April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance is working hard to raise awareness, educate individuals on the warning signs of child abuse and how to report it.
Though reports of child abuse dropped between July and December of last year, things are not always as they appear to be. CEO Angela Liddle explained that the numbers can be deceiving, as due to shutdowns, children were exposed to fewer people who would normally serve as mandatory reporters.
“I think we could make an assumption, that since more and more schools have been opening up, we’re expecting to see an uptick in reporting,” said Liddle. “It’s a concern to see a decrease, because we know it’s not an accurate depiction of there not being abuse and neglect.”
Less exposure to mandatory reporters wasn’t necessarily the only thing affected by the pandemic, Liddle explained.
“The message is clear that we’ve become really numb to statistics and numbers throughout the pandemic,” she said. “The number of cases, the number of deaths — it kind of makes us numb. When you mention child abuse numbers, 4,865 cases and 51 fatalities in 2019, it seems like that’s a low number, but child abuse isn’t like a silent, invisible virus. It’s a societal health issue that can be prevented with education and support.”
The PFSA offers a wide variety of trainings, for both professionals and community members, to help identify and report child abuse, including the Front Porch Project, which, according to the organization’s website, “provides community members with the knowledge, training and encouragement they need to take an active role in preventing abuse and neglect before it occurs.”
The trainings are all currently virtual, so this is a great time for those interested to look through what is offered and to register. For more information on available training and programs offered through PFSA, visit https://pafsa.org/. The website also provides information about recognizing abuse and neglect, along with many other resources.
Liddle also discussed how there has been a trend in cases centered around neglect over the past few years, especially during the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, when children are not in school or when childcare centers are not open, members of the community began seeing kids that aren’t receiving adequate supervision,” she noted. “We also saw, over the summer months, more cases of children who’ve ingested cleaning solutions and prescription and over-the-counter medications — that’s a reflection of inadequate supervision.”
As the weather continues to get warmer, Liddle said that community members will most likely begin to see instances such as these increase.
If one sees signs of child abuse or neglect, you don’t need to have proof or be 100 percent certain in order to report it.
“You should act in good faith and report it if you genuinely believe there is a concern for the child’s safety,” said Liddle.
Reports of child abuse and neglect can be made, anonymously if desired, to Childline at 1-800-932-0313, which can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
From Bradford Journal, April 5, 2021