April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children and strengthening families. April is Spring time which represents the Eastern direction, the color yellow, and the start of life in this world. The Eastern direction gives us our sacred tobacco, which is to be used in a respectful, healing way.

Spring time represents renewal and the start of life both in the plant and animal world. Plants are budding and blooming all around us, while the animal kingdom brings forth new life. It’s the perfect reminder to renew our commitment to serving families, but also to renew our own spirits, minds, and bodies.

We all can play a part in building community, building hope.

We must remember that when we provide children with a safe, stable, and nurturing environment they will have the ability to grow healthy and strong, emotionally, socially, and physically. Focusing on fostering healing of historical trauma brings hope and resiliency to our community. Children are our most valuable resources and will shape the future of the Pokagon tribe. We urge all citizens to recognize this month by dedicating ourselves to the task of improving the quality of life for all children and families.

This month and throughout the year, Pokagon Health Services encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our communities a better place for children and families. We can help prevent child abuse and neglect by making meaningful connections with children, youth and families in our communities.

Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families. Protective factors are conditions that reduce or eliminate risk and promote the social, emotional, and developmental well-being of children. Nurturing and attachment, social connections, and concrete support for parents are just a few examples of protective factors that parents and caregivers can provide to their families.

According to a recent study by Kids Count, Michigan and Indiana are on the top of the list for incidences of child abuse and neglect. Child abuse and neglect is a serious problem affecting every segment of our community, and finding solutions requires input and action from everyone in our community.

Making a report of suspected child abuse/neglect
In every state there are laws governing who should call to report child abuse and neglect, when a person should call if they witness or suspect child abuse, why a person should call child protective services, and where the agency to contact is located, and what type of legal actions happen when a mandatory reporter fails to report child abuse.

Mandated reporters in Michigan are required to make an immediate verbal report to CPS and a written report within 72 hours when they suspect child abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters must also notify the head of their organization of the report. Reporting the suspected allegations of child abuse and/or neglect to the head of the organization does not fulfill the requirement to report directly to DHS. Michigan’s Mandated Reporter Hotline is: (877) 277-2585

Indiana’s Mandatory Reporting laws say that each citizen of Indiana is considered a mandated reporter. While reporting child abuse is everyone’s responsibility, Indiana law requires some in certain occupations to do so. These professional reporters are staff members in a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency. These reporters are legally obligated by their profession to report alleged child abuse or neglect. Indiana’s reporting hotline is (800) 800-5556.

How will I know when to report?
The most common form of child abuse is neglect. Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs. A child may be left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care. A child may be put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm. Other types of child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. If you are witness or suspect child abuse and/or neglect, speak up and make the call to the child abuse and neglect report hot-line in your state.

For more information about child abuse prevention programs and activities during the month of April and throughout the year, contact Pokagon Health Services at (269) 782-4141.