Public Awareness

Play it Safe!

Development Coordinator & Child Advocate Amanda White has been busy this week presenting the Play it Safe program to Chillicothe Middle Schools 7th and 8th graders as well as Spickard School. Play it Safe is a prevention program that covers Cyberbullying and Sexting. If you are interested in more information on this preventative program please feel free to contact us at anytime

 

Play it Safe


What does Valentine's Day mean to you?

Most of us associate Valentine’s Day with love, hearts, and flowers. It’s a day normally spent with one’s significant other celebrating love. But this Valentine’s Day, I would like to ask you to include in your celebration of love, the love that we all have for children.

So, today we’d like to ask you a question… What are you doing to keep the children that you love safe?

Children consume approximately 25% of the U.S. population, but they suffer higher rates of victimization and crime than adults. That being said, 1 in 4 children will experience some type of trauma or victimization before they reach the age of 16. This widespread victimization is responsible for a variety of physical and mental health related consequences affecting children well into their adult years.

However, much of the abuse and trauma experienced by children can be prevented. And we like to do our part to help.

One would hope that we are in agreement that there is nothing more precious than the love of a child. Keeping kids safe is our sole mission, but it’s also a job for parents, schools, and communities as well. We may not be able to completely stop abuse, but together we can make a difference!

What can you do this Valentine’s Day to show your love for children?

If you work for a school or youth serving organization, visit www.ncmochildren.org to learn about our programs. Show your love for children by teaching them how to help adults keep them safe.

If you are a parent, share information about our programs with your child’s school. Show your love for them by learning as much as you can!

Every child deserves to be safe! As adults, it’s our job to teach them how! It’s our job to LOVE them!


Helping Kids Understand Feelings

COVID-19 has put unique stress on the ways children and families are able to experience emotions. With having to adapt to learning from home, missing friends, and having to avoid in person social activities. it is still important to help children continue to understand and process their emotions. 

Activities:

  • Encourage imaginative play
  • Create flash cards with random words and have children tell a made up story using the word
  • Read books together. While reading ask the child to describe emotions characters may be feeling during the story
  • Practice breathing exercises and mindfulness activities

Apps (free):

  • Mindful Powers
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street
  • Smiling Mind
  • Headspace for kids
  • Calm
  • Stop, Breath and Think Kids
  • GoNoodle

Games: 

Playing games helps children with self-control and problem solving. Almost any games- board games, card games, or playground games- teach children how to follow rules, take turns, wait patiently and deal with loosing. Plus, they are fun for everyone!

A helpful reminder:

Big emotions are hard for anyone to manage and sometimes they can get the best of us. When this happens to your child, try to help them understand what they are feeling and allow them space to calm down. 

Feelings


Signs of Depression in Children & How to help

Depression comes in a variety of forms and affects people of all ages. When it comes to depression in children, there are a number of signs that can be very telling of whether or not your child is struggling with depression. While it is normal for kids to feel sad or down from time to time, if the negative feelings last for more than a couple weeks or impair your child’s ability to function from day-to-day, it may be depression and time to for additional help. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help alleviate the heaviness associated with untreated depression and can even reverse the effects. Read on to learn more about the signs of depression in children and what steps you can take to help. 

Socially withdrawn

One of the most common and easy-to-spot signs of depression is social withdrawal — this is especially true if your child is typically social by nature. When children are suffering from depression or anxiety disorder, they will commonly pull back from their friends and peers and turn inwards. 

In this case, you can find out if and how much your child is socially withdrawn by asking them about school and who they have been spending time with. Another way to go about this without directly talking to your child is by getting in touch with your child’s teachers and coaches and asking if they have noticed any differences in your child’s social patterns recently.

Social withdrawal during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might look slightly different. Some signs may include lack of participation in online classes, not engaging with friends in usual online games, or avoiding phone calls and texts from friends.

