Apr. 1, 2021 | By Jeremy Waller, MBA (Marketing and Community Outreach Manager – Behavioral Health)

Introduction

You might notice blue pinwheels placed outside homes and businesses as you go about your community this month. The pinwheels symbolize National Child Abuse Prevention Month which begins today.

In this blog article, we’re going discuss National Child Abuse Prevention Month, including why it matters, how IMPOWER helps with child well-being and current trends we have been seeing related to child abuse.

We will also share resources and helpful links throughout, and teach about risk factors and signs related to child abuse.

About National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Why It Matters

According to the Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Information Gateway, “National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of communities working together to help families thrive and prevent child maltreatment. During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to increase awareness about child and family well-being, and work together to implement effective strategies that support families and prevent child abuse and neglect.”

The theme for this year is “Thriving Children and Families: Prevention With Purpose.” You can find more information here about the campaign.

The importance of preventing and understanding child abuse cannot be understated. Child abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, is a type of Adverse Childhood Experience or ACE.

Such experiences have long term and lasting negative effects on individual mental health and wellbeing. Sadly, depression, anxiety and suicide are all too common as a result of such experiences.

Other consequences include difficulty building and maintaining relationships, trouble holding down a job and struggles with connecting and trusting others.

Sadly, 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states recently reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.

In Florida, anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 children between ages 5-11 are reported as experiencing child abuse each year.

However, those numbers only reflect what gets reported. That is why it is essential that everyone keep their eyes out for risk factors and signs of child abuse.

It is important to know that all of us are reporters. The most vulnerable and silent need us to be vigilant and aware.

Common risk factors are parental stress, substance use and poverty. Signs very depending on the type of abuse, but often include withdrawal from friends or usual activities, changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance, attempts at running away, self-harm, anxiety, unusual fears, not wanting to go home, poor hygiene and others.

Just as the factors that can contribute to child abuse are varied, so must be the response. As Ernest Jones, Director of Child Well-Being at IMPOWER, emphasizes, “The more eyes the better.”

It is important to know that all of us are reporters. The most vulnerable and silent need us to be vigilant and aware. If you believe a child has been harmed, you can use the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline here.

IMPOWER’s Role

At IMPOWER we work with what is called “intake and placement.” Our staff who work in this area receive calls from agencies and often child protection investigators at DCF about children in need of a foster home.

These are children whose relatives are unable to take them in. Our team then seeks out suitable foster and group homes for them within Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. Placement is based on finding the right fit for each child based on their age and specific needs.

Sometimes we also work with children who are in need of relocating to another foster home. In such instances we work to find another successful placement for them.

Recent Trends

Over the last four months (from November 2020 through February 2021), we have seen an average increase of 25% each month in the number of children we have helped through intake and placement.

Though the month is not over as of the writing of this article, March looks to continue the trend. We asked Ernest Jones, to chime in again and share some insights about this…

“When COVID-19 first hit we thought the number of children being placed into foster care would increase. However, the numbers actually went down. It was sort of a Catch-22. People who would’ve normally checked on kids and kept there eyes out weren’t due to the lockdowns. So reporting went down. Its interesting because its great when numbers go down, but the reality is that its actually not necessarily a good thing in this case. Now, since things have been opening up more, reports are going up each month because more people are watching again.”

Conclusion

In this blog article we looked at the importance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We saw that there are some key risk factors and signs associated with child abuse.

We also looked at IMPOWER’s role through intake and placement into foster and group homes, and lastly we discussed how the number of children submitted to us for placement has been on the rise as COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

We hope this article has helped teach you more about child abuse. We encourage you during National Child Abuse Prevention Month to remember that we are all reporters.

By the way, did you know that in 2020 IMPOWER created 140 forever families through finalized adoptions?

If you are interested in providing a “forever home” for a child in the foster care system, please call us at (321) 634.6047 ext. 2056, email adopt@impowerfl.org or visit here for more information.