April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to help promote healthy families and prevent child abuse. This month and throughout the year, the Missouri Department of Social Services encourages everyone in the state to play a role in making Missouri a better place for children and families.

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect is to make sure parents and caregivers have the knowledge, skills, support and resources they need to care for children. Here are some things parents can keep in mind to help build strong relationships and protect their children:

Spend time bonding with your child each and every day and show them you love them by talking with them or offering them a hug or smile

Learn how to best parent your child by learning about your child’s development and what they are able to do at different ages

Try to face challenges and stressful situations with strength and a positive mindset

Keep helpful and supportive family, friends and members of the community around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for their help when you’re feeling overwhelmed

Get help if you’re struggling and are unable to provide care, food, medical care, or you are worried your child may not be safe

Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and show you are supportive and care

Carefully choose who cares for your child and remember that not every relative or friend is a safe choice

Everyone can take steps to help strengthen and empower families. Communities have a great influence on the lives of children and families, and sometimes a helping hand is the most valuable resource during tough times. A child who is connected to people who care and are involved will have a better life experience and will be safer than a child who is isolated.  Some ways to support families include:

Meeting your neighbors

Participating in your child’s school or community activities

Volunteering, joining or creating a group where parents and children play or serve together

Becoming involved in local government or school board meetings

Child abuse or neglect has lifelong consequences for children, families, and communities.  By working together we can help keep children safe, support families, engage community members, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

In fiscal year 2017, the Children’s Division received 68,014 reports of suspected abuse and neglect, which resulted in contact with families to ensure child safety and to assess the family’s needs for services and supports.

The Department of Social Services strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738 or 1-844-CAN-TELL.  The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day, every day, all year round.

Shelley Curry, MSW

Circuit Manager

1st Judicial Circuit

Clark, Scotland, Schuyler