No one should simply shake their head and sadly lament the horrific story of child abuse that afflicted Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old child.
Instead of passive despair, let this tragic incident serve as a galvanizing call to action for us to commit to ending abuse and securing the safety and future of every child, because, child abuse doesn’t just happen in Minnesota, or in poor communities, or to single parents. It happens everywhere, even in Wilson County, and there is something that this community can do about it.
Yes, we can end child abuse. We can end it when we all become advocates for children.
For some of us, that advocacy comes in a formal role. Teachers, child care workers, health care providers and others who come into daily contact with children can be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect. Their actions to
report suspected abuse or to offer extra time and attention to fragile children can do more than make a difference. It can save lives.
Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers also put their passion for the well-being of children into action. Assigned to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, CASA volunteers make sure kids don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service systems or languish in unsupportive foster homes. Volunteers stay with children until their court case is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. This can be weeks or many years.
For many abused children, their CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence in their lives.
A CASA volunteer’s intense advocacy can break the cycle of abuse and neglect. When children grow up in homes where their only adult role models respond to them with violence and disregard for their needs, they repeat that cycle with their own children. When a CASA volunteer intercedes, it not only changes the course of one child’s life, it makes an impact for generations.
Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer – although Wilson County CASA certainly welcomes more caring adults into its volunteer ranks – but everyone can be an advocate. Here are a few steps you can take to make our community safer for our children.
• Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, many of which appear before an obvious physical mark: lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression, poor hygiene, or watchfulness, as if waiting for something bad to happen.
• If you think a child is being abused or neglected, report your suspicions confidentially to the toll-free child abuse hotline at 1-877-237-0004.
• Take new or stressed out parents under your wing. Offer to babysit, run an errand or share your own challenges and insights about being a parent.
• Volunteer your time and/or donate to community programs that support children and families.
Your advocacy for children not only will help end child abuse, it will improve our community for everyone who lives here. Studies have shown that children who are abused and do not get the support they need to heal are
more likely than other kids to drop out of school, end up homeless, turn to crime, and rely as adults on social welfare programs. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives and your tax dollars.
There are many life threatening and incurable diseases that sadly afflict children. But we have the cure to child abuse. It lies within each of us. Now is the time to act. CASA Volunteer training begins Oct. 29, 2013, and it is not too late for you to join and change a life.
Laura Swanson is the executive director of Wilson County CASA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-443-2002.