Lacking interest in favorite activities

If your child seems to be no longer intrigued by activities that they usually show a lot of interest in, this may be a sign to take a closer look at how they are doing mentally and emotionally. While it is common for children to change interests as they age, drastic withdrawal from activities that typically bring them joy is a sign that they might be struggling internally.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can present itself in a number of ways, from talking down on oneself to avoiding new experiences and opportunities altogether. When we don’t feel good enough, it typically comes from a place of feeling unworthy, unloved, and unwanted. That said, when low self-esteem is displayed or made known, especially within children, it is worth looking into. 

At times low self-esteem can simply be reflective of a bad day, however, when it becomes a pattern or a common occurrence, this can be a sign that your child may be struggling with depressive symptoms.

Unusual crying spells and sensitivity

Another sign of untreated depression in children is unusual crying spells and sensitivity. While this may seem like a clear and straightforward sign, it is oftentimes overlooked, which may lead to an outburst of other depressive symptoms to follow.

While crying is a healthy and shared experience across people of all ages, when it becomes uncontrollable it is something to look further into. Alongside crying spells, keep an eye out for triggers to sensitivity. Any heightened emotional responses (anger, irritability, sadness…) can be a sign of depression in children as well.

Self-harm

One of the most evident cries for help when it comes to children who are struggling with depression is self-harm.  Self Harm can include cutting, scratching, biting, headbanging and more. No matter what type of self-harm is present, it is important to get your child the help that they need and deserve right away.

How to help

It is important to note that depression symptoms can vary from child to child. Trust your intuition; you know your child best.  If something feels off and any of the symptoms listed above last longer than 2 weeks, your child may be suffering from depression. Here is a list of how to support a child who is struggling with depression:

Dig deeper into understanding

First, consider whether there have been any significant changes in your child’s life that may be impacting their mental and emotional state. For example, conflicts at home, transitioning schools, bullying, and medical problems are all common factors that play into a child’s mental and emotional state.

In addition to trying to understand the context on your own, sit down with your child and ask them how they have been feeling lately or if there is anything that they want to talk about. Simply let them know that you are there to listen and support them when they are ready to share their feelings. 

Consider therapy

Lastly, and arguably most effective when it comes to children with depression, seeking clinical treatment is a great option. Therapy is a safe space for your child to work through their emotions in an easy-to-understand manner. They also help by explaining anxiety to kids and show what the next steps are for the family.

When it comes to finding the right mental health services and therapist for your child, Children's Bureau provides an extensive variety of services and programs for children ages 0-21. At Children’s Bureau, all children are provided a safe place to explore their thoughts and feelings free from judgment and are provided the necessary tools to begin the healing process.

To help your child overcome depression, it is important to be alert and ready to help with change.  Foster a healthy and supportive relationship with your child… ask questions, talk, listen, and love.

Your child doesn’t need to struggle anymore and neither do you

Left untreated depression can persist or get worse, but with the right care and support, depression can be helped.  Now that you know the signs of depression and how best to support your child, you can start taking steps towards mental health treatment and supporting your kiddo the best way possible.

Sources:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-children#1
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/are-low-self-esteem-and-depression-the-same-thing-1066623

Stressors can Increase Risks

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of financial difficulties, as a nation. The recent news reports are inflamed with fears of further losses for both companies and individuals. There are people that have lost everything that they have invested. For some, they have had no other options but to deplete their savings. You might be asking what this has to do with child abuse. The truth is, stressors, especially financial stressors, can increase risks of children being abused. While what we are experiencing as a nation cannot be used as an excuse to abuse a child, it is a sad reality.

