April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Mike Janis, interim president and CEO of HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, ties a blue ribbon around a tree at the entrance of St. Anthony’s to honor Child Abuse Prevention Month as a reminder that we all need to learn the signs of child maltreatment to help children in need of protection.

In 2018, nearly 35,000 cases of child abuse were indicated in Illinois, according to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois.

April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of communities working together to help identify and prevent child maltreatment. Evidence and years of research show that children raised in loving and supportive environments are more likely to prosper academically and financially.

HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department Director Deb Murbarger said, “As a health care provider, we have many opportunities to serve our community. Screening for child abuse is part of our routine care, and it is tragic seeing victims come to our hospital needing care. We remember to focus on the innocent child in our care, helping them to understand that we are here to help them be safe.”

Illinois recognizes five categories of child maltreatment, which include physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and emotional/mental injury.

HSHS St. Anthony’s encourages you to learn the signs of child maltreatment, which in many cases is committed by someone the child knows and trusts.

DCFS Illinois says sometimes a parent’s demeanor or behavior sends a red flag about potential child abuse. Experts say a single warning sign of possible child maltreatment does not necessarily mean harm is occurring, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when the signs appear repeatedly or in combination.

If a child reveals abuse, it’s important to listen carefully, let them know they’ve done the right thing by telling you, tell them it’s not their fault, and explain what you’ll do next to keep them safe.

Blue is the traditional color to honor Child Abuse Awareness Month. As such, blue pinwheels have been placed at the hospital’s entrance by Crisis Nursery of Effingham County as a means to educate about child abuse prevention, and the hospital has tied blue ribbons to trees aligning the hospital’s front circle driveway to honor the month.

If you suspect child maltreatment, call 911 or a helpline such as the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453, or the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline at 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873).

To learn more about the types and conditions of child maltreatment, visit the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

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