Child Abuse Prevention

The National Exchange Club officially adopted the prevention of child abuse as its National Project in 1979 at the 61st National Convention.

Exchange provides a variety of public awareness materials, designed to help inform and increase awareness of child abuse and how it can be prevented. Such projects are implemented through Exchange Clubs and Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Centers across the country.

Additionally, Exchange supports and engages in a number of annual activities designed to heighten awareness of child abuse and its consequences. Through participation in Child Abuse Prevention Month each April, National Headquarters in Toledo, OH, and clubs across the country work with government agencies, local and national partners, and their communities to draw awareness about prevention of this social crisis. Specially-designed materials are made available at this time of year, including action-oriented Exchange Today articles, all intended to help Exchange Clubs, members, and communities work to prevent child abuse.

Disclaimer: The National Exchange Club seeks to prevent child maltreatment by providing informational resources to the public and by coordinating a network of community-based services for parents. We are not authorized to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect or to offer legal advice. If a child is in immediate danger, please call the police. If you suspect child abuse, contact your local child protective services department.

Child Abuse: FAQ

What is child abuse?
Child abuse can include any behavior, action, or omission by an adult that causes or allows harm to come to a child. Abuse can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect. Individual states and other government agencies have specific legal definitions that are used to substantiate reports of alleged maltreatment.

What does it mean to “substantiate” an allegation of abuse?
The term “substantiated” means that an allegation of maltreatment was confirmed according to the level of evidence required by the state law or state policy. The term “indicated” is sometimes used by investigators when there is insufficient evidence to substantiate a case under state law or policy, but there is reason to suspect that maltreatment occurred or that there is risk of future maltreatment.

What are the most common types of maltreatment?
The majority (59%) of victims suffered from neglect. Child Protective Services investigations determine that 10.8 % of victims suffered from physical abuse, 7.6% suffered from sexual abuse,4.2% suffered from emotional maltreatment, less than 1% experienced medical neglect, and 13.1% suffered multiple forms of maltreatment. In addition, 4.1 percent of victims experienced such “other” types of maltreatment as “abandonment,” “threats of harm to the child,” or “congenital drug addiction.” States may consider any condition that does not fall into one of the main categories — e.g. physical abuse, neglect, or emotional maltreatment — as “other.” These maltreatment type percentages total more than 100 percent because children who were victims of more than one type of maltreatment were counted for each incident. Although the percentage of emotional maltreatment appears low, this statistic may be misleading. The Child Welfare Information Gateway states, “Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, CPS may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms [of abuse] are identified”.

How many children die each year from child abuse?
During 2011, an estimated 1570 children died from abuse or neglect. Of those, 75.7% were younger than four years old. This number may not accurately reflect the actual number of fatalities due to abuse and neglect. Many researchers and practitioners believe child fatalities due to abuse and neglect are still underreported. Studies in Colorado and North Carolina have estimated that as many as 50 to 60 percent of child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect are not recorded as such (Crume, DiGuiseppi, Byers, Sirotnak, Garrett, 2002; Herman-Giddens, Brown, Verbiest, Carlson, Hooten, et al., 1999).

Who abuses and neglects children?
In 2011, exactly 81.2 percent of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and another 12.8% were relatives or caregivers of the child. Caregivers includes foster parents, child daycare providers, and legal guardians.

Mothers comprised a larger percentage of perpetrators, 36.8% compared to fathers, 19%, however 18.9% of cases indicated both parents were involved. Nearly one-half of all victims were White (43.9%), 21.5% were African-American, and 22.1% were Hispanic.

Child maltreatment occurs across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic groups.

What makes people abuse children?
It is difficult to imagine that any person would intentionally inflict harm on a child. Many times, physical abuse can result when the physical punishment is inappropriate for the child’s age, and parents have an unrealistic expectation of their child’s behavior. A parent feeling undue stress may also react inappropriately. Most parents want to be good parents but sometimes lose control. Child abuse can be a symptom that parents are having difficulty coping with other situations, such as those involving finances, work, or housing.

A significant factor in many situations relates to a parent’s inexperience with or lack of understanding of typical child development. Many childhood behaviors can be frustrating but are normal. Lack of understanding about normal behaviors may lead a parent to react in a punitive manner. Parents with their own negative childhood experiences may not have healthy role models to follow.

