Poverty and child well being – how you can help!

In early 2016,  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  recommended that all pediatricians screen for poverty in children, hoping to reduce the toxic effects of poverty on children’s health.  AAP researchers produced a policy brief that is a must-read for any student of health, economics or public policy, but it contains important lessons for all of us.

 Poverty weighs on parents in ways both subtle and obvious. For example, a Yale study found that low income mothers who could not afford diapers are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety interfere with the ability to respond emotionally to a baby and such response is a most critical role of a parent to help promote early brain development. Poor nutrition, substandard housing, and living in a high-crime neighborhood – all side effects of poverty – place burdens on a child’s physical and mental health.

More than a quarter of the population of Philadelphia, including one-third of all children, live below the poverty level, and Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 10 largest cities.  Poverty is not always obvious; the economic downturn of recent years has brought poverty to suburbia in unprecedented numbers.

While the AAP recommends specific screening tools for pediatricians to use in their practices, each of us can look closely to see where we might lend a hand. Decades ago, if a neighbor noticed a hungry family, she might send over a casserole; now, too often the temptation is to call Child Protective Services and report neglect. It’s time to reverse that practice. Each of us can offer compassionate and dignified support to a friend, neighbor, or relative who may need it. A meal, a week’s worth of groceries, a carton of diapers now and then can make a difference to a family.

Years ago when my son was around 12-years-old and I was a divorced grad student, my son spent an afternoon at the home of a friend. When I went to pick him up, I learned that he had enthusiastically eaten anything and everything the hostess Mom offered. Hostess Mom gently suggested that if there wasn’t enough food in my house, she’d be happy to send an extra lunch to school each day with her son for mine. She didn’t know that I had good job, and my son was just being a voracious pre-teen, but her concern, compassion, and tact could be a model for anyone. If being that personal doesn’t suit your style, support efforts of your religious community or local anti-poverty organizations who share the mission of alleviating the effects of poverty on a child’s development.

Some pediatricians may respond to the AAP’s recommendation by noting how little time they already have to spend with patients and the increasing demands placed on their practices. Perhaps as the health insurance industry recognizes the toxic, long term effects of poverty on child health poverty screening will be come as routine as vison and hearing screening.

In the meantime, “screen” the children and families in your life to see where you can help. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, the perfect time to ask yourself what else you can do to support the great childhoods all children deserve.

Rosenzweig is also author of The Sex-Wise Parent and The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children. For more information, read her blog  and follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter.

 

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/How-we-all-can-fight-the-effects-of-poverty.html#RjmKYU0VMdMyRR8P.99

Want to help prevent child sexual abuse?  Plan now for an April event!

Want to help prevent child sexual abuse? Plan now for an April event!

If you’ve ever felt like child abuse, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault were such HUGE and overwhelming problems that one person could never have an impact, now is the time to get over that misconception.   For more than two decades, April has been designated child abuse prevention month and it is now also designated as and sexual assault awareness month.  Tens of thousands of people will focus on these issues in April;  if you choose to add your voice it  will be amplified by a chorus from like-minded people.    April is is the ideal time to organize colleagues and friends to plan community events like workshops to support parents, advocacy events to help change laws, conferences to help professionals do their jobs, and special displays of parenting books in stores and libraries. All of these can help promote strong and safe families, communities and institutions. Here’s some help to get started:

Step 1: Find partners

Look for like-minded people to form a work group; check out your religious institution or your local schools’ PTA/PTO. Try the local department of public health, the rape crisis center, or child protection agency and ask for the outreach coordinator. These public agencies often have advisory boards comprised of citizens, a great resource to tap.

Step 2: Find a champion

Find an ‘honorary chair’ — a high profile person to lend their name and credibility to your cause and event. This is generally easy since elected officials of all stripes want to be associated with protecting children and keeping families  and communities strong.  If you get lucky, an elected official might offer time from a staff member to support the event.

Step 3: Make the plan

With your partners and champion identified, decide together what you want to offer your community. My personal preference is for events for parents. My experience proves that parents are concerned about promoting the sexual health and safety of their kids, ensuring the sexual climate of their school and other institutions is healthy and that the community has resources. With parents on the planning committee, you’re sure to be able to tap into the concerns of your local parents and plan an event that meets their needs.

Check with your library to see  if the youth or reference librarian can curate a special collection of resources for parents; they can highlight information about your event next to the special display. The librarian may even be able to find a local author who could offer a reading and a book-signing!

Consider working with an agency to honor their volunteers; I’ve seen wonderful events where people come out to see  volunteers honored and also get to hear a program where they learn how to promote sexual health and safety in their family and community.

