Child Abuse and Neglect: America’s $124 billion problem

Child abuse and neglect is a public health problem of epidemic proportions in North Carolina and throughout this country. Nationally, an estimated 1 in 4 children experience some form of child abuse or neglect in their lifetimes.

According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) there were, “127,404 children with investigated reports of possible abuse and neglect in North Carolina from July 2016 to June 2017.” The trauma a child is exposed to when they are abused contributes to other public health issues that are currently impacting our communities. Every child that is abused is at higher risk of behavioral problems at school, depression, diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, and suicide. Ultimately, this not only impacts the individual but the overall health and well-being of the greater community at large. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012 published a report showing child abuse and neglect cost the United States $124 billion.

Federal, state, and local public health agencies as well as policymakers must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high profile public health problems –in order to save lives, protect the public′s health, and save money” (Dr. Degutis, 2012).

To ensure the well-being of children and their families we must create a culture where child abuse is identified, treated, and prevented. Through education and training we can significantly reduce child abuse in North Carolina and the entire country. We can begin by breaking the silence about child abuse and neglect. Our children, families, and communities are counting on us to act and put an end to it.

Contact our Family Services Center at 704-376-7180 today for more information on resources that Thompson provides to help prevent child abuse in North Carolina. 

Building Family Leadership

Parents today are faced with many stresses, the fear of housing displacement, financial insecurities, instability of your employment, and many more. Unfortunately, on top of these challenges, parents have the responsibility to care for their children. For many, this is a typical experience. How can an individual think about parenting with those overwhelming challenges? However there is something that can be done, parents can focus on building a support system to help with decision making, handling conflicts, empowerment and leadership.

Not a parent? There’s something you can do, too. Supporting parents in times of need provides the framework for preventing negative or traumatic experiences for children.

Children who regularly experience positive interactions with their parents learn to become independent, content, deal with conflict and form positive relationships. Shaping the parental perspective not only reduces negative and traumatic experiences for children but will also encourage child leadership.

Here are three things to focus on in your support system:

Decision Making: Parents who are provided support to cope with everyday stressors build resilience. Resilience leads to parents being able to address their families specific needs. While some experiences are life-changing and challenging the ability to brainstorm resources and have group discussions is helpful for decision making.

Handling conflict: Parents who learn positive ways to handle conflict are better able to cope with stress.  Parents are better able to regulate their emotions about their stressors, avoid harsh critical statements when speaking to their children and create a positive atmosphere in the home despite everyday challenges. Parents who can handle conflict positively model those behaviors for their children.

Empowerment & Leadership: Empowering parents to be healthy and confident increases autonomy and independence. Parents who can make decisions and handle conflict become empowered and lead positively. The ability to be resourceful and solve problems creates parental leadership.

Daily life challenges are hard but parents who can find and build connections learn ways to handle life’s challenges. Parents who learn strategies and positive approaches are more likely to be successful in their parenting practices. Empowering parents to develop solid decision-making skills, handle conflict and lead others is significant for modeling positive behaviors to children.

What to do When a Crisis Strikes and Grandparents Step-in to Raise Grandchildren

The Rewards and Challenges of Parenting the Second Time Around

When parents are absent or unable to raise their children due to illness, death, or other situation, grandparents are often the ones who step in to take care of small children. Raising a second generation brings many rewards, including the fulfillment of giving your grandkids a sense of security, developing a deeper relationship, and keeping the family together. It also comes with many challenges. No matter how much you love your grandkids, taking them into your home requires major adjustments. But with the right guidelines and support, you can roll back the years and make a real difference in the lives of your grandchildren. The following is a list of tips to help in the enormous responsibility of raising your grandchildren.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s important to acknowledge and accept wat you’re feeling, both good and bad. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. It’s only natural to feel some ambivalence about childrearing at a time when you expected your responsibilities to be dwindling. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren. Remember that while you may not have the energy you did when you were younger, you have the wisdom that only comes with experience-an advantage that make a huge difference in your grandchild’s life. Unlike first-time parents, you’ve done this before and learned from your mistakes. Don’t underestimate what you have to offer.

