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ECHO Family Care Partners

How We Can Prevent Child Abuse



April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. There's a solution if we're willing to do what it takes.

 

When I was younger, and even as an emerging adult, I think I believed there were a bunch of evil people walking around with the sole desire to harm children. The movies taught me that, I guess. It's easier for my mind to personify a boogie man than to imagine him shapeless and shadowy.


And while I know there are gruesome cases of child maltreatment and death, for nearly all cases of child maltreatment, the cause can't be pinned on one person, but rather on a whole society, which is troublesome.


Because it makes me, it makes you, it makes us...


Responsible.


I think we, as a society, look too quickly for behavior change without trying to solve the underlying problems that led us here.


We see something we don't like and say, "Stop," but never ourselves stop to understand, "Why?" We think we know. Those people are just ________. Whatever fits the narrative we need to square that part of the world away in our mind.


But the reality of it is not so neat.


Social issues never are. If they were we'd have probably solved them by now.


And this compartmentalization becomes the basis of the politicization of what it means to care for our most vulnerable.


But as followers of Jesus who walk in His way, there's another option. For that, we look to Deuteronomy 15.

“4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you,”

Has the land the Lord has given us richly blessed us? It's hard to look at our financial position among the nations of the world and say it hasn't.


So why does poverty exist? Was God wrong? Keep reading...


“5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”

There it is. If only...


Seems like God knew the people of Israel wouldn't fully obey. That they'd seek what was good in their own eyes at the expense of pursuing what God says is good. And because of the elevated view God holds of the marginalized, He gave instructions to keep poverty a vocabulary word rather than a lived experience.


“7-8, 10-11 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Here's the thing about poverty. It's shapeless and shadowy. It's a boogie man that feels impossible to catch. But God gave us a way if we're willing to follow Him faithfully and obey Him fully.


We can eliminate the impact of poverty, which includes preventing child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment.


Child abuse and poverty are undeniably correlated. Check out what some of the leading child advocates have discovered.


American Bar Association

A parent's inability to provide basic necessities for their children, such as food, clothing, and housing, is seen by many as child maltreatment and can lead to government intervention and child removal. But often this is due to poverty, which is regularly mistaken for neglect. This confusion contributes to high rates of child neglect or maltreatment cases for low-income families. To prevent child maltreatment, unnecessary child removals, and protect parental rights, addressing poverty through acknowledgment, increased parental involvement, and financial support is crucial. (1)


US Department of Health and Human Services

Children from low socioeconomic status families are at a higher risk of experiencing harm standard maltreatment, abuse, and neglect compared to those from families that are not low SES. The incidence rate of harm standard maltreatment is over five times higher, abuse is over three times higher, and neglect is over seven times higher for children from low SES families. (2)


US Department of Justice

Because of unjust wage gaps and the cultural gender biases on mothers compared to fathers, children in homes led by single mothers tend to experience a higher rate of abuse attributed to the poverty that characterizes mother-only families. Said another way, the associated stress of poverty places children at greater risk of abuse. (3)


National Coalition of Child Protective Reform

While at least 1 in 7 children experiences child abuse or neglect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Richard Wexler said those cases can go unnoticed due to the overwhelming number of false reports.


“The horror stories are needles in a haystack, but our response to the horror stories is constantly to make the haystack bigger, which only makes it harder to find those needles,” Wexler said. “So those very few cases of children in real, grave danger are more likely to be overlooked. And that's why the system makes all children less safe.”


According to a 2021 report from the Children's Defense Fund, children are removed from their homes every two minutes, and those removed are the most vulnerable children in America.


And do you know who stands in the best position to change this?


Not government. Not politics. Not Capitalism or any other -ism. No system can end poverty.


If we believe God and take Him at His word, then the solution is found among the People of God who choose to follow Him faithfully and obey Him fully.


Is this you?

 

(2) U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., Admin. for Children & Families, The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) (2004–2009).

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