by: Ally Peters
Posted: Apr 21, 2022 / 11:17 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 21, 2022 / 04:50 PM EDT
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Every child deserves to live in a safe environment, but unfortunately, not all do. Each year, hundreds of thousands of children are victims of abuse across the United States.
Child abuse comes in several forms, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Children can also experience neglect, which can be equally damaging.
“Child Abuse is shockingly common. I think that people tend to think of it as a rare social problem, but it’s actually very prevalent across populations and certainly in this community,” said Deb Rosen, the Executive Director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center.
To help prevent abuse, Bivona works with schools throughout Monroe County to provide prevention education, starting in kindergarten.
“We provide them with evidence-based lessons about how to keep themselves safe, not only from child abuse, but other forms of personal danger, including bullying, cyberbullying, and digital dangers,” Rosen said. “We’re working really hard to equip the students of Monroe County with information that will help keep them safe.”
Rosen says roughly 1 in 10 children will be victims of child abuse before they turn 18. In some areas, that number is even higher.
Children of any background or socioeconomic status can be a victim of child abuse. However, pediatrician Jeff Kaczorowski says he sees poverty be a huge stressor for families.
“Kids are the poorest and most diverse segment of our society. One measure of poverty is the number of kids who are on Medicaid and in New York State, about 50%, half of kids, are on Medicaid,” Kaczorowski said. “It’s almost 60%, for young kids between zero and three.”
Kaczorowski, who works with the Children’s Agenda in Rochester, says they try to make sure there are policies and systems in place to support families as soon as they leave the hospital.
“It’s hard to be a parent of a young child, it’s hard to be a parent of a newborn baby, especially if it’s your first time being a parent,” Kaczorowski said. “So, a lot of the work that we do at the Children’s Agenda is trying to put in systems of support for parents, so that they know that there’s help, they know the places that they can turn.”
Kaczorowski said there are two great programs in Monroe County. One is the Nurse-Family Partnership, where trained nurses will visit one’s home throughout their pregnancy and until the baby is 2-years-old.
“It has been shown over time, unbelievably, to prevent 75% of abuse and neglect that happens for young children,” Kaczorowski said. “It’s a long-standing program run by the Department of Health in Monroe County. It’s been here for over a decade.”
There is also the Roc Family TeleConnects program, which is in partnership with New York State and the health insurer, Excellus. The program provides families of newborns with Telehealth visits to see how they’re doing.
“Do they feel safe in their neighborhood? Is there violence in their home? How is mom doing in terms of her mental health?” Kaczorowski said. “We know that postpartum depression is a is a significant issue for many women, as many as one in five, and during the time of the pandemic, that number even got higher.”
Experts say no matter the support system used, preventing child abuse is incredibly important because abuse can impact a child’s ability to succeed in school or forge healthy relationships. It can also have lasting impacts on adult life, like heart issues, substance abuse or suicidal ideation.
“People tend to have the misconception that child abuse is something that can be forgotten, or something that’s put into the past. The reality is that child abuse has lasting impacts throughout the lifespan,” Rosen said. “Child abuse has severe psychological and emotional impacts that are closely associated with subsequent emotional disturbance and mental illness.”
Some signs of child abuse can include visible injuries or children withdrawing. If you suspect a child is being abused, experts say you should call 911 or the state’s child abuse hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
“There are lots of places to turn, no one should ever feel alone,” Kaczorowski said. “In our community, we’re so fortunate to have a great network of pediatricians and family medicine doctors.”
Monroe County also has several programs to support families. You can find a list of those here.
The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.