Other stress factors in the home may increase the risk of abuse or neglect, also. These can include drug or alcohol abuse, family crises, marital difficulties, domestic violence, depression, and/or mental illness.

Are victims of child abuse more likely to engage in criminality later in life?
Victims of child abuse are likely to experience a wide variety of negative outcomes throughout their lives. Involvement in criminal activity is one. For children, the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being found that children placed in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect tended to score lower than the general population on measures of cognitive capacity, language development, and academic achievement (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003).

Other studies have found abuse and neglected children to be at least 25% more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use, and mental health problems.

In one long-term study of young adults who had been abused, as many as 80% met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996). Other psychological and emotional conditions associated with abuse and neglect include panic disorder, dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder (Teicher, 2000).

The challenges that victims experience continue as they move into adulthood. The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the following adult statistics for 2002:

• 31% of jail inmates had grown up with a parent or guardian who abused alcohol or drugs.
• About 12% had lived in a foster home or institution.
• 46% had a family member who had been incarcerated.
• More than 50% of the women in jail said they had been physically or sexually abused in the past, and more than 10% of the men.
• The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nearly two-thirds of all adults entering treatment for drug abuse report being victims of child abuse or neglect.

Is there any evidence linking alcohol or other drug use to child maltreatment?
There is significant research that demonstrates this connection. Research has shown that among confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect, 40% involved the use of alcohol or other drugs (Journal of American Medical Association, and Children of Alcoholics). Substance abuse does not cause child abuse and neglect, but it is a distinct factor in its occurrence.

Can we prevent child abuse and neglect?
Yes, we can make a difference. There are many types of prevention programs across the country. Research has shown that effective programs share similar elements, such as working with families early and on a long-term, intensive basis. Effective programs offer assistance with family problems, refer families to outside supports when needed, and have a structured framework for staff in working with families. These elements are found in The National Exchange Club Parent Aide program, which is offered at all Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Centers across the country.

Exchange Parent Aide Model

cap-icon-finalThe organization’s most significant and successful method of countering child abuse is by working directly with at-risk parents through its signature program, the Exchange Parent Aide home visitation model. Through coordination with a nationwide network of community-based Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Centers, the program has helped more than 691,120 families break the cycle of violence, thus creating safer homes for more than 1,727,800 children.

Exchange Parent Aide evolved from the knowledge and experience of the dynamics surrounding child abuse and neglect. It is based on the work of Sharon Pallone in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as research and concepts first introduced by Drs. Ray Helfer and Henry Kempe, 1960s pioneers in the field. Their leading research on the battered child syndrome expressed belief that most parents who abuse their children are not psychotic and were likely to have been abused themselves as children. Most abusive parents grew up without positive role models for good parenting and often have difficulty developing healthy and trusting relationships.

To ensure compliance and current practices associated with the model, Exchange provides training, accreditation, technical support, development and management guidance, and other supportive services to sites utilizing the Exchange Parent Aide program.

Parent Aides are trained, professionally supervised individuals (paid and volunteer) who provide supportive and educational, in-home services to families at-risk of child abuse and neglect.
Exchange Parent Aides act as mentors and provide intensive support, information, and modeling of effective parenting — all in the home of the family. Services are family centered and focus on:
  • Parental resilience is developed through teaching problem solving skills, modeling effective parenting, providing 24/7 support and referrals to services.
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development is encouraged and developed through sharing skills and modeling strategies. Individualized help is provided in the home with the children.
  • Social connections are developed and fostered through social-support, building the individual relationship and connecting the parents to others through group meetings, activities, and referrals.
  • Social-emotional competence of children is developed through strengthening of the nurturing capabilities of the family; interaction of parents with the children is observed and modeling is provided for support of the children’s competence.
  • Ensuring safety of the children, including attention to medical, dental, and mental health care needs, as well as safe housing and freedom from child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.
The Exchange Parent Aide program has been replicated since 1979, in more than 80 communities throughout 28 states and in Puerto Rico. It is utilized in rural, urban, and suburban areas, serving diverse populations in a culturally-responsive manner. Additionally, a recent randomized controlled study indicates significant impact through reduced maternal stress, maternal depression, and maternal anxiety; increased parental mastery; and reduced psychological aggression and physical assault toward children.

