The President of the United States has proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month , a time when we recommit to preventing child abuse and neglect. Within our Coast Guard, cases of child maltreatment are not uncommon. Abuse and neglect may occur when families experience enormous stress. Factors contributing to family stress may encompass history of violence, deployment, relocation, separation, drug or alcohol abuse, health, and finance. The consequences of child abuse and neglect can be devastating and long-lasting. Children who have been abused and or neglected are more likely to have emotional stress, poor academic performance, poor social skills, and may exhibit inappropriate behaviors.
Consistent with data across the armed forces, the majority of child maltreatment cases within the Coast Guard fall in the category of neglect. For this reason, the prevention theme with emphasis on child neglect for this year is “Keep Our Children Safe – Educate, Supervise and Report.”
First, as parents or caretakers, it is important that we learn, promote and educate others on the importance of healthy relationships with our children and strive to improve it. Parents and caretakers can improve parenting skills such as effective communication, appropriate discipline, and tending to children’s physical and emotional needs. The vast majority of literature indicates parents and caretakers who practice positive parenting skills and engage in quality time with their children (e.g., eating together as a family, reading to children, being good role models, etc…) increases the likelihood that their children will excel in academic performance, have fewer behavioral problems, and experience improved self-esteem and well-being.
Second, parents and caretakers need to understand that children’s safety can be at risk in seconds. Providing good supervision can be the deciding factor between a safe situation and a dangerous one. Everyone who supervises children needs to learn how to balance daily activities and minimize distractions, especially digital distractions, to prevent accidents or injuries.
Lastly, we all must learn how to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect and quickly make a report to appropriate authorities (e.g., child protective services, child abuse hotline, law enforcement, or Family Advocacy Program). Learning the signs and appropriate ways to respond to suspected child maltreatment are important steps toward protecting our children. We as a community often forget the responsibility to keep our children safe is on all of us. Trust your instincts and make a report, you may be saving a child’s life.
In the words of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell, it is essential that we as a community come together to recognize the detrimental impact child abuse and neglect have on our Coast Guard, and take a stand against it. When we provide optimal care for our children, we will strengthen the health and safety of our Coast Guard communities and sustain our mission-readiness capability.
Each year, the Family Advocacy Program sponsors community awareness events that demonstrate and renew our commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect. You are invited to join and participate. Please contact your district’s family advocacy specialist for additional information.
For additional resources, please consider these programs and services:
For assistance with related problems and other life challenges, including work-life balance, healthy living, fulfilling relationships, recovery, financial stability, mental health and legal assistance, contact the confidential CG SUPRT Program at 1-855-CGSUPRT (1-855-247-8778) or visit the CGSUPRT website.
The Coast Guard Chaplain Corps at 1-855-USCG-CHC (1-855-872-4242)
The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224, or visit their website.
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)