I’m going to make a bold statement about parenting. Love is not enough. Agree or disagree?
April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. I work to promote this each year, and some people think it was the fact that we adopted from foster care that drove me to volunteer in this area. While it was factor, it was really just that final piece of the puzzle for me to get started working. I’ve worked in public education for 25 years and it was my first year of teaching that opened my eyes to a world for which I was unprepared. I don’t think I’ve had a year pass by that there hasn’t been at least one situation that completely gnaws at my heart.
It was the process of the adoption that shed light on the facts and figures of child abuse. I’m all about charts and graphs and data but this is pretty scary. Neglect is a unforgiving abuse. It changes the patterns of the brain. Once I realized that I see this each day at work, I felt that I had to get moving to help people realize that this parenting gig is only temporary and they better get it right the first time.
*Two disclaimers here:
- I am not, nor do I claim to be a perfect parent. FAR FROM IT. But, I’m here, sober, straight, and sacrificing each day.
- This article is not about sexual predators or the people with severe mental health issues who might microwave their baby or other nonsene. I can’t expect these people to change.
I have to admit that it seems that the odds are not in the favor of young people today. My husband says that society accepts mediocre parenting and if you can keep a child alive then you are acceptable. It seems to be true. Funding continues to be cut to Child Protective Services. Laws are made that do NOT protect children. Money is more precious than lives. Each year when this month rolls around, I wonder what good any of this REALLY does.
Then, I stand at the balloon release. We let go the number of balloons for children served identified as abused in our county during the last year. They are blue, except for the white ones. They stand for the children who died. A grandmother who lost her grandchild to abuse began this Blue Ribbon campaign in the hopes of other children never having to die a senseless death. I’ve seen children go from a life or death situation to thriving almost overnight when the proper interventions are taken. I’ve seen miracles.
I’ve never ever seen an abusive parent say they hated their child. Parents love their children, even the worst of the worst. I guess they love them as much as they can. But love isn’t enough. It takes work and sacrifice to raise a child. It takes the time and it takes putting the children first. It takes walking away from your demons (if you have any) and working on making yourself the best you can be. Being a parent is more than love.
The April Campaign has two parts: Prevention and Awareness.
How does one prevent child abuse? Studies show that community involvement has a huge impact on struggling families. Sometimes programs that hand out information when a baby is born, such as shaken baby syndrome and gives a swaddling blanket. Information and involvement are keys to helping prevent child abuse. Of course, there is much much more, but these are the highlights.
Then there is Awareness. Teachers and medical professionals are key reporters and we must be aware of the signs and diligent to report. As a society we need to be aware of the changes in child protection laws and strive for higher expectations. It takes churches, civic organizations, and families to protect today’s children.
I once had a student who lived in an abusive situation for many years. When it was finally reported she was removed, but never recovered from the fact that everyone turned a blind eye to her neglect and abuse. She asked me once, “Why wouldn’t anyone help me?” I don’t want to have to answer to that someday.
Love and keeping a child alive is NOT enough.