We are often left wondering, was there a point at which someone could have intervened? A relative? A friend? A neighbor? Reporting suspected abuse is mandated by law. But can we do better as a community? Research shows that promoting healthy families helps prevent child abuse and neglect. Child abuse

The Le Bonheur CARES Team evaluates children who are admitted to Le Bonheur who have traumatic injuries that may have been the result of non-accidental trauma.

Our team is composed of Dr. Karen Lakin, medical director Andrea Sebastian, DNP, and Ginny Hood, LMSW. The team assists in identifying suspicious injuries and help child protective services and law enforcement understand the medical conditions and procedures that the patients endure. Unfortunately, when our team is consulted, the patient has been already been injured, often severely, and some do not survive.

Protective factors include:

Nurturing and attachment: Children who are loved and cherished grow up to be happier, healthier adults. As adults, they are better able to form healthier relationships, develop better problem-solving skills and cope better with stress.

Knowledge of parenting and youth development: A better understanding of child and youth development allows parents to have realistic expectations of their child’s behaviors and to decrease the level of frustration. Teaching parents appropriate parenting skills to match a child’s developmental stage and temperament helps to decrease harsh discipline that may be the result of parental frustration.

Parental resilience: Parents experience outside stressors on a daily basis. For some parents, providing basic necessities for the family is a challenge. Other parents may have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness. Encouraging these parents to reach out and ask for help is important. Parents must remember to take care of themselves in order to be their best to take care of their children.

Social connections: Isolated families are at higher risk for abuse and neglect. Fostering relationships with extended family members and friends and the community is important in emotionally supporting parents. Strong social connections also serve as an example to children of the importance of positive relationships with others.

Concrete support for parents: Many parents have specific needs for basic resources, i.e. food, shelter, transportation, services, drug rehabilitation or mental health counseling. Assisting parents to find the resources in the community and/or helping establishing these resources not only help the individual child, but promotes the overall well-being of the community for all children.

Social and emotional competence of children: Effective communication of one’s needs and feelings is important for both parents and children. Barriers to communication jeopardize appropriate responses by the parent. These barriers may be due to a lack of a nurturing environment that supports the child’s ability to feel safe in communicating his/her feelings or a child may have a developmental delay or emotional disability that makes parenting more difficult. Education of better communication skills for parents and children can help promote more responsiveness to a child’s needs. Identification of children who may have developmental delays or emotional problems and providing services can reduce the potential risk for abuse and neglect.

We hope to highlight the importance in promoting protective factors for families to help prevent child abuse and neglect in our community.