Families First Ready for National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April
Most of us can’t imagine it happening, yet child abuse can take place anywhere in our community—even next door. The neglect or abuse of a child can be devastating, usually affecting the child throughout his or her life and levying substantial financial impact upon our community. Families First of Palm Beach County provides programs and services designed to create a safe and nurturing home environment for our children. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month—a great reason to get to know Families First of Palm Beach County.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month was created by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and other agencies to raise awareness about the vulnerability of children and what we can do to protect them. Beginning with the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, social welfare agencies have worked tirelessly to protect children from abusive situations through a many-pronged approach that focuses upon home and community education. This year’s resource guide, “Building Community Building Hope” was designed to support community–based child abuse prevention professionals like those who work at Families First.
The numbers remain staggering. Last year alone, there were 761 verified cases of child abuse in Palm Beach County! Of these cases, 442 involved children ages birth to five years old, 177 affected children six to eleven years old, and 142 children ages twelve to seventeen were placed in foster care.
In 2016 there were 761 verified cases of child abuse in Palm Beach County.
Moreover, every child who is removed from the child welfare system and kept safe in a loving home environment saves taxpayers up to $102,960 in costs of foster care, school failure, future involvement in the criminal justice system, and dependence on public resources as an adult.
These alarming numbers demonstrate precisely why Families First key programs—such as Healthy Families, Child First, and the Kin Support Project—deserve the public’s attention and support. Healthy Families is a nationally accredited, voluntary parent support and coaching program that aims to prevent child abuse before it starts. Expectant parents and parents of newborns work with the Families First staff to learn how to manage the stress of parenting while encountering life’s challenges.
Every child removed from the child welfare system saves taxpayers up to $102,960.
According to Healthy Families Florida, “By teaching parents about child development, age appropriate activities and appropriate discipline techniques, our family support workers help break generational cycles of child abuse.”
Child First teaches both children and their parents to build strong bonds of trust and instill nurturing relationships within the home, especially in the face of domestic and financial challenges. Based on studies that link damage to a child’s developing brain with a toxic home environment—one laced with violence, neglect, mental illness, or substance abuse—the Child First program connects families with much needed community services and constructs or reconstructs solid parent–child relationships.
The Kin Support Project is an innovative program that supports nontraditional parents, especially when a child has lost a birth parent to death, incarceration, or incapacitation. The program offers information about community services, economic assistance, and family health insurance, among other resources. Kin Support advocates will attend school meetings with the child and his or her guardian; walk through services, such as Legal Aid and Medicaid; and facilitate small group peer gatherings so that these “non-expectant” parents can learn about modern parenting techniques and, as importantly, understand that they are not the only ones faced with this situation.
Of the 761 verified child abuse cases in Palm Beach County, 442 children ages birth to five years old, 177 affected children six to eleven years old, and 142 children ages twelve to seventeen were placed in foster care.
The work of Families First goes well beyond its support programs. For example, the website offers “Parenting Tips,” a series of suggestions that parents can employ to avoid making a violent choice. The fifteen tips range from the obvious, “Take a deep breath,” to the more nuanced, “Do some sit-ups or jumping jacks” and “Turn on some favorite music,” all with the hope of a more measured and positive outcome.
“Parenting Tips” extend to communication with one’s teenagers—at some point, a challenge for almost every parent. The Families First staff recommends familiar responses, such as letting them get more sleep—because they need it—to recognizing the difference between giving advice and actually listening. Abandonment and inadequate supervision were the primary reasons for removal of eleven- to eighteen-year-olds last year. Opening lines of communication and better understanding of tweens and teens provides a great first step toward curbing this disturbing trend.
Economic struggles have steadily increased for those near or in poverty. These pressures often result in a lack of supervision and even anger from the primary parent, resulting in physical abuse or neglect. National Child Abuse Prevention Month aims to educate all Americans about this tragic issue and on the resources available to prevent this epidemic from spreading. Families First of Palm Beach County is fully committed to reducing child abuse in our region this April and every other month of the year.