Tip #2: Take Care of Yourself

  • A healthy you means healthy grandchildren. If you don’t take care of your health, you won’t be able to take care of your grandchildren, either. Make it a priority to eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep.
  • Hobbies and relaxation are not luxuries. Carving out time for rest and relaxation is essential to avoid burnout and depression. Use “me” time to really nurture yourself. Keeping your hair/barber appointment or taking a walk on a sunny day are great ways to take care of yourself.
  • It’s ok to lean on your grandkids for help. Kids are smarter and more capable than we often give them credit for. Even young children can pick up after themselves and help out around the house. Helping out will also make your grandkids feel good about their accomplishment.
  • Find someone you can talk to about what you’re going through. (Wisdom Circle). Support groups like Wisdom Circle can be very helpful in this journey, and it’s a good start for making friends in similar situations. Parents with a social network of supportive friends find it easier to care for their children and themselves. Hearing from people who have been there can both uplift your spirits and give you concrete suggestions for your situation.

Tip # 3: Focus on creating a stable environment

  • Establish a routine. Routines and schedules help make a child’s world feel safe. Set a schedule for mealtimes and bedtimes. Create special rituals that you and your grandchildren can share.
  • Encourage their input in their new home. Let your grandkids help pack and move in their things to the extent that they’re able for their age. Encourage them to decorate their new room and arrange things as they’d like. Having some control will make the adjustment easier.
  • Set up clear, age-appropriate house rules and enforce them consistently. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. Loving boundaries tell the child he or she is safe and protected.
  • Offer your time and attention. You can be a consistent, reassuring presence for your grandkids. Try to make time to interact with them at the beginning of the day, when they come home from school, and before bed.

These are just a few tips to support grandparents in caring for their grandchildren.

By Denise Williams, MSW Family Education Specialist
The Content of this paper was taken from an article titled: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Library of Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ecac), 907 Barra Row, Suite 102/103 Davidson, NC 28203

Setting the Groundwork for a Strong Family

How long would it take for your home to collapse if it lay atop swaying stilts?

Just like a house, having a solid foundation is paramount to the families we serve. Without proper foundational support, families are subject to stressful conditions and instability. A solid and stable foundation is vital to the health and longevity of a strong and resilient family. So, what makes a family strong and how can we put it into practice?

Research has shown that families with strong “protective factors” have increased health and well-being, resources, support, and coping strategies to parent effectively, cope with adversity, and prevent child abuse and neglect. One tool used to help strengthen families is identifying and implementing the “Five Protective Factors.” The Center for the Study of Social Policy describes the five protective factors as:

characteristics or strengths of individuals, families, communities or societies that act to mitigate risks and promote positive well-being and healthy development. Most often, we see them as attributes that help families to successfully navigate difficult situations.

The Five Protective Factors include:

Concrete Support in Time of Need. Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing, and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services to address family-specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

Parental Resilience. Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. For more on Resilience see our blog post from last month here.

Social Connections. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves.

Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development. Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence.

Social and Emotional Competence. Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a positive relationship with caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development.

These five factors could mean the difference between family breakdown or the strengthening of a family during difficult times. Any of us could face significant stress on the family, from a debilitating injury of the sole working parent, to a illness of a grandparent that takes resources or even a parent away from the core family. All families will face adversity at some point or another, these five factors can help protect and strengthen your family to weather the storm.

How will you use the Five Protective factors to strengthen your family?

Contact our Family Services Center today for more information on resources that Thompson provides to strengthen children and families.

Written by Kimberly Keefer

The Charlotte Resilience Project

The Charlotte Resilience Project is a community initiative focused on creating awareness of the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma and toxic stress, providing information and resources on trauma-informed care and resilience, and leading mobilization efforts to support successful outcomes for children and families.

In 1998, Kaiser Permanente and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a study, titled the “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” or the “ACE study”, one of the largest investigations ever conducted to determine the connection between childhood trauma and poor life and health outcomes.

This ACEs research had some striking findings:

    • The higher the ACE score, the higher risk for chronic disease as an adult including, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer. There was a 20-year difference in life expectancy for children left untreated for high ACE scores.
    • There was a direct link between ACEs and mental illness, high risk behaviors, incarceration, and work issues such as absenteeism.
    • ACEs are incredibly common. In this study of more 17,000 participants, two in nine people had an ACE score of 3 or more, and one in eight had an ACE score of 4 or more.

