to host a resource night so you and other parents can see what help your community offers. Dial 2-1-1 to find out about organizations that support families, or contact the United Way of Freeborn County.

• Social and emotional competence of children: Provide regular routines, especially for young children. Make sure everyone who cares for your child is aware of your routines around mealtimes, naps and bedtime. Talk with your children about how important feelings are. Teach and encourage children to solve problems in age-appropriate ways.

Why you should care

Child abuse hurts. Children who are abused suffer physically and emotionally. Families and communities suffer too. Child abuse is a community problem. It can lead to violence, alcoholism – and more abuse. These problems affect everyone in the community. Communities that support families can help break the cycle. You can make a difference by working together.

Abusers often love their children — but they may get overwhelmed with stress and lose control. Many were abused or witnessed abuse as children. Some parents may have unrealistic expectations for their child’s behavior and abilities. They may punish behavior that is a natural part of a child’s development. Alcohol and other drugs impair a person’s ability to act as a responsible, caring parent. They can also make it harder to control emotions, especially anger. Problems with work, money or relationships can strain family life. If a parent or caregiver has trouble managing stress, it can lead to maltreatment.

Abused children may believe that they are worthless or bad in some way. Victims may have trouble trusting others. As a result, they may have problems with friendships and intimate relationships as adults. Victims may suffer from anxiety or depression as adults. They are also at higher risk for substance abuse and other health problems. Children learn that violence is the way to solve problems. They are more likely to turn to violence and crime as they get older — and they may become child abusers themselves.

For additional information you can contact me at 507-383-8842 or
Barb Sorum is the director of program data and evaluation for Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota.


Freeborn County receives Blue Ribbon Award

Freeborn County was among 25 counties and two tribes in Minnesota that were awarded the Blue Ribbon Award from Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota The Blue Ribbon Award is presented annually to recognize communities that exemplify a strong commitment to preventing child maltreatment through collaborative efforts of public, private, nonprofit and local services and activities.

How you can help

• Know the warning signs of abuse and report them to authorities.
• Be alert.
• Learn positive parenting skills.
• Know when and where to get help if you need it.
• Reach out to your neighbors.
• Most important (and easy), you can offer assistance when you see a parent struggling, or a stressful situation exculpating between an adult and child.