April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Rep. Karen Boback
13 April 2020
Each April, we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is a time when child advocacy groups, government leaders and nonprofits join forces to raise awareness about the warning signs and offer assistance to those living under the specter of child abuse.

One of the core messages reinforced during Child Abuse Prevention month is that everyone has a part to play in protecting our young people: from parents to teachers and beyond, we all have a shared responsibility to protect our most vulnerable population. In fact, the theme of this year’s observance is the simple fact that “Everyone Can Make Great Childhoods.”

However, as we all know, this is no ordinary year. In the midst of our statewide stay-at-home order, it is more important than ever to advocate for child welfare.The disruptions to everyday life mean our circumstances have changed in a way that nobody could have predicted.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent mitigation efforts have resulted in school closings, job losses and extreme uncertainty for millions of Pennsylvania families. We in the legislature have taken action to provide relief to families in the wake of this disaster, but the fact remains that our nation’s children are at an increased risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress such as these.

For many children with difficult home lives, school represents a safe place. While recent statistics indicate that reports of child abuse and neglect have plummetedover the course of this quarantine,many are concerned that this isonly because our most vulnerable young people are not in their safe place, surrounded by mandatory reporters.

We want our state’s children to grow up in an environment where they can thrive, where their safety is guaranteedand where they feel loved. Now more than ever, we must look after the children of our Commonwealth–and sometimes that startswith looking after ourselves and one another.

Fortunately, our state has an abundance of mental health resources available to those struggling withdepression, anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) recently launched an emotional support helpline staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers who are available to counsel Pennsylvanians around the clock, free of charge. That number is 1-855-284-2494.

Additionally, ChildLine is available 24/7 to anyone wishing to report child abuse and general child well-being concerns. If you see something, say something–dial1-800-932-0313or go onlinetowww.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.

The time to act is now. This April, do your part to prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania. Speak up, get involved and spread the word to others in our community. Visit preventchildabuse.org for more information.