A special gathering of child advocates helped launch Child Abuse Prevention Month with an event to kick off April. Neil White, who tells the stories of Children’s Trust, covered the awareness-raising occasion.
Child Abuse Prevention Month began Monday, April 1, when Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette hosted a press conference at the Governor’s Mansion to raise awareness about the importance of preventing child abuse and neglect.
Gov. McMaster read his official proclamation (PDF) that emphasized the seriousness of child abuse as a public health issue and promoted the importance of statewide and community prevention programs as the most effective way to reduce child abuse and neglect.
“We need to have a full assault of education, information, collaboration, cooperation, sympathy, and understanding in order to eradicate this scourge in South Carolina,” McMaster said.
Children’s Trust, the state-legislated child abuse prevention organization, works in coordination with local child-serving organizations across the state to break entrenched cycles of abuse and neglect and bring about lasting change. Lt. Gov. Evette has supported this work since taking office in January.
“Our children are our biggest blessing; they are our greatest asset. They are the future not only of our state, but of our nation. We want to make sure we protect this important treasure,” Evette said. “This is something that’s happening in our churches, in our families, in our neighborhoods. It’s not something we can push off. We need to be educated. We need to catch families when they’re vulnerable, when they’re at risk, before they enter our state systems.”
All the speakers pointed to the significance of individuals, families, child-serving organizations, civic leaders, government agencies, businesses, schools, and faith-based groups all working together to promote the physical, emotional, social and educational well-being of every child in the state.
“Children’s Trust works upstream – before the crisis of abuse and neglect ever happens,” Williams said. “We focus on two-generation strategies, working with children and their families, to break generational cycles of abuse and neglect and bring about lasting change for children – and their children. We believe prevention is the most cost-effective and efficient way to address abuse, and it is the best investment we can make in our future.”
There are many root causes of abuse, including poverty, lack of education, unemployment, domestic violence, substance use and misuse, social isolation, mental illness and homelessness. Adverse childhood experiences can lead to poor health and social outcomes into adulthood, which is why addressing childhood trauma through prevention is so crucial.
“When parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children, child abuse and neglect are prevented,” Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland, said. “These positive conditions – protective factors – can serve to prevent children’s exposure to traumatic events. … We know that there are a number of promising programs in our state within DSS, Children’s Trust, the Department of Mental Health and other entities to help families build resilience and prevent exposure to adverse childhood experiences.”
Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, pointed to bills making their way through the current legislative session that assist in providing data and bolstering evidence-based programs to support families and children.
“Fortunately, today we have better research than ever to help us target the behaviors that lead to trauma and abuse,” Shealy said. “We finally have the ability to help families in need so that children never have to experience child abuse. If we invest more in prevention efforts, we will save money in the long run, yes, but more importantly, we will save lives.”
Tecoria Jones, a parent of six children ages 2 to 20, spoke on behalf of South Carolina parents. She has become involved in several Children’s Trust initiatives – the S.C. Child Well-Being Coalition and our parent advisory councils – as a way to inform more parents across the state about the significance of prevention in our communities.
“Now as a parent, there are a lot of times I don’t know what I am doing,” Jones said. “Some days that statement applies to just about every moment I spend parenting. You need two tests, a permit and a license, to drive, but when you get the paperwork on a baby, you’ve already been making some high-level parental decisions, from nutrition to proper development to special needs to the importance of self-care. All parents need certain factors to protect their children in order to provide a safe and happy, now and ever after, future.”