Agencies Outreach to Stop Child Abuse
By Dianne Anderson
That old parental fallback, “you didn’t come with a manual,” is no longer an excuse, if it ever was.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and several parent events are planned to make the community aware of how to be better parents, and get resources for their kids.
Viviana Esparza said their agency is reaching the community with prevention materials in year-round collaborations and local training. This month, she is calling all parents and trainers to attend their free Child Abuse Prevention and Adverse Childhood Experiences Study Trainings.
“As a parent, what are the resources available to me in my community that I can reach out to? This training is one of those examples. It’s open to the public. If you feel that you need additional information, we’re here,” said Viviana Esparza, spokesperson for the Children’s Network of San Bernardino.
On Wednesday, April 11, the event is held from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at First 5 San Bernardino, located at 735 East Carnegie Drive #150.
Through outreach, she hopes to shed light on what child abuse is, and give parents and trainers access to community empowerment programs, such as Mentoring Taskforce, Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, the Screening Assessment Referral and Treatment program, Maternal Mental Health, and the ABCs of Safe Sleep.
“It does take a community effort,” she said. “We want to include the community, maybe the [child provider] could attend training, and bring it back to the neighborhood or family. The training is one of those examples.”
Child abuse, or the actual definition of child abuse, may not be so clearly understood, depending on the culture of child-rearing within the family history, or awareness of the parent.
But, an abused child will remember for a lifetime.
Cesar Navarrete said foster kids in the system are often so traumatized by physical and psychological abuse that many children are on medication to deal with their past. Many kids in the foster system have been abused, delayed both developmentally, and physically, he said.
It’s not unusual for a ten-year-old to look much younger, and may behave like a five-year-old. They don’t mature properly.
“It takes a long time for a child to catch up. When you’re looking at 18 and 21 years of age, they are aging out of the system. You’re still talking to a teenager that isn’t ready to be out in the world by themselves,” said Navarrete, executive director of CASA of San Bernardino County.
Child abuse is the main reason why kids are removed from homes in San Bernardino County, either from severe neglect, or immediate danger in the home. Often, it has to do with substance abusing parents. They can’t control themselves, or how they deal with their children.
Navarrete said the challenge is spreading the word about what child abuse is. If there is a threat or danger to the child, including certain levels of poverty, no food in the household, drugs, or if parents aren’t able to provide a safe living environment, then the county steps in.
Depending on the circumstances, there is a push to keep families together. Over the years, the county has focused on prevention and intervention services. He feels the answer is more education, parenting classes, resources and counseling to help families stay intact.
There has been a rise in calls of child abuse. This past year, he said over 33,000 referrals. The number is high, but it also indicates that more bystanders are looking out for the kids. About 5,700 kids and youth are in foster care, meaning not all referrals end up with the child removed from the home, rather families are linked to intervention.
To help those that end up in the system, he said CASA is desperately seeking good men to help represent the children and youth, to be mentors. Right now, 95% of their volunteers are women.
Most importantly, he said that agencies want parents to rethink how to discipline their kids without hitting.
“Many parents don’t realize they are abusing their children until they’re informed because someone told them, or they got a visit from CPS. Or, they took an education class where they now see an alternative of how to raise their children without resorting to violence,” he said.
But there are success stories of social workers that go in with wraparound services so that families stay together. He said that parents need to know there are other ways to discipline the kids.
There is awareness, but he said they need much more, as evidenced by extreme examples of child abuse in local cases in Moreno Valley and Phelan.
“We still hear cases like Riverside county and up in High Desert, where these children go unnoticed for so long,” he said. “How does that happen for so long without anyone realizing, and that’s where the community can play a part.”
For more information, see www.casaofsb.org/