National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to acknowledge how far the movement has come in the past 40 years, the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. April is the month dedicated to sharing child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and activities, and to promote prevention across the country.  The first Federal child protection legislation, CAPTA was signed by President Nixon on January 31, 1974 and marked the beginning of a new national response to the problem of child abuse and neglect; since then many different supports, strategies, and activities are now available in communities to assist families and parents in establishing a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for children in which they can flourish.

During the 40 years of this movement, the focus has shifted based on research, and family needs.  Currently, the focus is on “Building Community, Building Hope,” which acknowledges the tremendous power already in communities to address the problem of child abuse and neglect.   The goal is to provide a multidisciplinary perspective by intersecting research, policy, and practice related to promoting child and family well-being and protecting children in individual communities.  This effort, of course is to ensure that children grow up to achieve their full potential, free from abuse and neglect.  Prevention still remains the best defense for our children.

The overarching goal of these prevention strategies is to raise protective factors within the community to buffer against the potential for abuse, and decrease the risk factors that may contribute families engaging in abusive acts within the home.  Research has shown that the five protective factors listed below are some of the most important to have present in the home to promote healthy development and building resiliency skills:

  • Let the child know you are available for help
  • Hold regular family meetings
  • Help the child learn to express their feelings
  • Have clear rules and expectations
  • Help the child develop problem solving skills

On Saturday April 30th, our community will be hosting a Child Safety Fair at the Sentara RMH Wellness Center.  The different booths will be not only be show casing the different resources within Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, but also activities to help teach families different ways to make sure children stay safe.

For questions please contact:

Safe Kids Coordinator, Erin Stehle
Harrisonburg Fire Department
101 North Main Street (3rd Floor)
Harrisonburg, VA 22801