Giving back is a common theme among people who are on the path to financial freedom. One way to give back with a real impact is to find ways to support young people. Their experiences today shape not only their future but the future of the whole world. There are many ways to support children and teens, and getting to know organizations that work to prevent child abuse is an important, albeit difficult, place to start.
I sat down with Daphne Young, the Chief Communications Officer from Childhelp, to learn more about child abuse, how it impacts our country, and how people in the community can partner with Childhelp to do more for young people.
What is Child Abuse?
To confront the topic of child abuse, we have to be willing to have difficult conversations. Part of having conversations on how to prevent child abuse means that we need to understand exactly what child abuse is.
Childhelp defines child abuse as the action or a lack of action of a caregiver that leads to the risk of harm, actual harm, or even the death of a child. While many people think of physical abuse, there are many forms of child abuse that Childhelp addresses. Forms of child abuse include physical injury, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and spiritual abuse.
In cases of physical injury, a parent or caregiver causes a non-accidental injury to a child. While pop culture often showcases this with bruises and broken arms, Daphne cautions people to take note of smaller clues.
A girl who wears long sleeves all summer even in peak heat could have injuries lining her arms or a boy who is reluctant to put on shoes might be suffering from burns on the soles of his feet. Taking the time to notice small oddities that catch your eye could be lifesaving in many instances.
While it is difficult to know how many children are currently suffering abuse, 29% of adults report having been physically abused when they were younger.
This type of child abuse involves a child who is used for sexual purposes. Daphne stresses that adults can perpetuate sexual abuse, as can older and more powerful children.
Peer-to-peer abuse is something else for people to be on the alert for. Approximately 20% of adults report having been sexually abused as children or teens.
Emotional abuse is one of the hardest types of abuse to prosecute because there is often very little evidence. However, that does not mean it is insignificant.
Daphne says that not only can it impact someone’s entire life, emotional abuse also accompanies every other type of abuse. For instance, a child who suffers physical abuse almost always suffers emotional abuse in tandem.
Though opposite from many of the other types of abuse, neglect is just as harmful. Neglect stems from inaction, unlike other types of abuse that are based on purposeful and harmful action.
When a parent or caregiver doesn’t provide proper care, supervision, health, or safety, those are forms of neglect. The total absence of love and attention is also a form of neglect, as are withholding medical care or schooling.
Childhelp also focuses on spiritual abuse. Sometimes, they will receive information about children who have had the “Devil beaten out of them,” Daphne says.
Childhelp works to reconnect children with their faith in a way that is healthy, holistic, and true to that faith, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Native American faiths, and many more.
How Many Kids Are Affected?
Part of understanding how to stop and prevent child abuse involves understanding how many kids are affected by it. Daphne says that unfortunately, that is the great unknown. In many ways, child abuse is the best kept secret in America.
While it is difficult to get clear data about the amount of abuse happening now, we do know what is being reported. Daphne shares that a report is made every 10 seconds and that there are 5 deaths per day related to child abuse.
Nationally, there are nearly 4 million maltreatment referrals that impacting more than 7 million children. Of those 4 million referrals, over 3 million are acted upon. Daphne explains that means that the reality is so horrible for those children that action can be taken based on the report.
Ultimately, the true number of kids impacted by child abuse will likely remain unknown. Oftentimes, it happens at home and without other witnesses. That leaves many kids suffering in the shadows. The impact it has on our country is significant. Fortunately, there are opportunities for people to make a difference.
How Does Child Abuse Affect Our Country?
Child abuse has far-reaching impacts on our country. Experts talk about “ACEs”, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. Essentially, various childhood experiences influence the health and well being of individuals over the course of their lifetime.
The severity of the experiences often leads to ailments, diseases, and even early death, and child abuse is one of the most severe experiences someone can have. Even if children become adults without suffering any long-term physical consequences from the ACEs, they are more likely to give up on themselves, their health, and their wellness.
In fact, the CDC emphasizes that early adversity can ripple into virtually every facet of life. From mental health and maternal health to infectious disease and risky behavior, these ACEs–including child abuse–impact them all. It is also worth noting that this adversity often impedes the education of children, which in turn, limits occupational opportunities and influences their earning potential and income.
Altogether, child abuse puts a tremendous strain on survivors. This strain starts when they experience the abuse and can last a lifetime.
How Does Childhelp Prevent Child Abuse?
Childhelp employs a multipronged approach in order to prevent child abuse.
To stem current abuse, Childhelp has both intervention and treatment programs. Daphne says that Childhelp created villages to help kids heal from the inside out.
In these residential treatment facilities, children and teens access art and animal therapy. They also attend non-public schools. Childhelp also supports children’s advocacy centers, foster care, group homes, and adoptions.
In addition to the in-person work they do with young people, Childhelp also has national programs, including a hotline and an education program.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline serves the United States and Canada 24/7. The main goal of the hotline is to prevent child abuse. A confidential call to the hotline can connect someone with information, crisis intervention help, and even referrals. The hotline is also looking to expand into text and chat options.
The Speak Up Be Safe program from Childhelp delivers prevention education curriculum to the ears, eyes, and minds of young people. This program informs children about body safety and explains how to share concerns with safe adults. Each grade level receives tailored lesson plans to make sure that the information is age-appropriate and impactful.
Giving Back to Prevent Child Abuse
Many people and families who are pursuing debt freedom and financial independence are interested in giving back. Whether you are interested in charitable giving or becoming a community advocate, you can take steps today to help prevent child abuse in your community.
Support Childhelp by Giving Back
One way that you can support child abuse prevention and survivor support efforts is to support Childhelp through charitable giving. 91 cents of every dollar donated to Childhelp goes to children in their care.
Recently, Childhelp created a new critical relief fund. This fund addresses needs specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, children and teens may find themselves trapped with abusers. This fund allows child welfare workers to provide immediate assistance.
Become a Mandated Reporter of the Heart
Concerned citizens can also provide critical support in another way. Daphne says that you want to see your community with thoughtful eyes and an open heart.
She gives a recent example of someone who noticed their GrubHub orders going missing. Eventually, they noticed that a child was taking the food. Once they connected with Childhelp, they realized the true problem. A child started taking food because they were abandoned in the apartment complex. The hotline worker helped the individual inform the necessary people in the community to come out and offer assistance to the child and their siblings.
If you see something, trust your gut. Call or to get support from a child welfare expert who can help you with the next steps.
Related Article: How to Make Charitable Giving a Family Tradition
Final Thoughts on Childhelp and Preventing Child Abuse
Children are the future. Though child abuse is a difficult topic, it is important to understand what child abuse is and how it affects all of us.
Collectively, we can take steps to prevent child abuse. To get involved with Childhelp, visit childhelp.org or call their hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.