SEATTLE - Communities play a vital role in preventing child abuse and neglect. In light of the series of recent tragic events involving children in our state, the Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect has offered a reminder about the importance of community caring in ensuring child well being.

"Communities and individuals are absolutely vital to the health and well-being of children. Increasing our awareness of the potential signs of abuse and neglect and knowing when and how to report are very important factors," says Joan Sharp, executive director of the Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Know signs of abuse and neglect

Unexplained injuries aren't the only signs of abuse. Depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, lacking sufficient clothing for weather, secrecy and hostility are often signs of family problems and may indicate a child is being neglected or physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Report your suspicions

Anyone can make the call that will save a life. If you have reason to believe that a child has been or may be harmed, call the DSHS toll-free hotline: 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276).

Following are some tips for communities, individuals and families:

Strengthen and help create a caring community.

• Get to know your neighbors and develop friendly relationships. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.

• Help families under stress by offering to baby-sit, help with chores and errands or suggest resources.

• Know where to get help. Find out what services are available for you and your neighbors.

• Find out what prevention coalitions or programs are available in your community and contact them to see how you can volunteer to support their efforts.

While communities play an important role, there are things that individuals can do to help make Washington a safer place for children:

Child advocates offer the following tips for responding to child abuse or neglect in a public place:

Start a conversation with the adult to divert attention away from the child. Say something like, "My child gets upset like that too, I understand how difficult it can be."

Divert the child's attention, if misbehaving, by talking to the child.

Avoid negative remarks or responses, which are likely to increase the parent's anger and make matters worse for the child.

Understand the causes of child abuse and neglect

Most parents that abuse their children don't intentionally set out to do so. Some were abused or neglected themselves as children and have not been able to break the cycle of maltreatment. For others, the many issues facing parents and caregivers today - job stress, poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, illness and disability - limit their ability to parent effectively. Parents who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to abuse or neglect their children.

Understand how to prevent abuse and neglect

If you are a parent, remember that prevention, like most things children learn, begins at home. Be honest with yourself and take time to assess your own parenting skills. Building parenting skills and knowledge of child development are essential components of child abuse and neglect prevention.

If you think there's room for improvement or just want to learn what the latest research tells us is best for children, seek out the resources that best meet your needs. Seeking help when you need it is an essential part of parenting.

Anything you do to support kids and parents can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse and neglect.

Resources:

DSHS Children's Administration:

DSHS Children's Administration is responsible for the investigation of child abuse and neglect complaints, child protection, family preservation, family reconciliation, foster care, group care, in-home services, independent living, and adoption services for children age 0 to 18 years. (http://www1.dshs.wa.gov/ca/general/index.asp)

Parent Trust for Washington Children Family Help Line: 1-800-932-HOPE (4673)

The toll-free Family Help Line can help with parenting information, referrals to community services & support during difficult times. (http://www.parenttrust.org)

Prevent Child Abuse America:

Since 1972, Prevent Child Abuse America has led the way in building awareness, providing education and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation's children. (http://www.preventchildabuse.org)

Talaris Research Institute:

Talaris is dedicated to providing parents, caregivers and parenting professionals with research-based information on how children think, feel and learn. Talaris combines the science of learning with the practice of learning. (http://www.talaris.org)

WCPCAN:

WCPCAN is the state agency charged with leading child abuse and neglect prevention in Washington. Its website (www.wcpcan.wa.gov) contains resources and background information on prevention. Phone calls are also welcome: 206-464-6151.

About WCPCAN

The Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (WCPCAN) was established in 1982 by the Washington State Legislature to serve as a resource to the state ofWashington on child abuse and neglect prevention. Its mission is to provide leadership to and a statewide focus on the prevention of child abuse and neglect, and to encourage and support effective community prevention efforts. Prevention programs funded by WCPCAN provide parenting and life skills classes, support groups, services for families with children who have special needs, crisis nursery care, home visitation and referral to community resources. Additional support for these programs is provided through sales of the Washington State Heirloom Birth Certificate, an official birth document signed by the Governor and State Registrar and issued through the Department of Health. More than half of the purchase price benefits the community-based programs that help to prevent child abuse and neglect in Washington. More information about WCPCAN is available at www.wcpcan.wa.gov.

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Chris Jamieson

Communications Director

Washington Council for Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (WCPCAN)

Children's Trust Fund of Washington

Phone: (206) 389-2412

Fax: (206) 464-6642

Web: www.wcpcan.wa.gov

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