Kori Stephens, MPH
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when we recognize the need to protect and provide a voice for the most vulnerable children and families in our community.
Children are at risk of a number of forms of maltreatment — physical and verbal abuse, neglect, drug endangerment and exploitation — and about 1 in 10 children is sexually abused before the age of 18. As much as we would like to believe that child abuse rarely happens and could not happen in our community, we cannot avoid these two truths: child abuse does not discriminate and child abuse is a community issue. It is our responsibility to ensure that every kid has a safe, healthy and happy childhood.
As project director for the Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, it has been my privilege over the past six years to work with incredible professionals who devote their careers to providing healing for the 1 in 10. It has always been difficult for me to wrap my mind around this statistic. One of my professors put it best: “Statistics are people with the tears washed away.” Even after listening to the stories of hundreds of children, it wasn’t until my son was born in 2014 that my work took on a new meaning, and I was awestruck at the amount of support needed from family, friends and community to truly provide a safe, healthy and happy childhood.
We know through the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study that if we don’t intervene early with these kids, the consequences can be significant, contributing to chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease and risky health behaviors such as smoking and alcohol abuse. Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) were established in the 1980s as safe, child-friendly places for children to tell their stories and begin the path to healing. We are fortunate to have a nationally recognized CAC at Children’s Minnesota, delivering excellent care to kids and families who have been impacted by abuse. Through this work, we also know that children are incredibly resilient and with the appropriate evidence-based interventions they can heal from their experience and go on to live healthy and productive lives.
How is Children’s making a difference?
- Midwest Children’s Resource Center is an accredited children’s advocacy center through the National Children’s Alliance and sees more than 1,100 children annually, offering a space for their voices to be heard, providing expert medical care and connecting them with mental-health therapy.
- The Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center works with communities across the nation to improve their response to child abuse by elevating the expertise of child-abuse professionals through training, education and technical assistance.
- Our child-abuse pediatricians advocate through their daily efforts and through awareness-raising blog posts on this topic.
How can you protect the most amazing people on earth?
Check out Prevent Child Abuse America’s 10 Ways to Help Prevent Child Abuse.
For more information:
- If you think a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
- Minnesota Child Protection Phone Numbers
- ChildHelp National Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
Kori Stephens, MPH, is project director for the Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center at Children’s Minnesota.