NEWS | April 18, 2012

April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month

By Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

 Every 10 seconds in the United States a case of child abuse is reported, totaling approximately three million cases of child abuse each year.

Child abuse prevention month is recognized each April to increase awareness about child abuse and child neglect prevention, as well as remember those who have suffered from it.

The 628th Medical Group Family Advocacy office takes on three important roles when it comes to child abuse awareness; prevention through education, intervention in high risk situations and outreach programs in the local community.

Child abuse has many faces and recognizing signs of distress can help in preventing child abuse from happening.

"Prevention through education and awareness is the key," says Brenda Edmond, JB Charleston - Air Base Family Advocacy Outreach program manager. "A common misconception is that the Family Advocacy program only offers services to parents who are referred to us. The majority of the parenting and relationship programs we offer are beneficial to all parents and couples."

Family advocacy has offices on the Air Base and Naval Weapons Station in order to serve the needs of all Joint Base Charleston families.

Some of the classes and programs available to military families through family advocacy include anger management, couples communication, stress management, parenting classes, child and infant CPR and baby basics classes.

"Anger is often the most poorly handled emotion and therefore almost anyone could benefit from the information presented in an anger management class." says Edmond. "Stress is a risk factor associated with family violence so giving parents the tools to cope with stressors and better manage anger responses can help prevent a situation from escalating into violence."

The New Parent Support program was developed to help military families with young children adapt to parenthood and to thrive as healthy families.

"Children do not come with instructions," says Edmond. "And we often parent the way we were parented; sometimes we learn good parenting skills and sometimes not. Our programs are designed to help parents be the best that they can be for their children."

Another program, Family Advocacy Strength- based Therapy, gives parents and couples another way to voluntarily seek preventative measures against abuse. FAST is a short-term counseling service that aims to quickly end conflict from escalating and help couples begin to identify and more effectively address serious relationship concerns.

Recognizing the signs of abuse is critical. Air Force Instruction 40-301 requires all active- duty members and civilian employees to report any suspicion of child or spouse maltreatment to Family Advocacy or Child Protective Services.

"Some people are hesitant to report suspicions of abuse because they do not want to create conflict or possibly destroy a relationship they have with that person," says Edmond. "You have to weigh what is more important, that relationship or the well being and safety of the child or person."

Reporting anonymously is always an option, whether the report is being made to Family Advocacy or Child Protective Services. Remember, it is not the responsibility of the person reporting to prove that the abuse is happening, the reporter is merely reporting suspicion. It becomes the responsibility of Family Advocacy and Child Protective Services to conduct an assessment and make a determination based on the facts. If there is neglect or abuse, a determination will be made in the case and services and treatment will be offered to the family.

Some of the ways the Family Advocacy office is highlighting Child Abuse prevention this month is by holding a Love & Logic Parenting class every Tuesday from 10-11:30 a.m. A Child Abuse Stroll-a-Thon takes place on April 25 from 10 a.m. -noon at the Naval Weapons Station. Family Advocacy will be also be hosting a Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention training April 20 from 11 a.m.-2 P.M at the Air Base chapel. On April 27 there will be a kickball tournament at Marrington Plantation, with the theme "Kick out Sexual Violence and Child Abuse" at 12:30 p.m.

"Military families are not immune to these issues," said Lt. Col. Patrick Pohle, 628th Medical Group Mental Health Service Flight commander. "Despite holding ourselves to a higher standard, we also have to put up with a higher level of stress. Even a good strong military family can find themselves in need of some help. That is what we are here for."

For more information on classes, programs, events being held for child abuse prevention month or reporting possible abuse please call the Family Advocacy Office at 963-6972.