Commentary Search

Child abuse prevention: It only takes a minute

By Russell F. Cook Family Advocacy Outreach Manager

Child safety and well-being is everyone's responsibility, but many times passers-by, friends, community members and even parents are reluctant to speak up. Talking to people about parenting or reporting potential child abuse or neglect can feel uncomfortable. Many people think it's none of their business or that if something is truly wrong someone else will step in. It takes courage to speak up, but it only takes a minute to make a difference. Child safety is your business.

It only takes a minute to reach out to a parent under stress. If you see a parent under stress, offer your help or guidance. Sometimes a frustrated parent just needs a short break or someone to discuss their parenting woes with. Here are some ways you can help a parent under stress:

-Volunteer your time; Offer to watch the child for while the parent steps away to cool off.

-Listen; Have a conversation about what's bothering the parent. Actively listen, reinforce that everyone gets frustrated from time to time and that it's OK to ask for help.

-Point them to the right resources; If the child is under the age of three, the New Parent Support Program can offer support. Your installation Family Advocacy Program or family support center can advise on local and online resources for parent education, family-friendly activities and services for families with special needs. Parents with children of all ages can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for no-cost, confidential non-medical counseling.

It only takes a minute to keep your own children safe. Supervision is key to the safety of children and youth of all ages. Here are some precautions you can take to keep your child safe:

-Avoid leaving your child unsupervised. Contact your family support center or Family Advocacy Program to learn about local guidelines for the safety and supervision of children and youth.

-Make sure your young child is in a safe place like a playpen or crib if you absolutely need to step away for a moment.

-Reach out to a responsible friend, neighbor or babysitter when you need time to yourself. Everyone has moments when they need a break. Make sure your child is cared for during those moments. -Reduce or eliminate electronic distractions when providing care and supervision. It only takes a minute for an unintended tragedy to occur.

-Reach out to any of the resources listed in the section above if you need parenting advice.

It only takes a minute to report abuse or neglect. If you see an unsupervised child, take immediate action. Find the child's caregiver or call local law enforcement for help. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, there are resources you can turn to for help:

-Call 911 or the military police if you are on an installation, and witness violence or know someone who is in immediate danger.

-Call the installation Family Advocacy Program at 456-6595 or the local civilian Child Protective Services if you suspect child abuse or neglect.

-Call your state's child abuse reporting hotline or contact Childhelp at 800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453).

When child abuse occurs, the Family Advocacy Program supports the child victims and provides services to parents. The program helps families develop healthy relationship skills and addresses common relationship and parenting challenges during every stage of life. You can learn more about the program and child abuse prevention on www.militaryonesource.mil.