There are no boundaries when it comes to abuse. Abuse does not just affect low-income families or poor families. All incomes, genders, races, religions etc. are affected by abuse. Financial stressors can create unwanted havoc in the home. When a parent loses a job or is laid off from work, they face very difficult times ahead - financially. This can also lead to mental health issues. A parent that has been able to provide for their family and suddenly finds themselves in dire straights with their finances can go through depression. This depression can change their way of thinking and coping. It is at this time that child abuse can come into play. Does this condone the parents abuse towards their child? No! Not in any way! However, please know that this is a reality within our country. The parent that is tremendously stressed out might lash out at their children, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

There may also be issues of neglect. There is something completely necessary to point out. There are families that are low-income, which cannot provide the very best in material possessions for their children. They may be on a very tight budget and have very little to spend when it comes to purchasing needed clothing and shoes. However, just because the family is low-income, and doesn’t have many financial resources, that doesn’t mean the parents are abusive towards their children, or neglectful, for that matter. There are several parents that can't afford the best in clothes, shoes, bags etc. However, they find a way to work around their circumstances. They went to thrift stores and purchased clothing. They looked for incredible sales on shoes. Point being, they found a way to provide for their children. Neglect happens when a parent shows no concern for their children’s needs whatsoever. Parents that neglect their children in this way are not using what financial means that they have to provide clothing for their children. Their children often wear clothes that are too small and soiled, they may wear shoes that do not fit properly and do not get enough to eat. This is neglect. Every child deserves to have their needs met.

Hopefully those reading this will become aware to the situations of the children in their lives. Financial stressors can indeed increase risks of child abuse. Be watchful over the children that you have in your life, whether they be a friend’s child, a church member’s child, a child of a friend of a friend. Look for the warning signs of child abuse. Be active in the lives of the children you are around. If you go to a store and witness abuse happening, call it in. Don’t be afraid to make that call. We are in stressful times right now, economically. They are times that are filled with great fears and uncertainties. We can help the children. We can be aware of the warning signs and do what is necessary to help the children.
 
Call

RECOGNIZING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT IN TELEHEALTH CARE

Recommendations for Missouri Healthcare Providers

Among the many changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about, one of the greatest has been finding healthcare solutions for Missouri’s children and families through telehealth practices. This page is intended to support healthcare professionals in their efforts to support patients and keep children safe by preventing abuse and neglect. Despite these uncertain times, healthcare providers maintain a critical role in continuing to remain vigilant and report suspected child abuse and neglect.

While telehealth care poses new challenges, healthcare professionals should still assess patients as they would if they were seeing them in person and the following strategies may be helpful in addition to standard patient assessment procedures:

  • Observe and consider family/child interactions. Does the child seem fearful of the caregiver? Does the caregiver speak for the child directly without allowing the child the opportunity to share?
  • Observe any non-verbal cues that may be indicative of potential abuse and neglect. Does the child demonstrate expressions of pain despite any visible marks or bruises? Does the child seem shutdown? Do members of the home engage in traumatic play?
  • Identify children on your caseload that were at a higher risk of potential abuse and neglect prior to COVID-19, as they may be especially more impacted now.
  • If participating in video appointments, pay attention to the background. Are there any safety hazards, either physical or environmental? Can yelling and/or screaming be overheard? How does the child appear in the environment?
  • Be mindful of who may be listening in the background. Ask probing questions such as, what does a day look like at home for you right now? What’s your favorite part about being at home? What is the hardest? Avoid yes and no questions if possible.
  • Continue to assess suspicious injury or illness the same way you would in your office or clinic. Request photos of the injury via secure message to analyze and compare the appearance of the injury to how the parent reports it occurred.
  • When discussing a suspicious mark with a child, make every effort to ensure the child is alone and can answer questions safely and confidentially.
  • Listen to patient responses both verbal and non-verbal in their body language. Are patients or their parents and/or caregivers deflecting or avoiding responses to particular questions? Are parents and/or caregivers interrupting particular questions?
  • Listen to how caregivers describe their interactions with their children. For example, a parent may say, “they are so ill-behaved, next time they act out I’m going to .”
  • Ensure minor patients know how to reach out securely and confidentially should they need specific support, counsel or medical treatment that may be sensitive.
  • For clinicians, create a safety plan and identify a safe word a patient/client can use to signal the presence of someone else whom they fear speaking in front of.
  • Inform youth patients how they can access sexual and reproductive health resources, such as STD/STI screening and access to contraceptives, or other supportive services.
  • Encourage patients to use self-care strategies for both mental and physical health. Provide some stress-relieving stretches, breathing techniques or physical activities for both children and parents.
  • Utilize self-report assessments to assist in establishing a patient’s well-being, or to assist in identifying a wider understanding of what the patient is experience either physically or emotionally.

