Local Resources for Preventing Child Abuse
In Virginia, a child is abused or neglected every 75 minutes, and every 14 days a child dies from such mistreatment. However, despite this alarming statistic, Virginia's child maltreatment rate of 3.6 per 1,000 children is significantly lower than the national average, at 10 cases per 1,000 children. According to Virginia Performs, the Commonwealth's approach in emphasizing parental outreach and education as well as protection of abused children has been attributed to the lower rate.
What is Child Abuse?
Under the law, an abused or neglected child is any child under 18 whose parent, or any other person responsible for the care of the child:
- causes, or threatens to cause, a physical or mental injury except for an accident.
- fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or caring support.
- abandons the child.
- fails to provide the kind of supervision necessary for a child's age or level of development.
- commits, or allows to be committed, any illegal sexual act involving the child — including incest, rape, fondling, indecent exposure, prostitution — or allows the child to be used in any sexually explicit visual material.
A variety of resources are available to Virginia families. Preventing Child Abuse Virginia (PCAV) offers a wealth of information to families. Locally, the Rappahannock Area Council For Children and Parents (RACCAP) provide services that support our resident community.
1. Healthy Families Virginia. A program offered in 33 communities across the state that connects parents of newborns with a variety of supportive services, including — for the most overburdened families — a free-of-charge home visitor who assists the family before the child is born until the child enters school. The program has been proven to reduce child abuse and neglect and increase children's access to routine health care and immunizations.
2. Hugs and Kisses. PCAV co-sponsors this renowned child sexual abuse prevention play in partnership with Theatre IV (now the Virginia Repertory Theatre) and the Virginia Department of Social Services. Developed 35 years ago to teach elementary school children how to keep safe from, and to report, sexual abuse, the play reaches more than 50,000 Virginia students each year.
3. Circle of Parents. The Circle of Parents program, a nationally recognized, evidence-based program offered by the RACCAP provides parent support services. Circle of Parents provides a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers. Sue Parr, the executive director of the RACCAP, says, "The parents meet and are facilitated by one of our staff and a parent volunteer. It's something to help them from feeling isolated. They have someone else in the community that shares their issues and concerns, and they can work their problems out with the support group."
Circle of Parents groups meet weekly, are free-of-charge and serve those parenting children of all ages and families of all types. Parr noted that anyone is welcome to join the meetings. For further information, you can contact RACCAP at 540-372-1149
4. Nurturing Parenting Classes. The Nurturing Parenting Program, also offered by the RACCAP, is a family-centered initiative designed to build nurturing parenting skills as an alternative to abusive and neglecting parenting and child rearing practices. While some clients are referred to the classes, Parr adds, "We also take anyone who is interested in improving their parenting skills. Some of our clients are people in our community who are just interested in becoming better parents." Nurturing Parenting is a 15-week class that meets one night a week. Classes are available in English and Spanish.
5. 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373). PCAV's statewide, toll-free helpline is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Trained call specialists are available to discuss parenting issues and help callers (parents, caregivers, concerned citizens or professionals) explore solutions.
Virginia also maintains a 24-hour hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect. You are not required to give your name when you make the report, but if you do identify yourself, the local department of social services will be able to contact you for further information if needed and will be able to inform you of actions that were taken. The number is:
Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.