April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Regina B. Schofield, April 2007
The early years of a child’s life are the most critical period in his or her development because it will set the stage for the cognitive, social, and emotional reference points that will guide them for the rest of their lives. Sadly, child abuse and exposure to violence are a part of too many children’s lives and have a devastating impact on their lives. In 2004, a government survey estimated that 872,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect. Currently there isn’t a comprehensive estimate of the number of children who are exposed to violence during the course of their day.
We at the Office of Justice Programs are committed to protecting children from all forms of crime, including abuse and exposure to violence.
In addition to the work of all of OJP’s components—the Bureaus of Justice Assistance and Statistics, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Institute of Justice, and the Community Capacity Development Office—we work with a variety of partners across the country to improve and expand our efforts to prevent child abuse and to respond to the needs of young victims.
One of our partners, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, is a model for the nation and for other countries. The Center offers multidisciplinary services to child victims and provides training and technical assistance to child abuse professionals throughout the nation. I’m proud that we are a supporter of the Center and of the regional child advocacy centers.
Today, there are more than 650 children’s advocacy centers in communities across the country, each one dedicated to preventing child abuse, serving child victims, and keeping our young people safe from harm.
Through efforts such as the National Technical Assistance to Child Abuse Professionals Program and the work of the National Children’s Alliance and the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, we have provided thousands of child-serving and criminal justice professionals with the tools they need to prevent and respond to child abuse.
On March 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, we brought together policy makers, service providers, and criminal justice professionals to discuss how to better serve child victims. We also heard from two experts, Dr. David Finkelhor and Dr. Sharon Cooper. Dr. Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, focused on the incidence and prevalence of children’s exposure to violence. Dr. Cooper, from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, discussed the normalization of sexual harm and its impact on young people.
I’m pleased that Dr. Finkelhor will be working with OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to conduct a comprehensive study that will provide reliable numbers on the level of violence in children’s lives.
Our children are our future, and to reverse the trends in child abuse and violence, we all have to work together. More information about OJP’s efforts is available at www.ojp.gov website and also at www.childwelfare.gov.