Child Abuse in Public

How to Stop Child Abuse in a Public Place

It can be uncomfortable to watch a child mistreated by an adult who’s out of control. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help.

Start

Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child. Say something such as:

  • “Children can wear you out, can’t they? Is there anything I can do to help?”
  • “She seems to be trying your patience.”
  • “My child has gotten upset like that too.”
  • “He/She has beautiful (eyes).” This can encourage a more positive mood for the parent.

Divert

Talk to the child to divert the child’s attention if  they are misbehaving.

Look

Look for the first opportunity to praise the parent and child.

Offer

Offer assistance if the child is in danger. For example, if the child is left unattended in a grocery cart, stand by the child until the parent returns.

Avoid

Avoid negative remarks or looks. These reactions are likely to increase the parent’s anger and make matters worse.

Child-abuse (1)


Tinder, a risk to our youth

What is Tinder?

In a nutshell, Tinder is basically a free dating app that matches people based off of several different factors. Factors include age, location and mutual friends and interests. If you come across a person you’re interested in, you swipe right. Until June of 2016, Tinder’s age requirement was only 13+. Although currently they have changed it to 18+. 

 

What is the Risk?

Any person can sign up for Tinder through Facebook. This being said, if your child lied about their age on Facebook, they can easily join Tinder even if they are under the age of 18. Unfortunately, not everyone on Tinder has good intentions. It can be used to find young children for ill purposes such as:

  • Promoting Sex

  • Pictures can reveal a child’s exact location

  • Meeting strangers

 

Tinder Statistics

  • 50 million users

  • 7% of users are STILL between the ages of 13-17

  • Over 100 million downloads of the app

  • Over 10 million daily active users

  • 79% of Tinder users are millennial’s 

 


Combating victim blaming

Lately, on social media, in the news and in our communities, there has been an increase in awareness and encouragement of survivors sharing their stories of abuse. For instance, the #Savethechildren movement. The stories have provoked a rise to action, however, there is still much work to be done going forward.

    A reoccurring problem, victim blaming, is when we think the victim is at fault for the harm that was done to them. A common example is some may say an individual was victimized due to the way they were dressed, or they were walking home alone late at night. These statements take the blame off the perpetrator and onto the victim. Research has blamed the tendency to victim blame to the just-world phenomenon, which basically is the belief that the world is just and people get what they deserve. People want to believe that the world is fair, so they tend to excuse the situation and in turn can end up blaming the victim. However, 1 in 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

    Victim blaming can also affect children who have experienced abuse. It can have a great impact on whether a child discloses and what details they share. Questioning the victim can possibly make them wonder if they should blame themselves for the abuse because of the lack of support and belief in their story. A child may have a difficult time disclosing because the situation could have involved a family member or family friend and they are scared they won’t be believed, or worse blamed. It is estimated that 30 to 80% of victims do not disclose child abuse before adulthood.

    When a story is told and victim blaming occurs, it is sometimes referred to as revictimization. The abuse that they go through is the initial wound and the second can result from how people around them respond. To avoid re-victimizing a victim we can:

  •       Begin by believing the victim. Let the child know that you believe him/her.
  •       Tell him/her that it is not their fault and that they are not in trouble. Sometimes self-blame occurs and it is important to address that they          didn’t put themselves in the situation.
  •      Understand that disclosure can be a dynamic event rather than a static one. Disclosure can be a process and one may share several things              throughout a period of time. It does not mean that we should think they are lying or believe them less.
  •      Don’t ask them too many questions. Reach out to law enforcement or DHHS to set up a proper interview.

