Mayor Proclaims April “Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month”
City Employees Make Donation in Memory of Andy “Coach” Page
Each year, the month of April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month (NCAPM). On Thursday, March 10, 2022, Mayor Woody Jacobs officially proclaimed the month of April “Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month” in the City of Cullman. On hand to accept the proclamation from Mayor Jacobs were Cullman Caring for Kids’ Executive Director Steven Sutter and Senior Director Javon Daniel.
Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK) is a local organization with a mission to see that no child will ever be abused, no child will go to bed hungry, no infants will ever be shaken in anger, and the cycle of abuse will be stopped. Steven Sutter took over as Executive Director of CCK in February 2022 following the retirement of Nancy Bryant. Nancy had taken over as Executive Director in July 2021 after working as Assistant Director since 2005 under long-time Executive Director Javon Daniel, who now serves as Senior Director.
“We in the City of Cullman are thankful for all that Cullman Caring for Kids does to help bring awareness to the problem of child abuse and neglect,” said Mayor Jacobs. “They not only bring awareness to the problem, but they actively work with other wonderful local agencies to help families and to prevent abuse and neglect.”
Former City Councilmember Andy Page believed strongly in the work that CCK does in the community, which is why city employees and officials took up a personal donation for CCK in memory of “Coach” Page, who passed away January 5, 2022.
“We feel good knowing that this small donation will help children and families in our area,” said Leanne West, Executive Assistant to Mayor Jacobs. “We feel like Coach would be pleased with this donation.”
This month and throughout the year, the City of Cullman encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Cullman an even better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote the social and emotional well-being of children and youth and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.
According to reports issued by the Children’s Bureau (CB), an Office of the Administration for Children & Families (ACYF), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an estimated 618,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect nationwide last year and a reported 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in the 2020 fiscal year.
The Alabama Department of Public Health lists child abuse and neglect as the #8 health concern in our state. The statewide rate of reported cases of child abuse and neglect has been steady for several years at a rate of less than 19 cases per 1,000 children. But this data is for reported cases only, not confirmed cases, and child abuse and neglect cases are often underreported. According to CCK Senior Director Javon Daniel, 26 children died in Alabama as a result of child abuse or neglect.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse and neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of the 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.” More specifically, definitions include (from childwelfare.gov):
- Physical Abuse: A nonaccidental physical injury to a child caused by a parent or other caregiver which can include punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning, or otherwise causing physical harm.
- Neglect: The failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food or shelter, medical treatment, education needs, or emotional needs.
- Sexual Abuse: Includes activities by a parent or other caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Emotional (Psychological) Abuse: A pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth that may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
- Abandonment: A child is considered abandoned when the parent’s identity of whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm, the child has been deserved with no regard for his or her health or safety, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
- Parental Substance Use: Related circumstances include exposing a child to harm prenatally due to the mother’s use of legal or illegal drugs or other substances; manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a child; selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child; using a controlled substance that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for the child.
- Human Trafficking: Sex trafficking is recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining someone for a commercial sex act such as prostitution, pornography, or stripping. Labor trafficking is forced labor including drug dealing, begging, or working long hours for little pay.
Signs that a child may be being abused or neglected include, but are not limited to:
- Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
- Does not receive help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention or lacks needed medical care (immunizations, dental care, glasses, etc.).
- Has difficulty concentrating that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
- Lacks adult supervision.
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
- Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn.
- Seems reluctant to be around a particular person.
- Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
- Discloses maltreatment.
- Has unexplained injuries such as burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes.
- Has fading bruises or other noticeable marks after an absence from school.
- Seems scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive.
- Seems frightened of parents and protests or cries when it’s time to go home.
- Shows changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Abuses animals or pets.
- Shrinks at the approach of adults.
- Reports injury by a parent or other adult caregiver.
- Is frequently absent from school.
- Begs or steals food or money.
- Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
- Lacks needed medical care (immunizations, dental care, glasses, etc.)
- Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
- States there is no one at home to provide care.
- Has difficulty walking or sitting.
- Experiences bleeding, bruising, or swelling in their private parts.
- Suddenly refuses to go to school.
- Reports nighttime bedwetting.
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite.
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a sexually transmitted disease, particularly if under age 14.
- Runs away.
- Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment.
- Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver.
- Shows extremes in behavior, such as being overly compliant or demanding, extremely passive or aggressive.
- Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, etc.) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, head-banging, etc.).
- Is delayed in physical or emotional development.
- Shows signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.
- Reports an inability to develop emotional bonds with others.
Abusive or neglectful parents may exhibit signs such as:
- Showing little concern for, or appearing indifferent to, the child and refusing to consider offers of help for the child’s problems.
- Denying the existence of, or blaming the child for, the child’s problems in school or at home.
- Asking teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
- Seeing the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
- Demanding a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
- Looking primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.
- Constantly blaming, belittling, or berating the child.
- Overtly rejecting the child.
- Seeming apathetic or depressed.
- Behaving irrationally or in a bizarre manner.
- Abusing alcohol or other drugs.
- Being unduly protective of the child or severely limiting the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex.
- Being secretive and isolated.
- Being jealous or controlling with family members.
Communities have a great influence on families’ lives. Supportive communities can help build strong families which, in turn, can help lower the risk of child abuse and neglect. In the City of Cullman, we help build strong families by providing or supporting:
- Parks and recreational facilities that are safe, accessible, and inviting places for families.
- Resources to help families in need access food, jobs, medical care, and other resources.
- Early education programs that are easily accessible and welcoming.
- Safe, affordable housing available to all families.
- Clean air and water.
“As a community, we can all work together to help stop child abuse and neglect,” said Mayor Jacobs. “We can not only help build strong families but we can also become familiar with the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect and report suspected cases to the proper authorities.”
Also, by ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can prevent child abuse and neglect by creating strong and thriving children, youth, and families in our community. Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families. Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate risk and promote healthy development and wellbeing. Promoting the following protective factors is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect:
- Nurturing & attachment;
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development;
- Parental resilience;
- Social connections;
- Concrete supports for parents;
- Social and emotional competence of children.
“Cullman is fortunate to have people and organizations who help children and families dealing with abuse and neglect,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Cullman Caring for Kids, Brooks’ Place, Cullman County CASA, DHR, and others provide these services in Cullman and throughout Cullman County, and we appreciate them all!”
For more information on these agencies, you can visit them online at:
- Cullman Caring for Kids: www.cullmancaringforkids.com
- Child Advocacy Center (Brooks’ Place): www.cullmancac.com
- Cullman County CASA: www.facebook.com/cullmancountycasa or www.nationalcasa.org
- Cullman County DHR: dhr.state.al.us
For more information about National Child Abuse Awareness Month visit www/childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/.