Step 4: Find the resources

Volunteer support might can often be found in the local high school as many now have a ‘service learning’ requirement and young people are looking for meaningful projects! Similarly, Greek organizations at a local college and youth groups at religious institutions can be a great source of help to raise funds and awareness supporting your cause.

An event does not have to be very expensive; a speaker and refreshments may cost a few thousand dollars but sponsors are generally easy to find. Like elected officials, businesses want to be associated with a popular issue like safe kids.  Many communities have public grant money that they can spend on community involvement. These public agencies can help:

  • Find your state’s Rape Prevention and Education coordinator here:
  • Find your states Children’s Trust Fund here
  • Find your states Child Protection Services agency here:

Non-profit organizations, like Prevent Child Abuse America support special events in April and you can find your local chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America here:

Step 5: Need individual help?

Contact me at DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com, visit my webpage or my page at APB Speakers.

Take advantage of the national voices being raised in April and promote safe and healthy children, families and institutions in your community!

What can you do for Child Abuse Prevention Month? Here are 10 (PLUS!) good ideas to get started!

What can you do for Child Abuse Prevention Month? Here are 10 (PLUS!) good ideas to get started!

April is designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States, and it serves as a reminder that everyone can help keep all children safe and healthy.   Plan now and be part of this national effort on behalf of kids and parents!

And here’s more ideas, sent to  me by colleagues — can we add yours? tweet to @SexWiseParent

Support The Innocence Revolution — a global day to end child sexual abuse.

Read The National Plan to Prevent Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children — and ACT!!!

Please — don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference!

 

What counts in child abuse prevention? A call out to public officials

So what if April is Child Abuse Prevention Month? It seems not only as though every month is dedicated to somebody’s favorite cause, but also that attention to social issues runs in cycles.

But that’s not true for me — child welfare and protection have been the center of my career in public administration, and I ask my colleagues to take a minute and hear me out.

One evening, I was in the audience for a panel discussion about performance management in the public sector that featured speakers from the offices of several governors. My inspiration came not from the stage, however, but from a fellow member of the audience.

While discussing how to use performance monitoring systems in public social service agencies to manage response times to reports of child abuse and caseload sizes, a representative from one state repeated several times that “child abuse prevention is a very high priority.” But she was mistaking investigation  for prevention and this is a mistake that too many of us make far too often.

Standing next to me was a fellow Harvard MPA candidate,  a high- ranking official with the New York City Fire Department and a 9/11 first responder. “Joe,” I said, “when you dispatch a unit to put out a fire, would anyone ever dare to call that fire prevention?”

Of course state agencies have an obligation to protect children. And of course the public should be pleased that the national reports are showing some small declines in the number of child abuse cases.  After all, state and federal tax dollars have been supporting child protection services systems for three decades now and we should expect to see some results.   But millions of kids are still at risk and the effects are awful.

Here’s my Child Abuse Prevention Month challenge to public administrators:  Along with counting how a public agency responds after someone reports that a child has been injured, how about if we start counting a few other statistics:

  • Like how many parents have access to information on how to calm a crying baby?
  • Or how many new parents are served by a trained family support worker to help them through those confusing and sleep-deprived first few months of parenthood?
  • And how many parents have a job paying a living wage from an employer with family-friendly policies?
  • And how many adults in a community know how to recognize the sign that a pedophile is operating in their midst?
  • And how many courts determine the status of dependent children before a parent is jailed?
  • And how many communities support quality sex education, one of the best defenses against child sexual abuse?

Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that the U.S. spends more than $100 billion each year on the effects of child abuse and neglect.   The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that the lifetime cost from a single case of child maltreatment exceeds $210,000. Preventing child abuse is not only the right thing to do, it’s cost effective public policy.

Every aspect of public administration touches the lives of children and families, and we could all do a better job keeping children safe, families healthy and communities strong.

It’s Child Abuse Prevention Month: Do you know an Ashley Judd?

The woman seemed to have it all — beauty, talent, a show business pedigree, a high profile loving spouse. A few years ago she chose to disappear from public life and seek the answer for her unhappiness. She has emerged as an ambassador, spokesperson and hero to victims of sexual victimization of all kinds and with a degree from my alma mater, Harvard’s Kennedy School.

I saw Ms. Judd on TV as part of the book tour for her new autobiography, All That Is Bitter and Sweet. Judd shares her journey though awful memories of repeated sexual victimization. I become breathless with fury to learn that her pleas for help from the adults in her life were ignored.

One of the most difficult things a child victim can do is speak out. It is an act requiring bravery beyond imagination. The majority of perpetrators are known to or part of the family and the child knows at some level that relationships will forever be altered. Almost universally, victims feel as if they are to blame for some aspect of the abuse. These are among the huge emotional barriers a child must cross to seek help. It seems cruel beyond words to imagine a child taking that leap of faith only to find nothing on the other side.

