No one likes to acknowledge, or even think about child maltreatment. The topic doesn’t make for good reading or conversation. Just the thought of someone hurting a child can take the wind out of you. Yet it remains a reality in our society, and so at Crittenton, we talk about it. Child exploitation, human trafficking, abuse, and neglect exist in our world, our country, our state, our neighborhoods.
At Crittenton, we offer services to strengthen families and help clients heal from trauma year ‘round. But in April, it’s time to discuss child abuse prevention. First, let’s explore a few misconceptions.
To begin with, Child Protective Services isn’t out to tear families apart. Quite the opposite. Their goal is to keep children safe. Most often, they end up providing services to families so they may stay together. The California Department of Social Services contracts with organizations like Crittenton to provide Family Preservation Services and Wraparound Services to support families. Only 1 out of 5 investigations result in a finding for child abuse or neglect.
Secondly, when a child is removed from their home by governmental agencies, we know that minority youth enter the foster care system at rates higher than their proportion of the general population. This disproportionality reflects a system that assumes abuse occurring more frequently in families of color, and that is just not true.
As we learn more about the higher rates of removal for certain children, we may then assume that this societal problem impacts all populations equally. However, there are groups who are particularly vulnerable and are more likely to experience child abuse, including those with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQIA+, including transgender youth.
Because the abuse and neglect of children is something we don’t like to think about, and because it there exist youth who are at a higher risk, it is therefore infuriating when society takes steps placing children at further risk of harm. Several states have recently introduced bills outlawing the provision of gender affirming medical care to transgender youth, or labeling it child abuse, threatening mandated reporters and the general public with criminal charges for failing to call the child abuse hotline if they suspect such instances. These positions stand in contradiction to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who issued a policy statement in 2018 declaring support for gender affirmative care.
Other states are proposing laws that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity from even being discussed in schools. Amit Paley, the CEO of the Trevor Project states, “Removing LGBTQ people and topics from public schools will only work to further shame a group of young people who already face disproportionate rates of discrimination, bullying, and suicide attempts.”
The definition of child abuse is clear. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as “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 “Which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
So, as we reflect on April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the first step in preventing child abuse is understanding what it is, and what it is not.
At Crittenton, we serve all types of children and all types of families. We utilize evidence-based practices as well as research related to Adverse Childhood Experiences to inform the services we provide. We work to build Protective Factors into our work and with families, in order to minimize the risk of abuse or neglect, and support clients and their parents or caregivers to reach their fullest potential.
I am so proud of the work we do in this arena, through Residential Care, Foster Care, Family Preservation, and Outpatient Mental Health services. Click here if you would like to learn more about our work, and join us as we serve our community together.
Mr. Greg Eubanks, CEO, of Crittenton Services, has more than 25 years of experience in the child welfare and mental health fields as both a senior operating director and organizational leader for various nonprofits. He began his career in 1994 at a large multi-agency nonprofit headquartered in Texas where he continued to progress as Area Vice President. In 2014, he became President and CEO of a Seattle-based adoption agency until his most recent career appointment prior to Crittenton Services. Mr. Eubanks comes with a wealth of expertise in family preservation, community-based programs, strategic planning, program development, and performance management. In addition, he also holds a Master’s in Marriage, Family Counseling and Education, is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) Practitioner, and has been a speaker at national and international conferences.
Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) is a nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health organization that offers behavioral health care, safe shelter, and individualized support to help people in need heal from trauma and reach their full potential. Established and incorporated in 1966, Crittenton has an experienced and dedicated workforce operating 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. We provide a continuum of care programming effort that includes short-term residential, family preservation, integrated behavioral health, wraparound services, outpatient mental health, school-linked mental health, transitional age youth programming, and foster care services with a service plan area throughout Southern California that covers Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties.