April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month  

SPRINGFIELD — Child Abuse Prevention Month in April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children and to learn the signs of child abuse. 

“We may have extra reason to celebrate this year, as COVID rates are lower than in the past two Aprils,” said Dr. Stephen Boos, director of the Family Advocacy Center at Baystate Children’s Hospital.   

During National Child Abuse Prevention Month and throughout the year, the Family Advocacy Center encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making the community a better place for families. Perhaps even more than in pre-pandemic years, families need the practical and social supports of their community to recover and thrive. Parents need the knowledge, skills, and resources to care for their children, many of whom have been impacted by their pandemic experience. 

“It just happens to be that these are the very things that help to prevent child abuse and neglect every year,” said Boos. 

He pointed to the following five important factors as the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect: 

• Forming and supporting a strong bond between parents and children; 

Building parents’ own strengths, health, and happiness; 

• Teaching parents about child development and effective parenting; 

• Building connections between children, parents and communities; and 

• Providing every family with decent housing, and financial security. 

Everyone’s participation is critical, said Boos. Focusing on ways to promote the five protective factors, in every interaction with families, is the best thing our community can do to strengthen families and to prevent this devastating problem for children and families. 

“Nothing would make me happier than having no business,” he said. “Armed with the knowledge, resources, and social support, the great majority of parents do a terrific job of raising their kids. Building these social supports is better for families, better for children, and cheaper for society, than responding to suspected abuse. But, we are not there yet, so recognizing abuse early, and intervening effectively is still necessary.” 

For young children, under age four-years, Dr. Boos advises that people look for ‘sentinel injuries.’ These are minor injuries like bruises or injuries in the mouth that can be the first sign of child abuse.  

“Having a bruise doesn’t mean a young child is abused, but if you don’t consider the particulars and look more deeply, you can miss it so easily. Also many abused children have no visible signs,” said Dr. Boos, who often offers to talk to medical and community groups to help them know when to worry. 

The Family Advocacy Center of Baystate Children’s Hospital is a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center serving children, families and communities of western Massachusetts affected by child abuse and/or domestic violence. As child abuse and domestic violence are community problems, the Family Advocacy Center coordinates child abuse and domestic violence services with numerous community partners. Staffed by physicians, psychologists, social workers, volunteers, and advocates, the center offers a variety of support including counseling, medical services, support programs, advocacy programs and victim services. 

If you suspect that a child is being abused, call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).