 If a child discloses to you, it should always be taken seriously. Ensure that the child knows that you believe him/her. Remain calm and explain that it is not their fault. Do not investigate by asking probing questions, listen to what the child tells you and give positive feedback by saying things such as, “It takes courage to tell, and I am here for you.” Report any child abuse or suspicion of abuse to the Department of Health Services and/or Law Enforcement. Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-392-3738.


Child Abuse & Neglect

​Child abuse is common. It is important to understand and reduce the risks of abuse for your child and familiarize yourself with the signs of abuse. The majority of cases reported to Children's Division involve neglect, followed by physical and sexual abuse. There is considerable overlap among children who are abused, with many suffering a combination of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that a child cannot understand or consent to. It includes acts such as fondling, oral-genital contact, and genital and anal intercourse. It also includes exposure to pornography. Studies have suggested that up to one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused before they are eighteen years old.

Physical abuse occurs when a child’s body is injured as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other show of force. One study suggests that about 1 in 20 children has been physically abused in their lifetime

Most child abuse occurs within the family. Risk factors include parental depression or other mental health issues, a parental history of childhood abuse, and domestic violence. Child neglect and other forms of maltreatment are also more common in families living in poverty and among teenage parents or who abuse drugs or alcohol. More children are abused by a caregiver or someone they know, than abused outside of the home by a stranger.

Child neglect can include physical neglect (failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (failing to provide love, comfort, or affection), or medical neglect (failing to provide needed medical care). Psychological or emotional abuse results from all of the above, but also can be associated with verbal abuse, which can harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being.

Signs and Symptoms

It is not always easy to recognize when a child has been abused. Children who have been maltreated are often afraid to tell anyone, because they think they will be blamed or that no one will believe them. Sometimes they remain quiet because the person who abused them is someone they love very much, or because of fear, or both. It is not uncommon for the child's abuser to threaten harm to family members or loved ones for the child's silence.

Parents also tend to overlook signs and symptoms of abuse, because they don’t want to face the truth. This is a serious mistake that is sadly made all to often. A child who has been abused needs special support and treatment as early as possible. The longer the abuse continues or is left to deal with the situation on there own, the harder it is for children to be able to heal and develop optimally physically and mentally.

Here is a short list of physical signs and behavioral changes in children who may have experienced abuse or neglect:

Physical Signs

  • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained
  • Failure to gain weight (especially in infants) or sudden dramatic weight gain
  • Genital pain or bleeding
  • A sexually transmitted disease

Other Changes that Should Raise Concern

  • Fearful behavior (nightmares, depression, unusual fears)
  • Abdominal pain, bed-wetting (especially if the child has already been toilet trained)
  • Attempts to run away
  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sudden change in self-confidence
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
  • Abnormal fears, increased nightmares
  • School failure
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
  • Desperately affectionate behavior or social withdrawal
  • Big appetite and stealing food

Getting Help

If you suspect your child has been abused, get help immediately through your pediatrician or a local child protective agency. Physicians are legally obligated, as a mandated reporter, to report any suggestions of child abuse. The doctor also may testify in court if necessary to obtain legal protection for the child or criminal prosecution of the person suspected of perpetrating the abuse or neglect.

If your child has been abused, you may be the only person who can help him. There is no good reason to delay reporting your suspicions of abuse. Denying the problem will only make the situation worse, allowing the abuse or neglect to continue unchecked and decreasing your child’s chance for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

In any case of abuse or neglect, the child’s safety is of primary concern. The child needs to be in a safe environment free of the potential for continuing abuse and neglect.

Remember

Open, two-way communication with your child provides the best chance that you will know early when a problem occurs. Emphasize that he will not get in trouble if he tells you about abuse or other confusing events. Emphasize that you need to know this to be able to keep him safe and that he will be OK if he tells you. Instead of teaching him that he’s surrounded by danger, teach him that he is strong, capable, and can count on you to keep him safe, as long as he can tell you about it.