Researchers also began to study and highlight the impact of toxic stressprolonged stress without the resilience-building support of a positive adult—and learned that this type of stress impacts the functions and structure of children’s brains. They noted that intense stress and adversity can change children’s brains and bodies; disrupting behavior, growth, immune systems and learning; leading to an increase in attention deficits, learning disabilities, hyperactivity and anxiety.

With a mission to create a healthy, compassionate, resilient community, the Charlotte Resilience Project is leading work to educate and empower the community to better support children and families through trauma-informed care and resilience-building strategies.

Thompson CEO, Will Jones, member of the Charlotte Resilience Project’s Executive committee, shared why Thompson Child and Family Focus is supportive of this work,

As an agency that focuses on providing hope and healing for children and families, we understand and see the value of an initiative like the Charlotte Resilience Project. They are shining a light on the impact of trauma, and creating awareness to galvanize our community not only to take action to prevent ACEs, but also to build resilience in children and adults. Like us, they are clearly working to ensure that a traumatic history in childhood doesn’t result in a negative outcome or destiny as an adult.

One way to get involved is to host an event to show the film Resilience, which highlights the ACE study and the impact of trauma on the brain. Additionally, the Charlotte Resilience Project focuses on mobilizing the community as a partner to build resilience through the work of Resilience subcommittees in various sectors including: early childhood, education, corporate, faith, healthcare, justice, legislative, and nonprofit.

With that in mind, the Charlotte Resilience Project invites all community stakeholders to participate. “This is a “with” effort, not a “to” – we are serving as partners to help convene, facilitate and empower our community,” said Elizabeth Trotman, the project’s manager. “We invite everyone, parents, pastors, providers, educators, administrators, professionals, neighborhood leaders…everyone to get involved. ACEs impacts all of us, and it will take all of us, working together to build a resilient community.”

Ways you can get involved:

    • Host a showing of the film Resilience, at your place of worship, school, or club.
    • Sign up to receive trauma-informed and resiliency training to enhance your role as a parent, teacher, service provider, community leader or volunteer
    • Sign up to participate on one of the Resilience subcommittees to help drive the work in the specific sectors: Early Childhood, Education, Corporate, Faith, Healthcare, Justice, Legislative, and Nonprofit.

What can I do as a parent?

    • Take the ACEs test, and know your score.
    • Determine if your child has a high ACE score.
    • Download this parenting guide.
    • Reach out to obtain behavioral health/ therapeutic services if needed and/or contact the Charlotte Resilience project to obtain information on Resiliency tools and training
    • Advocate for ACEs training and screenings in your school, doctor’s office, etc.
    • Know that you are NOT alone

For more information, contact Elizabeth Trotman at the Charlotte Resilience Project at Elizabeth.Trotman@charlotteresilienceproject.org.
For more information on ACEs and trauma-informed care, visit https://charlotteresilienceproject.org.

The Importance of Early Childhood Reading

During the early years, reading sets children up to be successful.  At birth, children start to absorb the use of expression and language though reading.  As babies develop and begin to “coo” it is at that moment that they begin to master language.  This is an important piece that enhances the development and prepares children for school later in life.  As we engage in language with children from infants up to school age, we limit ourselves in the words that we use which also limits our expressions.  In order to increase the opportunities of learning, reading to children often helps build upon their vocabulary and its use.  Children should be read to daily as this ensures exposure to different words, phrases and their uses.  The more words they know, the better they comprehend.  Reading to children also helps promote concentration and a child’s ability to focus.  With consistency, children will learn patience as they wait for the reader to turn pages, as they sit quietly and listen, and as they learn to take turns as they begin to want to participate in reading.  Consistency in reading encourages togetherness as the child is being read to.  This helps create and maintain bonds with parents and caregivers as it can be most shared one on one and helps develop social and emotional skills needed throughout the life of the child.

Reading not only develops verbal communication, but it helps develop a child’s imagination and their creative side.  This, in turn, supports developing friendships as they learn to socialize, rationalize, and begin to show emotions as well as sympathy for others.  Providing daily readings to children, based on a variety of topics, help them to use their imaginations as they make decisions.  When asking children what they want to do or be when they grow up, it is the exposure to reading that helps them experience endless opportunities of being someone or something different.  This type of reading helps them develop an understanding of differences in others physically and this awareness to differences allows them to adapt to changes easily and more frequently.

