April 8, 2009
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the White House Press Office issued a proclamation, as has traditionally been done by Presidents to commemorate this month.
President George W. Bush's proclamation in 2007 and in 2008 were briefer documents including sentences like "America has a fundamental duty to protect the safety and well-being of its children" and "Children are the hope and promise of our Nation, and our society has a special duty to ensure young Americans get the care and attention they need to succeed in life" but also underscoring parental responsibility for prevention of child abuse. In 2008, the Bush Administration also patted itself on the back for signing the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which has to do with sex offenders that are generally outside the family, not the family violence that the Child Abuse Prevention Month program was originally created to educate the public about.
President Obama's proclamation took a different tone. Some of the important points in it, that may present a picture of the Obama Administration's approach to child welfare issues are:
1. Civic responsibility from private organizations but with funding and legislative support from government.
"Civic organizations and government also have an important role to play. Civic groups offer essential support through education, assistance to those at risk, and treatment for victims. Government at the local, State, and Federal level must provide funding for services, conduct public education projects, and enforce child abuse laws."
2. Parental education within the context of community based programs.
"A well-informed and strong family is the surest defense against child abuse. To help educate and strengthen families, community members can offer their time and counsel to parents and children who may need assistance. For example, parent support groups provide an organized forum for assistance."
3. Child abuse and neglect becoming a community problem and the general public becoming more educated (reminiscent of It Takes a Village?)
"This month, we emphasize the importance of understanding child abuse and the need for all Americans to help families overcome this devastating problem."
"Understanding the forms of child abuse is critical to preventing and responding to maltreatment."
4. The universality of the problem, and underscoring that the impact of abuse and neglect on children is community wide, not merely felt within the confines of an individual family.
"When the child next door is maltreated, we all suffer."
In a sense, Obama's inaugaral speech calling for more public/community responsibility is echoed in this approach to dealing with child abuse, and it does make good sense that communities, rather than big government, should solve the problems as they appear within them. However, the support of legislation and funding (which of course is difficult to get for anything in these economic times...unless you are a bank or major corporation) is needed for communities to successfully administer programs that lead to the prevention of child abuse.