Page 30 - Alaska Parent Spring 2019
P. 30

 Taking a stand against child abuse:
EMPOWERING AND PROTECTING ALASKA’S KIDS – AT HOME AND BEYOND
 by Julia moore
Sadly, Alaska struggles with some of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the country.
In 2015, the rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect was 15.6 per 1,000 children – 69.3 percent higher than the national average.
“Childhood trauma or maltreatment have very real results as people grow older,” says Abbe Hensley, executive director at Best Beginnings. Abbe cites a prominent health study by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente on the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which shows that 80 percent of young adults abused as children suffer from a psychiatric disorder and that children who experienced abuse or neglect were at increased risk for smoking and drug abuse.
The image appears bleak. But, as Alaskans, equipped with the proper tools, our community can come together to prevent child abuse and neglect. First, understand what child abuse and neglect look like, and how you as a parent and
as a community member can work to prevent it.
Empowering children at home
Child abuse has a number of types
and signs (see sidebar), but there are also many ways to protect children. The most important step, says Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust, is to have honest conversations with your family. “Of course, that can vary from family to
family and what you feel comfortable with,” he acknowledges, but it’s important to give your kids permission to say “no,” even to somebody important. “Many times, we just tell children what to do, and they’re just expected to do it, so when an authority figure wants them to do something that may be, or is, inappropriate, children don’t know what to do, nor do they feel that they have the right to say no.” Telling children it’s ok to say no – and that they can do it respectfully – empowers them.
Another way to empower children is to not force them to give hugs or kisses, even to close friends and family. “I personally suggest that when you get introduced to a child, say ‘hey, would you like a high five, fist bump or a hug?’ so they get to decide,” says Trevor. “That really establishes those boundaries and empowers the decision to be on the child. It’s a really good teaching moment.”
You also can empower others by promoting resources for families in need. “Help Me Grow is a fairly new initiative in Alaska,” says Abbe. “It’s designed for parents with young children, and it’s a way to connect a parent with a healthcare provider that they might need, or if they’ve
got a question about child development.” By informing parents in need about local services in their area, they can better provide for their children, keeping them safe and healthy.
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