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Child Abuse Prevention Starts with Community

Children deserve the chance to grow, thrive and reach their potential. Too often, however, child abuse gets in the way.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Mercy has been a longtime supporter of local community solutions to reduce and prevent child abuse in Douglas County. Since 2010, the Up2Us Now Child Abuse Prevention Coalition has used community education, public-policy initiatives, socially responsible investing and a series of CHI Mission and Ministry Fund Grants to successfully reduce founded cases of child abuse in Douglas County. The Up2Us Now Coalition works to address gaps and improve systems so that families and individuals have greater access to prevention services prior to an incident of child abuse.

As community members, we all have a role to play in the health and well-being of our children. While physical signs may be what most people think of when it comes to child abuse, non-accidental injuries to children can occur across a range of scenarios:

  • Physical abuse such as bruises, cuts, fractures, burns, electrical shocks or internal injuries. Though few parents intend to hurt their children, abuse is defined by the effect on the child, not the motivation of the parents.
  • Drug-affected babies where the mother’s prenatal drug use creates problems that are apparent at birth or during the first few weeks of a child’s life.
  • Shaken baby syndrome and head or chest injuries from shaking a child severely and repeatedly.
  • Sexual abuse and child exploitation when a person uses or attempts to use a child for their own sexual gratification.
  • Neglect, including failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision or medical care or exposing a child to illegal activities. Neglect is the most common form of child abuse.
  • Failure to thrive in which chronic malnutrition results in delayed growth, learning disabilities and delay in language skills.
  • Mental injury, including purposeful psychological maltreatment.
  • Domestic violence where children witness patterns of assaultive and coercive behaviors from the adults in their lives.
  • Child selling where legal or physical custody of a child is bought, sold or traded for.

If you believe a child you know is experiencing abuse, contact the local Oregon Department of Human Services Child Protective Services at 1-800-305-2903, your local police or sheriff’s department or call 911. Should the abuse have occurred within 72 hours and been sexual in nature, a medical evaluation by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is available by going to the emergency department at Mercy Medical Center (541-673-0611).

Getting and staying involved in your local community is the best way to prevent child abuse. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Visit and inquire about volunteer opportunities with their coalition partners.
  • Host an event in your neighborhood to promote community.
  • Get to know your neighbors, your children’s friends and the people and places they spend time with.
  • Get involved in your child’s activities and in local schools.
  • Attend or participate in community events.
  • Become a mentor.