By William Vetter, President, Floyd County Child Abuse Prevention Council
In an ideal world, there would be no need for programs to protect children from abuse or neglect.
Children who are raised in safe, nurturing environments are more likely to grow into responsible, productive citizens. However, some families may be experiencing high levels of stress, a sense of isolation and a lack of resources that make caring for their children difficult.
As a community, it is our responsibility to protect the children and ensure all families receive the support and resources they need, before stress reaches the point of child abuse.
Child abuse is defined through state laws, so there is no federal standard throughout the country.
In Iowa, the Legislature defines child abuse to include the following harm:
• Failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for a child’s health and well-being.
• Intended physical injury.
• Sexual abuse of a child.
• Presence of an illegal drug in a child’s body as a result of actions or neglect.
• Allowing a known sex offender, who is not the child’s biological parent or the caretaker’s spouse custody or access to a child.
• Manufacturing a dangerous substance in a child’s presence.
• Mental injury to a child.
• Providing access to or showing obscene material to a child.
How can people help with the prevention of child abuse?
Anything you do to support kids and parents can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse, especially now with tough economic times.
Here are some tips:
• Be a friend to a parent you know, ask how the children are doing or provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to run errands, babysit or fix a meal.
• When you are stressed put your child in a playpen or baby bed until you are calmer. Practice relaxation techniques, or listens to your favorite music. Call a friend to talk.
• Do fun activities with your child, like go to a park, play a game, ride bikes or go for a walk.
• Raise the issue by educating yourselves and other. You can help your community prevent child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place. For example talk to your child about the different types of touches, privacy, and secrets to prevent sexual abuse.
• Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families like parent groups, after school program, Mentoring Program, hospitals, schools, Food Box, Community Kitchen, FOCUS, day care centers, churches and the Floyd County Prevent Child Abuse Prevention Council.
This year the Child Abuse Prevention Council will have Blue Kids on the corners of Central Park with information on Child Abuse.
The council will be running advertisement in different media outlets to raise awareness during the month of April for Child Abuse Prevention.
The mayor of Charles City has proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
There are many other resources in the community that can assist with the prevention of child abuse such as:
• LSI which has the Families Together, Remedial, Early Intervention — which helps with parenting issues and connecting families in the community.
• Early Head start and Head Start- Preschools and in-home services to help with parenting.
• AEA-Early access is an in-home service that helps children ages 0-3.
• Public Health/Vocational Rehab/North Star Community Kitchen/ Food Box.
• Local churches.
• Community Action.
• The Department of Human Services offers many services to help families such as day care, food stamps, reimbursement for mileage for medical appointments when needed, T-19, FIP, Promise Jobs/ FADDS.
• Prairie Ridge.
• Crisis intervention/domestic violence, mental health services.
• Our Kids Count parenting group that meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month.
What should you do if you suspect child abuse? Call the Police Department at 641-228-3366 or Department of Human Services at 800-362-2178 to report abuse.