July 21 is National Be Someone Day, day to take a pledge to make a difference in a child’s life and report child abuse when you see it.
So what is child abuse? Most people understand it to be physical violence against a child by an adult in a position of trust. In child abuse cases, you will often see visible evidence such as bruises, burns, or swelling.
But sometimes, abuse isn’t physical.
When a parent or caretaker neglects a child’s needs, places them in unsafe situations, exposes them to sexual activity, or causes them to feel worthless – this is also abuse. The signs are not as visible, but the trauma is still there. And it still leaves a lasting effect on the victim.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse childhood experiences can give way to a range of long-term health problems.
It is everyone’s job to protect our community’s children.
Speaking up when you suspect a child is being abused or neglected is something you absolutely should do. Calls are taken 24/7 to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. The number is 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) and your request can be anonymous. The hotline also has a website with a wealth of information including signs and behaviors that may indicate abuse. Find that website here.
What if you’re not sure and are worried that your call will make unfair accusations against an innocent parent? Trust your gut and call anyways. All you are doing is making a phone call. The professionals on the other end of the line – they will be the ones making decisions.
Not every call results in an open case or a child being removed from their home and placed in foster care, but it does happen. At any given time there are approximately 900 children in the Pikes Peak Region living in foster care.
When these kids enter the child welfare system, they face an uncertain and scary time. They lose touch with what is familiar and often change homes, schools, routines, and more. They may lose contact with friends and teachers and may separate from their siblings. The system is designed to keep them safe and put them on a path toward a better life, but it’s still hard. And it’s still true that children who experience abuse and neglect are at risk for repeating the same mistakes made by their parents – repeating the cycle of abuse, violence, or addiction.
You can help break the cycle in Colorado Springs.
In addition to calling the hotline to report concerns, there are other ways community members can help our children overcome the toxic stress they’ve already experienced at such a young age.
Volunteer for CASA of the Pikes Peak Region: After completing a training process, CASA volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court and assigned a foster child. The volunteer will advocate on the child’s behalf and their knowledge about a specific child’s case helps the judge make decisions that are in the best interest of that child. Research has shown that foster kids with CASA volunteers are more likely to succeed in school and adjust to change. Find out more about becoming a CASA volunteer at www.casappr.org.
Become a Foster Parent: Foster parents can provide loving homes for children who need a stable environment to live in a while their parents work through treatment plans and learn to become the parents that their kids deserve. Colorado has a huge need for foster families and you can learn more about fostering in Colorado here.
Guest post courtesy of Keri Kahn with CASA of the Pikes Peak Region