Decades after child protective services became a routine part of public service in our country, after every state passed laws requiring people to report abuse, we are STILL living in a world where children have salt rubbed into their wounds of abuse by adults who look the other way.

I recall going into a school decades ago to interview a young girl who had called the sex-abuse helpline that I staffed. When the school secretary heard the name of the child we were looking for, her response was to ask if this was because of what her uncle had been doing to her. I could not then, and cannot now comprehend the cruelty of an adult sending a child home from school each day knowing she faced sexual assault.

Ashley Judd said that she learned an important lesson; to give the shame back to the abuser. I say shame on every adult who sees a child in pain and turns a blind eye.

Things are a little better now than they were all those years ago when I walked into that school; many schools do a great job helping their personnel know the proper response when they believe a child is a victim. I had hoped by now that we could spend Child Abuse Prevention Month focused on REAL prevention, like supporting community norms that do not tolerate the sexualizing of children, or ensuring that parents have access to good information about how to teach their children about healthy sexuality and keeping lines of communication wide open, or promoting evidenced based prevention strategies.

But if you know a child bearing the pain of abuse, honor Child Abuse Prevention Month by helping him or her get help. And then support efforts in your community for real prevention programs.

Real Prevention………

So what if April is Child Abuse Prevention Month? Every month is dedicated to somebody’s favorite cause, and we all have a really short attention span. Child abuse and neglect seem to be under the radar right now. We can all be thankful  when we have a week or month  without reports of  tragic deaths or damning reports of bad decisions by  public agencies.   But lately, not a week goes by that another person in the spotlight reveals a childhood histort of sexual abuse —  movies stars, CNN reporters,  sports heroes — .  Thier honesty reveals that no one is immune; thank goodness for thier courage to make this  issue public.  I have an instinctual response to scream as loud as I can every year as April approaches to remind every single person that  children are abused and violated daily, and less than 1/3 ever come to the attention of authorities, fewer yet get the help they need.

I capped more than two decades in public human services and child welfare work by spending six years as the executive director of the New Jersey chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America (http:// www.preventchildabuse.org). I found amazing volunteers, professionals, philanthropists and public officials throughout our state who really believe in building stronger families and communities.

I left PCA-NJ  to study  at Harvard’s Kennedy School learn with and from the best and the brightest in public administration. One evening, I was in the audience for a panel discussion about performance management in the public sector that featured speakers from the offices of several governors. My lesson  came not from the stage, however, but from a fellow member of the audience.

While discussing how to use performance monitoring systems in public social service agencies to manage response times to reports of child abuse and caseload sizes, a representative from a Western state repeated several times that “child abuse prevention is a very high priority.” I am a dedicated advocate for prevention and yet I found this statement to be distressing in ways that eluded words. Standing next to me was a fellow Harvard student, a  high-ranking official with the New York City Fire Department and a 9/11 first responder. I looked over at him and finally found the words to explain my frustration. “Joe,” I said, “when you dispatch a unit to put out a fire, would anyone ever dare to call that fire prevention?”

I fear that  in too many communities, people acknowledge child abuse prevention month by reminding people to  report suspected cases to authorities……Of course state agencies have an obligation to protect children. But real prevention is measured by  a great deal more than a decrease in the number of reports to Child Protection.

Along with counting how fast a public agency responds after someone reports that a child has been injured, how about if we start counting how many parents have access to information on how to calm a crying baby? And how many new parents are served by a trained family support worker to help them through those confusing and sleep-deprived first few months of parenthood? And how many parents have a job paying a living wage from an employer with family-friendly policies? And how many child-care centers have the resources to offer parenting support groups? And how many schools understand the meaning of supporting a healthy sexual climate for their students and staff?  And how many communities support quality sex education, one of the best defenses against child sexual abuse?

Here’s my basic metric for government: Is every child attached to at least one adult who has available all the resources it takes to raise a healthy, productive member of society?

Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that the U.S. spends more than $100 billion each year on the effects of child abuse and neglect. From the cost of operating the child protection services in each state  to crowding our special-education programs and juvenile justice systems with victims, the maltreatment of our children brings immense human suffering and public costs. The resulting failed adult relationships, poor parenting skills and diminished aspirations caused by irreparable injury to vulnerable little egos are not limited to the low-income families more likely to come into contact with the public systems. We all suffer when families and communities fail their children.

Who is going to show that they  know the difference between fireproofing a home and dispatching a ladder truck? This April when we hear about Child Abuse Prevention Month,  in memory of martyred children named Faheem, Nixmarie, Jessica Lauren, Bill Z  and so many others, let’s think about also counting and doing the things that can make a difference;  supporting families and  strengthening communities.  Preventing the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of all children is a worthy goal — what do you need to do your part?