When reading to children, keep in mind that what you read to them is just as important as how long you read to them.   Allow children the opportunity to express what they have gained from learning.  According to your child’s age, children should read or be read to at least 15 to 20 minutes a day.  Research states, “the impact on reading to your child twenty minutes a day exposes them to 1.8 million words a year!”

How to Set SMART Goals for your child in 2019

You may have heard the term “SMART goal” in the past, but how does this apply to familial success? Well, children of all ages need goals to be specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and timed. Curriculum such as Incredible Years and Nurturing Parenting walk parents through the most effective and rewarding systems for correctional training.

Specific. Specify exactly what it is that you need your child to do. Set out notes or a board of reminders so the child can see this and be reminded clearly and effectively each day of their goals or expectations. With older children, sitting down and having a conversation about expectations is typically beneficial.

Measurable.  How are your children measuring their goals? Are you held accountable equally as much as they are in their new expectations? Children need praise and tangible rewards to know their adults are noticing the good behavior that is asked of them. Try setting up a reward chart or coin jar to measure their compliance. For example, when your child has taken their shoes upstairs 10 times, they receive a small incentive or extra privilege.

Action Oriented. It’s important that children are encouraged to take action for their new goal and equally given opportunity to be successful. Parents commonly complain about lack of household organization or children being non-compliant with hygienic rules. In those instances, we ask our parents, “How tangible is this plan?”. If a child is being requested to clean up their toys, do they have a toy bin? Is there a designated space for this task? Furthermore, is the parent scheduling time for the children to play and giving them the opportunity to clean up afterwards?                                     

Realistic.  How realistic is your goal for the child? Often times when a child is not meeting an expectation it’s because they are either not willing to or they are not able to. In some cases, it is both. By assessing the child’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZOPD), one can revise an expectation and better support the child’s growth and development. For example, maybe doing the dishes is too advanced for one child, but not drying the dishes with assistance from dad.

Time Limit. Small wins are important. Even as adults, goals that are too daunting can be discouraging. By setting goals that are achievable short term, children have more opportunity to succeed. Additionally, cumulative goals can be set for children who need more support and guidance in one area. If the goal is for a child to clean their room weekly, and it just hasn’t been happening, maybe we should start by focusing on making up the bed, putting away shoes, or folding clothes first.

Just How Important Is Encouragement?

One of The Incredible Years’ most discussed topics is the topic of Praise and Encouragement. While being nice and noticing the positive behavior in children is something that feels good to them, it is also crucial in their growth and development. The Incredible Years tells us this,

“Often parents are unsure about how to and when to praise their children. They recognize that children should be praised for special things, but seldom feel it necessary to praise the simple, everyday things children do, such as sharing toys or brushing their teeth. These behaviors are often taken for granted. In fact, many parents think children are “supposed to know” how to behave without praise or rewards. However, expecting a child to function with praise or encouragement is unrealistic.”

The curriculum continues to tell us that children are more likely to repeat behaviors that get them attention. Think of this as the “Attention Principle”. The great thing about this principle is that it can work in both ways. When a child is misbehaving, a parent should not give attention to this behavior. In result, the behavior is less likely to reoccur. On the flip side, when the child is demonstrating behavior that a parent wishes to see more of, that child should be praised and rewarded. This praise encourages the child to continue behaving this way.

Parents are the child’s first and primary teacher. Though teaching is done in many ways every day, praise is an effective way to motivate a child to reach their goals and your goals. Recognition is important to children because they base many of their decision on feelings and emotions. So, if they don’t feel well, they probably won’t do well. Children of all ages are constantly discovering a desire for autonomy and how to self-regulate. In the meantime, parents must be available to support and encourage these children to reach their goals and keep trying.

Furthermore, a parent must learn to cater their praise the child’s goal. If a child is struggling with temper tantrums, perhaps the parent should complement the child when they notice they are calm. This demands a call to action from the parents- to catch children being good. If that same child is winding down for dinner and sitting politely at the table, perhaps the parent should cater a praise like this, “Thank you so much for being calm at the dinner table. I like spending time with you this way” rather than, “It’s about time you stopped throwing your tantrum!” Below are some more tips on how to cater praise to a specific behavior.

• “You do a good job of ….”
• “You have improved in…”
• “I like it when you….”
• “Wow what a wonderful job you’ve done of….”
• “Look how well you did in ….”
• “That’s very nice (or good) for…”
• “I’m so happy you…”