01 Oct OP-ED: Ending child abuse in Kentucky begins with supporting new parents
This was originally posted as an op-ed by The Courier Journal on September 30, 2021.
By Dr. Christina Howard, Keith Inman, and Ken Reiss
When we reflect on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, the constant uncertainty and anxiety stands at the forefront for many. It could be the uncertainty of your family’s financial stability or the health of your aging parents or the educational progress of your children. Or maybe it’s the anxiety of the major life changes of the last 18 months – from family isolation to coping with the loss of a family member.
Much like we all entered the unknown territory of a global pandemic, each day new parents face the uncertainty and anxiety of the major life change of bringing home a new baby. As parents, we remember those first few days home with our little ones vividly – or at least blurs of sleep-deprived moments. Those tough moments when the baby is having difficulty taking the bottle or breastfeeding. Joyful moments of the first successful sleep time routine. Or those confusing, anxiety-filled moments when you can’t get the baby to stop crying even with a clean diaper and full belly.
Through each of those vulnerable new parent moments (and throughout the pandemic), connection with our circle – whether that’s family, friends, neighbors, faith community, or helping professionals – stands out as the most critical support. We’re offering three reminders to both parents and community members as we face these moments:
Know the strength of a helping hand. Whether that is a helping hand at the grocery store or a “you’ve got this!” text message, small acts of kindness can go a long way. Parents can also reach out to the HANDS home-visiting program in their community to better understand child development and have appropriate expectations of normal child behavior – further collecting tools for their parental toolbox.
Don’t underestimate the power of rest and self-care. Taking care of yourself when you’re also responsible for taking caring of others is no small feat, but it is necessary to our personal and family well-being. Parents, be empowered to ask for help when you need to rest and recharge. Those in a parent’s circle, step up to offer that break as a safe caregiver.
Keeping kids safe is an adult responsibility that spans across professions, families, and neighbors. In Kentucky, where we have over double the national rate for child victims of abuse under age 1, every adult is a mandated reporter of child maltreatment. Learn the signs and how to report.
Kosair Charities and more than 115 community partners from across Kentucky in the Face It Movement are steadfast in our commitment to promote best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, build awareness and engage the community in how to help families thrive, and advocate for policies to improve the child welfare system.
As part of that effort, beginning on Monday, October 4th, we are hosting TEN-4 Day proclamation events and a series of abuse prevention and recognition trainings for professionals and concerned community members to learn more about their role in child protection. The hundreds of nurses, social workers, educators, dental professionals, and other caring adults will learn prevention tips as well as the TEN-4 Bruising Rule, which outlines suspicious bruising on young children, especially on babies four months or younger, that is not normal and should be reported to Child Protective Services at 1-877-KYSAFE1.
Face It is also proud to be partnering with community organizations that are there through parents’ tough, joyful, and confusing moments in hosting events that focus on those tools to help families thrive.
Our youngest Kentuckians are the most vulnerable – especially in those moments of uncertainty and anxiety – so showing up for new parents can set families up for success. We each play an important role in preventing and recognizing child maltreatment AND in supporting new parents. Only then can we make real strides in our goal of ending child abuse in the Commonwealth.
How are you showing up for new parents in your life today?
Christina Howard, MD, FAAP is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Kentucky; Keith Inman is president of Kosair Charities®; and Kenneth Reiss is Chairman of the Kosair Charities Board of Directors. Learn more at www.faceitmovement.org