Factors contribute to well-being of children
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and create strong communities to support children and families.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, increasing public awareness of the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children led to the passage of the first federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974.
National child abuse prevention awareness was first the focus of a week-long campaign in 1982. The following year, April was named National Child Abuse Prevention month.
Today, HHS’s Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families is the federal agency charged with supporting communities in providing programs and services to protect children and strengthen families.
According to the HHS, there are five protective factors, or conditions in families and communities, that when present, increase the health and wellbeing of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.
The first factor is nurturing and attachment. A child’s early experience of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance and protection.
The next factor is knowledge of parenting and of child youth development. Child abuse and neglect are often associated with a lack of understanding of basic child development or an inability to put that knowledge into action. Timely mentoring, coaching, advice and practice may be more useful to parents than information alone.
Parental resilience, or the ability to handle everyday stressors and recover from occasional crises, is the next factor. Parents who are emotionally resilient have a positive attitude, creatively solve problems, effectively address challenges and are less likely to direct anger and frustration at their children.
The fourth factor has to do with the social connections made by a child. Evidence links social isolation and perceived lack of support to child maltreatment. Trusted and caring family and friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family.
The last factor addressed is the lack of concrete support for many parents. Many factors beyond the parent-child relationship affect a family’s ability to care for their children. Parents need basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to essential services that address family-specific needs, such as child care and health care, to ensure the health and well-being of their children.
According to the DHH, research has shown that these protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect.
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