Exchange was awarded a Presidential Award from the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives. The organization is also charter member of The National Child Abuse Coalition and is a Partner in Prevention with the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Believe in the Blue AND Child Abuse Prevention Month

“Believe in the Blue” is an annual campaign conducted in April, in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is an effort to reach families across the nation with positive parenting tips, because Exchange believes parents have the power to make positive parenting choices in the lives of their children.

mud-hens-day-2014-believe-in-the-blue-84Exchange Clubs are encouraged to distribute updated materials (see “Downloadable Resources”) to parents and families in their communities, possibly at a club-sponsored Believe in the Blue event in April. These events are typically designed to meet the needs of the community and incorporate family fun!

Other Child Abuse Prevention Month event suggestions:

  • Support a local child abuse prevention center/Exchange Parent Aide program:volunteer time, create a joint project, or assist with a donation.
  • Consider a joint project with the state chapter Prevent Child Abuse America, such as participation in the Blue Pinwheel Campaign.
  • Participate in Blue Mondays by wearing blue every Monday in April and encouraging your friends, family, and coworkers to do the same!
  • Ask your mayor, council, or governor to issue a Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation.
  • Write a letter to the editor about the special interest month
  • Arrange for a PSA (public service announcement) billboard or through airtime on local radio or television. Exchange’s National Headquarters provides these resources free to all clubs and members!
  • Get creative about blue ribbon displays, e.g. on the courthouse or city hall; and on police, firefighter, and hospital uniforms; create a blue ribbon tree in a prominent place.
  • Mentor a Child; participate in a backpack meal program; sponsor an art, speech, or essay contest with a cash/scholarship prize; start a Darkness 2 Light project.

For more ideas, contact CAP Services Dept. at your National Exchange Club headquarters or contact other clubs in your district for ideas and possible collaborations.

Time Out Teddy

Time Out Teddy serves as a reminder for parents, guardians, and all caretakers of children that one calming moment can change a situation!

timeoutteddyBeing a parent is easier when you are able to understand your child’s behavior. Taking “time out” means learning about how your child acts in various situations, what he/she will do next, and how your reaction can affect your child.

Parents know their children, but every parent can use some tips along the way.

Take time out to … know your child.

No one knows your child better than you, because you are with your child more than anyone else. You know that
being a parent can be challenging, so learning why your child is acting a certain way is important.

Take time out to … think about:

• What is the best way to teach my child?

• Is my child’s behavior appropriate?

• What should I expect as my child ages?

Take time out to … remember:

• Your child needs to feel loved, heard, and protected.

• Your child needs to know the rules, so he/she knows what you expect.

• Your child’s age determines his/her behaviors – you cannot expect a 2-year-old to understand and act the same as a 5-year-old.

• Even young children can make some decisions, such as which color socks he/she will wear, which book he/she wants to read before bed. This helps teach your child good decision-making skills in a safe environment.

• Your child watches you, and might do, what he/she sees you do.

Take time out to … teach.

All parents want their children to be safe and to learn good decision-making. A big part of good decision-making is your child managing his/her own behaviors. Here are some tips to help you teach this important skill:

• Set a good example – remember, your child may do what you do!

• Talk with your child about ways to handle anger and disappointment.

• Use time-out as an opportunity for your child to think about the situation and calm down.

Time Out Tips

1. Before starting a time-out, consider giving a warning.

2. Select a quiet place where your child can safely sit alone.

3. A good rule is one minute in time-out for each year of age: a 2-year-old sits for 2 minutes, a 3-year-old for 3 minutes, etc.

4. Help your child understand which behaviors will lead to a time out – younger children can remember fewer rules than older children.

5. Before beginning the time-out, tell your child what he/she did wrong and how long the time out will last.

6. If your child becomes upset, calmly walk away. You can talk about it after the time out is over.

7. Stay calm and be consistent.

8. When the time-out is over, let your child go back to regular play.

Take time out … to take care of yourself

Remember to take time out for your own needs and interests. When you are happy, those around you will be happy!

• Find ways to relax.

• Use your child’s naptime to read or rest.

• Visit friends or shop while your child is at school.

• Take a parenting class at your local community center.

• Look for books on parenting at your library.

• Join a support group for parents.

• Search online for information about child development and parenting.

Downloadable Resources

Additional Resources

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