Protecting Our Children – Are We Doing Enough?
Every week in Canada a child dies as a result of abuse or neglect. Thousands of children across the country are abused every day by people they know and trust. Of ten there is an adult that knows or suspects that a child is being harmed, yet only a small percentage of cases are repor ted. Why is this happening and why aren’t we doing more to protect our children?
Canada does not have a national child abuse policy. Prevention programs that have been proven to be effective are only available to some children in some schools. We talk about children as the future, however, we do little to ensure their safety from maltreatment and wonder why children’s mental health problems are on the rise. The effects of child abuse can be devastating, and left unrepor ted and untreated, can result in a lifetime of pain, fear, anxiety and depression. These symptoms of trauma can have a crippling effect on someone’s life, of ten impacting their ability to complete their education, to work, to have healthy relationships and may lead to substance abuse, criminal behaviour or suicide.
We need to do more to protect our children from these risks. We need universal prevention programs to teach children skills to reduce their vulnerability. Children need to learn about healthy relationships and making good choices. We want our children to grow up to be strong, healthy adults that respect one another. This may sound simple and that is because, relatively speaking, it is. Our schools provide us with the opportunity to teach children primary prevention skills by integrating them right into the curriculum. The programs already exist and are available to schools, however we need the political will to mandate these programs within the education system. We wouldn’t let our children cross the street without teaching them to look both ways, nor would we let them ride their bikes without a helmet or travel in a car without wearing a seatbelt, but when it comes to their personal safety we are falling short.
As a parent or caregiver, ask your child’s teacher or principal if their school teaches primary prevention. Contact your school trustee, local councilor, MPP or MP to find out if your school board is teaching children prevention skills and if not, ask why. Only through education for all children can we ever hope to end child abuse.
If you suspect that a child is at risk, it is your legal responsibility to contact your local child protection agency or police.
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