April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
Blessed Sacrament Academy’s Child Development Center and Parents’ Academy collaborate in these awareness efforts during the month of April, including the Cardboard Kids campaign sponsored by ChildSafe. But the truth is, for the past 20 years, the Parents’ Academy has addressed the issues of child abuse and neglect, and continues to do so.
Kathy Lozano, Parents’ Academy Director explains, “Parents’ Academy provides a support system for families as they navigate the challenging role of raising healthy children. Often, families lack positive role models in respectful parenting. Our program builds positive parenting behaviors and the whole family benefits!”
Why do the educators at the Parents’ Academy think it’s so important for families in San Antonio and Bexar County understand the need to challenge child abuse and neglect and its effect on the community? A recent article in the Austin Statesman printed these disturbing 2015 Texas statistics: 171 children died of abuse and neglect; up from 151 in 2014 and 108,167 cases of child abuse and neglect were confirmed, about 1,800 more than 2014. Bexar County had the highest number of repeat victims in the state — children who are re-victimized after their families have gone through the Child Protective Services system.
Child abuse can have damaging effects not only on the children who suffer it, but on communities that must address the aftermath of abuse. Here are just a few statistics which indicate the long-term effects of child abuse on the child and community as a whole.
- Nearly 1 in 10 children are witnesses to family violence.
- The youngest children are the most vulnerable to maltreatment. Over 25% of abused children are under the age of three while over 45% of abused children are under the age of five.
- In over 80% child abuse cases, the parent was the perpetrator.
- Child abuse victims are more likely to exhibit anti-social behaviors, including borderline personality disorders and violent behavior.
- Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violence crime.
The Parents’ Academy currently offers two different Precious Minds New Connections courses. One class is for families with children three and under and the other course is for families with children age four through teens. Both classes meet for 9 weeks and include meals, childcare and awards for all participants. All programs are free.
Some of the families served have an open case with Child Protective Services. Other families may just be looking for a “refresher” course. Even experienced parents have remarked they learned a great deal and gained valuable insights.
While there are many programs for parents of young children, our program is one of only a few that focuses on older children. Often, the only discipline tool they have used is physical abuse. The results of poor parenting are generational cycles of abuse and neglect that can be broken when parents are empowered with positive solutions for challenging behaviors.
“Instead of being critical and acting childish, I know now how to be a parent my children can respect. I learned how to step back and notice some of my weak points and how I can improve on them. Now I am equipped with new tools to raise my teenage daughter.”
Researchers estimate that one-third of abused and neglected children will grow up to abuse their own children when they become parents.
“This program helped me realize the way I was raised was unhealthy and it gave me insight and ways to become a better father. I learned about other methods to parent with compassion and I am not repeating the way I was raised.” 2014 participant.
- Adults who were abused or neglected as children are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs during their lifetimes. A study found that as many as two-thirds of individuals in drug treatment programs reported being abused as children.
One of the parenting class participants, a recovering addict, wrote, “Now I have the tools to become the mother I always wanted to be.”
Through interactive and engaging class activities, parents learn alternatives to physical punishment. Children are freed from abuse and neglect when their parents understand developmental needs of their children and learn to approach discipline challenges with empathy and understanding.
In Parents’ Academy, I learned how to grow up and share what I feel inside. I can now control my anger much better and I am more patient with my children and my partner. I have learned to listen before reacting and to always think what impact my actions will have on my child. – parent participant.
Parents’ Academy was established in 1994 and thousands of families have gained input and insights from the positive parenting program. In the past year, over 350 parents attended workshops at Parents’ Academy.
If you are interested in attending or supporting the Parents’ Academy, contact Kathy Lozano 210.532.0894