April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. In its 34th year, this year’s theme is, “Building Community, Building Hope.”
Child abuse and neglect affects all communities, regardless of social, cultural, or racial differences. In 2012, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children made up a slightly higher percentage of substantiated reports of abuse or neglect (1.2 percent) than their percentage of the general population (1 percent of the total child population in the United States).
“The removal of generations of children over time has disrupted once well-established and venerable parenting practices. To this day, historical trauma continues to intensify contemporary traumatic experiences for Native children and families. Contemporary society creates numerous contexts for exposure to violence by AI/AN children including those who witness domestic violence, those who are victims of child abuse and neglect, and those whose caregivers are debilitated by substance abuse and addiction while living in households that struggle with multigenerational and pervasive poverty.”
Because historical trauma is experienced by so many tribal communities, this month is important to build awareness about abuse, promote prevention, and connect people to essential services which, in turn, support healing and well-being in our children and families.
Many tribal communities hold family and community events during the month of April to share information about the services available to reduce child abuse and neglect; reduce the stigma of poverty; and encourage keeping kids safe, reporting abuse, and reaching out for help for victims of abuse:
- Community days: Encourage families to come out together, spend time together, and have fun in a safe family-friendly environment and restore connections between the younger generations and our elders.
- Open houses: For family centers or other community services/facilities.
- Community walk/jog/run events: To promote healthy lifestyles/family activity.
- Pinwheel garden dedications: Community members can dedicate a pinwheel, a national symbol for child abuse prevention, and “plant” it to be displayed for the month of April.
- Family game nights: Share some time together in a healthy fun environment.
- Family powwow Fitness events: Live fitness instructors or “Powwow Sweat” or other powwow fitness videos are played to promote fun and fitness and help people learn some new dance moves!
- “Prevent Abuse Door-To-Door Campaigns:” Family services department staff go door-to-door in their neighborhoods to distribute prevention materials. They:
- Promote community members to take an active part in preventing child abuse by becoming our “brother’s keeper” and reporting any suspected abuse or neglect to the proper authorities, and
- Ask community members to become a mentor to a child or family who is having difficulty and work together to improve their life.
As we head into Child Abuse Prevention Month, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and our partners in the First Kids 1st initiative urge you to find out about the events and initiatives happening in your communities. If there isn’t an event already planned for your community, consider holding an event, getting involved with a local prevention or support group, or print some resources about child abuse prevention and ask to display them in your community center, health service office, daycare, or workplace. These events are a great way to share successful initiatives for keeping kids free from abuse and neglect. Every child is sacred.
Some resources for finding local events are included here. Get involved! Contact your tribe to find out about events this month, and head out to one or create one!