April was first declared Child Abuse Prevention Month by presidential proclamation in 1983. Since then, April has been a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse. In Child Maltreatment 2011 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau) it was reported that in FFY 2011 in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, an estimated 676,596 children were victims of child abuse; and 1,545 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. The majority of child abuse cases stemmed from situations and conditions that can be preventable when community programs and systems are engaged and supportive. A community that cares about early childhood development, parental support, and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to foster nurturing families and healthy children.
A body of research has identified factors known to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect. These factors—including parental resilience, nurturing and attachment, social connections, knowledge about parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children, and concrete supports for parents—are outlined in Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013 Resource Guide, also developed by the Children's Bureau.
The future prosperity of any community depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. When a community invests wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. Yet, when not all children have equal opportunity for healthy growth and development — due to experiences of child abuse and neglect — we put our future at risk.
While April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, you can make a big difference year-round through small acts that help protect children, strengthen families, promote traits that help protect families — and, ultimately, prevent the abuse and neglect of children.