Pause for a Child is the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund’s call to action for the month of April. April is Child Abuse Awareness month and by pausing for a child, the trust fund is encouraging us to intentionally take the time to ensure the wellness of children by responding to our kids and doing our part to strengthen all families.
Child abuse and neglect is an issue that for many of us seems to be more about other people. I would say that many of us believe that being abusive or neglectful to children is something we don’t have to worry about. We may utter statements like, “I would never hurt my child,” or “I would never leave my child with a person I didn’t know.” We may make judgments about parents who abuse or mistreat their children: “You have to get a license to drive, but anybody in this country can be a parent!” And we may become outraged when we hear about children being abused, abandoned or killed. Yet when we hear the term child abuse and neglect we turn away, or avoid the topic because we feel it does not pertain to us.
Last week I received a call from a mother who was seeking help. She stated that she was struggling with her 12-year old son who was not only acting up at home but getting in trouble at school. She clearly felt overwhelmed as she reported that she had never had this kind of problem with him before and really wasn’t sure what to do. She mentioned that she spanked him for the first time because she was simply at a loss. As we talked, one of the things I admired about her was that she was not looking for a “quick fix” for her son but really wanted to find a way to be a good parent and deal with this current challenge. She was reaching out for help and for ideas.
Reaching out and asking for help is a big step. Many parents who abuse or neglect their children fail to take this step, either because they don’t see the problem for what it is or because they don’t know who to call. Stories and mug shots on the news of parents, guardians or “boyfriends” who abuse or neglect children are far too common. Certainly someone in the lives of these children had to see something, some indication that the children were at risk? Obviously parents are the first line of defense; they are the ones who need to protect their children. Is anyone else to blame? If we turn away and do nothing, are we to blame?
I do not believe that we can stop everything bad from happening. I do, however, believe that we can help prevent more than we do. The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund wants us to PAUSE, pay attention and do what we can to help strengthen our families. The mother who called me the other day paused and took the time to seek help and I paused from my work to listen and offer what I could – and maybe this will make a difference for that child and that parent.