Alaskan kids enjoy all that the summer has to offer, but this time of year means instability and adversity for many. Summer break becomes a stretch of time where children go without the consistent presence of a mandated reporter of child abuse in their life. In fact, teachers and other school staff are the single largest source of reports of child abuse in Alaska, according to the Office of Children’s Services.
Southeast children and families who are victims of child abuse receive support through the Southeast Alaska Family Evaluation Child Advocacy Center (SAFE CAC), a program of Catholic Community Service. The SAFE CAC advocates for the prevention, safety, well-being, and healing of abused children.
Child abuse is a community health epidemic with long-term consequences not only for children but also for families, the community, and society. Long-term effects of abuse are measured through Adverse Childhood Experiences, otherwise known as ACEs. ACEs are potentially traumatic events in childhood, including violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems.
People with high ACE scores are less healthy, earn less, and require more expensive social programs. Thus, ACEs have a high cost in human and economic terms. The consequences of ACEs are experienced by Alaskan children, adults, families, communities, employers, and the government. The higher the ACEs score, the higher the incidence of disease, risky behaviors, and negative social outcomes, such as asthma, depression, drug abuse, intimate partner violence, liver disease, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, and more.
The good news is that ACEs can be prevented.
The responsibility is on all of us to help lower ACEs by shifting the focus from individual responsibility to community solutions for child abuse. The popular saying, “It takes a village,” rings true, and it is a community responsibility to protect our children. Here are some signs of child abuse to keep in mind this season.
Signs of child abuse in children:
- Shows sudden changes in behavior
- Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
- Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
- Lacks adult supervision, is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
- Comes to activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home
Signs of child abuse in parents:
- Shows little concern for the child/denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems at home
- Asks caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
- Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
- Demands a level of physical performance the child cannot achieve
- Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs
Signs of child abuse in the parent-child relationship:
- Rarely touch or look at each other
- Consider their relationship entirely negative
- State that they do not like each other
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-478-4444. A child’s safety may be dependent upon you speaking up on their behalf!
Catholic Community Service (CCS) has the great honor to perform the corporal works of mercy on behalf of the Catholic church in Southeast Alaska (formerly the Diocese of Juneau) since 1974. Opportunities to contribute, volunteer and learn more at www.ccsak.org
We thank you for your help and prayers!
Erin Walker-Tolles, Executive Director