The month of April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month here in Ohio. Making sure kids are safe is the reason Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) exists. Each day we live out our mission of providing a safe and stable environment where abused, neglected and traumatized children find healing, discover hope and experience unconditional love.
In 2018, more than 16,000 boys and girls entered foster care in Ohio, an increase of 28% since 2013 (source: PCSAO). Nearly 65% of those children were removed from their home because of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and/or alcohol/drug abuse by their guardians. Kids coming from volatile situations need a safe place to process their trauma so they can find healing.
We asked Emily Frazier, LISW-S, Clinical Director of our Children’s Residential Center to answer a few questions to help you better understand the effects of abuse, what CCHO does to help them heal and how you can be eyes and ears for children in your community.
How does abuse affect a child/teen?
Trauma has deep and long-lasting impacts on just about every aspect of life. Trauma disrupts connection and influences our ability to understand ourselves and develop healthy relationships with those around us. It can impact psychological, social and educational development. Emotional growth is stunted as well. This contributes to multiple barriers or hurdles a child must navigate. Often, abused children do not have the support that is needed to work through these issues and often become ‘stuck’ in their trauma; forced to relive the painful emotions and body sensations that they experienced while the trauma occurred. Flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, anxiety, depression and deeper level mental health issues as well as behavioral issues often follow. Many times, trauma is generational or cyclical with long standing patterns of abuse occurring throughout many generations.
How does CCHO care for kids with abuse/trauma in their background?
CCHO provides environmental and therapeutic treatment for kids with abuse/traumatic backgrounds. We have highly trained staff who maintain a safe, structured routine for kids. There are clear privileges and consequences that are reinforced by all caregivers. We focus on engagement and connection with kids from the moment they walk through the doors. We also focus on connecting with their families/support systems to help educate them on trauma and support long lasting changes that will help the resident be successful.
Therapeutically, CCHO offers individual therapy focused on healing from trauma. This combines traditional therapeutic approaches with equine and art therapies. It also incorporates intensive trauma processing. This gets to the roots of trauma and assists kids in processing painful traumatic events so they can be viewed as past instead of re-occurring. Additional therapeutic tools include social and emotional skill building, improvement of executive functioning, structured problem solving and independent living.
Furthermore, we are expanding our family services to provide more in-depth family preparation, therapy and healing. We have piloted and will soon implement a community integration and aftercare program to support kids in their healing as they transition to a less restrictive level of care, providing continued connection and services even after they discharge from residential.
What can you do if you suspect child abuse?
There are ways you can help if you suspect or know that a child is being abused or neglected. If you or someone else is in immediate and serious danger, you should call 911.
For non-emergent suspicions, call Child Protective Services (CPS) for the county the child/family lives in. Provide a complete, honest account of what you observed that led you to suspect the occurrence of child abuse or neglect. Any reasonable suspicion is sufficient.
Learn how to identify and report child abuse or neglect and refer children who may have been maltreated. This factsheet provides information on the legal definitions, different types, and signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect.Recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect
After you make a report, it will be sent to CPS. When CPS receives a report, the CPS worker reviews the information and determines if an investigation is needed. The CPS worker may talk with the family, the child or others to help determine what is making the child unsafe. The CPS worker can help parents or other caregivers get services, education, or other assistance.
Thank you for all that you do to help kids feel safe and loved in your own homes, schools, churches and community. Child abuse is preventable. Let’s all do our part to create a safe world for them.