April is a lot of things… It’s a time for my family to celebrate some family birthdays. It’s the month when spring flowers’ natural beauty revives the Virginia landscape where I live. It’s celebrating Easter, Passover and a host of holidays. But, for us here at BeChildSafe.org, it is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and a special time “to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families.” (National Child Abuse Prevention Month, 2015) This year, April also marks the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, also known as CAPTA, or Public Law 93-247.
CAPTA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon in 1974, and represents America’s strong stance against child abuse and neglect in our society. The law underwrites federal assistance to the states for prevention, identification and treatment programs and establishes the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, currently known as the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children’s Bureau. In 1983, President Reagan designated April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Over the years, the law has been expanded to create State Children’s Trust Funds to fund child abuse prevention. During the 1990s, a grants program entitled Community-Based Family Resource and Support (CBFRS) was created promoting cooperation between public and private child abuse and prevention treatment programs. Also in the 1990s, a Federal Inter-Agency Work Group on Child Abuse and Neglect was created (FEDIAWG) and now includes representatives from more than 40 federal agencies who interact with each other and with OCAN.
Since the inception of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, there have been many steps forward in the identification and prevention of child abuse and neglect. Awareness has grown thanks to dedication to initiatives such as “We Can Make A Difference” in the 1990s and the 2003 partnership between OCAN’s Information Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, and Prevent Child Abuse America to raise the public’s awareness. Child abuse prevention has come a long way from recognizing the symptoms of child abuse and neglect to proactively using evidence-based home visiting programs to help address the root causes of child maltreatment and enhance efforts that strengthen the family.
Although child abuse and neglect awareness has advanced, the problem of child abuse and neglect is still everyone’s business. If you see, hear or suspect a child is being abused or neglected, we urge you to say something–to the Child Protective authorities in your community, or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1-800-422-4453). All calls to the National Child Abuse Hotline are anonymous. You can also obtain the local Child Protective Services phone number in your state by checking this website: https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/?CWIGFunctionsaction=rols:main.dspROL&rolType=custom&rs_id=5