How can I help prevent child abuse?

Asking that question is so important.

Child abuse ignores and exploits children’s precious characteristics of vulnerability, dependence, and immaturity. Faced with news reports of child abuse in institutions we want to trust—churches, schools, and families too—we can easily become frightened and disheartened. By asking what we can do to prevent abuse, we are taking the first step in keeping our own children, and the children in our communities, safe.

The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides the following basic definition of child abuse and neglect:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or

An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

The two most generally recognized forms of child abuse are physical abuse (non-accidental physical injury to a child) and sexual abuse (sexual interaction with or exploitation of a child by an adult, or by another child when there is a power or age differential). Child neglect is generally recognized to include failure to provide for a child’s physical needs (such as food, clothing, and supervision) and failure to meet medical or educational needs. Some definitions of child maltreatment include the categories of medical and emotional abuse.

The following three resources provide more specific explanations of child abuse, as well as warning signs that could indicate a child is being abused:

How you can make a difference

Being aware of and informed about child abuse is the first step toward keeping children safe. Here are more things you can do.

Learn about sexual abuse prevention.  This article by Stephanie Adams, a homeschool graduate and licensed professional counselor, explains how to talk with your children about sexual abuse and how to improve the safety of your community: "The Homeschool Parent's Guide to Protecting Kids from Child Abuse".

Find out if your homeschool group has a child protection policy. If the group doesn’t, consider asking them to adopt one. HSLDA has information available for group leaders on how to create such a policy: "Developing a Child Protection Policy".

Know what to do if you suspect child abuse. It may be appropriate to report the situation to child protective services (CPS) or the police. HSLDA’s article, “If You Suspect Child Abuse”, can help you determine a response. Another way to evaluate your concerns is to call a child abuse hotline. Please note that hotline calls are confidential; hotline personnel will not report what you tell them to any authorities. Their goal is to talk about the situation with you, answer your questions, and explain your options. They can also tell you how to report abuse in your state.