Each April, we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM) and the importance of communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Throughout the month, communities are encouraged to increase awareness for child abuse prevention and provide education and support to families.
Although CAPM takes place in April, child abuse and neglect happens every day. In 2021, there were 83,644 cases of child abuse and neglect reported in Massachusetts. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, household substance abuse, household mental illness, and domestic violence, can have lasting negative effects on health, well-being, and opportunities in life.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, raising awareness of ACEs and their effects can help improve the prevention of these problems and shift the focus to community solutions, as well as reduce the stigma around seeking help with parenting challenges, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. It will also work to promote safe, stable and nurturing environments for children to live, learn, and play.
We recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month because it is all of our responsibility to protect and advocate for children and build them a brighter future.
The first federal legislation to protect children, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), came in 1974 after an increase of public awareness of the need to prevent child abuse and neglect. In order to gain momentum and support for child abuse prevention, June 6-12, 1982 was designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Week. The following year, April was declared Child Abuse Prevention Month, leading to decades of awareness activities and continued support for protecting children.
While Child Abuse Prevention Month became official in 1983, the child protective movement was born more than 100 years prior. In 1874, there were no laws on the books to protect children, and when The Mary Ellen Case reached court, Etta Wheeler, turned to the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to stop the brutal treatment of Mary Ellen, a 12-year old girl in her neighborhood. From that case, MSPCC was incorporated in 1878 “…for the purpose of awakening interest in the abuses to which children are exposed by…parents and guardians, and to help the enforcement of existing laws on the subject, procure needed legislation and for kindred work.”
Since then, MSPCC has protected children and strengthened families through shaping child welfare policy and programs that provide services to those affected by abuse and neglect and prevent abuse before it happens. We work with one child, one family at a time, and strive to advance our mission through advocacy.
We can all make a difference this Child Abuse Prevention Month, by taking action to spread awareness and educate others on the importance of keeping children safe and supporting families.