April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

Prevention is a Priority at Saint Francis Care
By Katherine J. Smith, MSW

Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center has always been committed to prevention, but as number of programs and services provided to patients and the community truly demonstrate this commitment-especially in the area of children and child protection. The Violence & Injury Prevention Program, the Aetna Foundation Children’s Center, and the Saint Francis Child Protection Team most especially work on a daily basis dealing with issues regarding Child Abuse/Neglect & Child Abuse prevention. These, along with other Saint Francis Programs, increase the understanding of the problem of child abuse; serve as a resource for patients, families and staff; and foster an environment that is committed to child abuse prevention.

The problem of child abuse is very complicated. Child Abuse pervades every part of our society without discrimination based on race, income, background, or ethnicity. In Connecticut, child abuse/neglect and exposure to domestic violence causes severe physical harm with lasting problems for thousands of children from all around Connecticut. On a national level, 3 or more children die each day from abuse and over 5 million children were reported as victims of abuse & neglect to child protective services. But there are steps we can all take to try to decrease the amount of children affected.

Ensuring that the children in our communities are safe is a social responsibility that all of us share, but many of us are mandated reporters, whereby Connecticut law requires certain citizens to report suspected child abuse and neglect. As of October 2002, the law was expanded to not only include physicians, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, school teachers, & social workers, but now also includes the clergy, pharmacists, substance abuser counselors, and domestic violence counselors. What does this mean for us, and what is the best to handle a child we suspect is abused or neglected?

  • Ensure that the child receives immediate medical care if indicated.
  • Support and protect the child.
  • In all cases, if you suspect abuse and/or neglect, call: DCF Hotline at: 1-800-842-2288 (TDD Number: 1-800-624-5518).

Prevention efforts are the key in ending child abuse. Reaching children & families before they are in a crisis is needed. The best way to offer this is through creative, concrete programs that offer support and solutions to the complex problems facing today's children and families. If you would like more information on the prevention efforts of Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center, please email Kat Smith, Coordinator of the Violence & Injury Prevention Program at ksmith@stfranciscare.org.