April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.
When the child next door is maltreated, we all suffer. Every American has a stake in the well-being of our Nation’s children. They are members of our communities, and they are our future. National Child Abuse Prevention Month provides the opportunity to underscore our commitment to preventing and responding appropriately to child abuse. This month, we emphasize the importance of understanding child abuse and the need for all Americans to help families overcome this devastating problem.
The tragedy of child abuse may afflict American children in different ways. Abuse may occur physically, sexually, and emotionally. Child neglect, another form of child maltreatment, may occur physically and emotionally. Understanding the forms of child abuse is critical to preventing and responding to maltreatment.
A well-informed and strong family is the surest defense against child abuse. To help educate and strengthen families, community members can offer their time and counsel to parents and children who may need assistance. For example, parent support groups provide an organized forum for assistance. More informally, community members may simply offer a helping hand to families under stress. More information about what families and communities can do is available at www.childwelfare.gov/preventing.
Civic organizations and government also have an important role to play. Civic groups offer essential support through education, assistance to those at risk, and treatment for victims. Government at the local, State, and Federal level must provide funding for services, conduct public education projects, and enforce child abuse laws.
As we recognize that we all suffer when our children are abused, that we all benefit from mutual concern and care, and that we all have a responsibility to help, more American children will grow up healthy, happy, and with unlimited potential for success.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do more hereby proclaim April 2009, as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I encourage all citizens to help prevent and respond to child abuse by strengthening families and contributing to all children’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
Research indicates that very young children (ages 3 and younger) are the most frequent victims of child fatalities. NCANDS data for 2006 demonstrated that children younger than 1 year accounted for 44.2 percent of fatalities, while children younger than 4 years accounted for more than three-quarters (78.0 percent) of fatalities. These children are the most vulnerable for many reasons, including their dependency, small size, and inability to defend themselves.
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,530 child fatalities in 2006. This translates to a rate of 2.04 children per 100,000 children in the general population. NCANDS defines “child fatality” as the death of a child caused by an injury resulting from abuse or neglect, or where abuse or neglect was a contributing factor.
The rate of child abuse and neglect fatalities reported by NCANDS has varied slightly during the last several years beginning with a rate of 1.96 per 100,000 in 2001, increasing to 1.98 in 2002, 2.00 in 2003, 2.03 in 2004, decreasing back to 1.96 in 2005, and increasing to 2.04 in 2006. It is likely that the slight increase in fatalities reported by NCANDS from 2001 to 2006 is due to improved reporting by some of the States.
Fatal child abuse may involve repeated abuse over a period of time (e.g., battered child syndrome), or it may involve a single, impulsive incident (e.g., drowning, suffocating, or shaking a baby). In cases of fatal neglect, the child’s death results not from anything the caregiver does, but from a caregiver’s failure to act. The neglect may be chronic (e.g., extended malnourishment) or acute (e.g., an infant who drowns after being left unsupervised in the bathtub).
In 2006, 41.1 percent of child maltreatment fatalities were associated with neglect alone. Physical abuse alone was cited in almost one-quarter (22.4 percent) of reported fatalities. Another 31.4 percent of fatalities were the result of multiple maltreatment types.
No matter how the fatal abuse occurs, one fact of great concern is that the perpetrators are, by definition, individuals responsible for the care and supervision of their victims. In 2006, one or both parents were responsible for 75.9 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities. Approximately 15 (14.7) percent of fatalities were the result of maltreatment by nonparent caretakers, and the remaining percentage (9.5 percent) represents unknown or missing information.
There is no single profile of a perpetrator of fatal child abuse, although certain characteristics reappear in many studies. Frequently, the perpetrator is a young adult in his or her mid-20s, without a high school diploma, living at or below the poverty level, depressed, and who may have difficulty coping with stressful situations. In many instances, the perpetrator has experienced violence first-hand. Most fatalities from physical abuse are caused by fathers and other male caretakers. Mothers are most often held responsible for deaths resulting from child neglect (U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995).
Resources on child abuse prevention, protecting children from risk of abuse, and strengthening families. Includes information on supporting families, protective factors, public awareness, community activities, positive parenting, prevention programs, and more.
- History of Prevention Month
- Proclamations and press releases
- Get involved
- 2009 Resource Guide and related materials
- Archived community resource packets
Understanding child abuse prevention and what to do when children are at risk. Includes frequently asked questions and links to related Federal and national organizations and State contacts that work to prevent child abuse.
Information on how to enhance protective factors in families and ways to support and partner with parents. Includes a calendar of family activities and parenting resources.
Public awareness & creating supportive communities
Tools for sharing a child abuse prevention message with your community and building community support.
Standards for prevention programs, research on what works, information on the role of related professionals, and resources for specific types of programs.
Developing & sustaining prevention programs
Considerations for managing a prevention program, including community needs assessments, collaborating with community partners, family engagement and retention, cultural competence, training, and funding.
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