We can all play a role in preventing child abuse

Posted: October 27, 2020

By Karen Spencer Special to Waterloo Region Record

Mon., Oct. 26, 2020 2 min. read

The phone rings. A teacher or neighbour or family member is calling about a child who has been hurt, abused, maybe neglected. One of our workers will go out to speak to the child and family and work on ways to keep this child safe — ideally at home or with family.

But when we see a child who has already experienced abuse or trauma, we often ask “what could have prevented this?” More broadly, as we develop strategies or work with community partners, we ask the general question: “What prevents child abuse?”

There’s no quick and easy answer to that, because every situation is different. We deeply appreciate the many community partners who work with us to help families who are dealing with issues such as poverty, mental health problems or addictions with the goal of allowing them to care for their children safely.

This year, as we prepare for our annual recognition of Dress Purple Day, we’ve come to realize that maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question. It’s not “what could prevent child abuse.” It’s “who could prevent child abuse.”

And the answer to that one is: Us.

All of us.

It’s 2020. Many families are having a difficult time. You know the stories. Some families have a great circle of friends, neighbours and relatives who can help them out when the kids are driving them crazy and they just can’t cope with the stress of pandemic life. Other families are isolated, dealing with mental health issues or just overwhelmed by the long list of challenges of 2020.

Children need a village. That’s become a cliché, but it’s still true. On Oct. 27, we are asking people to let children and teens know that the village is still there. Wearing purple on that day says, to the parent or child who might be struggling: “I’m here to help.”

How can you help? It might be as simple as listening to a friend or family member who needs someone to hear how they’re feeling. It might be helping a neighbour find a resource through Family Compass (www.familycompasswr.ca) — research has shown that more than half of us don’t know where to go for social services.

In some cases, when you are a concerned about a child at risk, calling us at Family and Children’s Services might be the best way to help. We can assess the situation, and perhaps refer the family to another organization or work with them to improve the family’s well-being and safety.

With all of us committed to this cause, we really can create that village around every family.

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Karen Spencer is executive director of Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region.

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