Here are some actions you can take to support children, their parents or primary caregivers, and your community as a whole. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and add to our list with your ideas!
- Be a good example.
Respect your family members. Use a courteous tone of voice with them. When children misbehave, let them know that you dislike what they did, not who they are. Don't harm your kids; violence teaches violence. Apologize when you're wrong. Say "I love you" more often. Look for and reward good behavior.
- Be a friend to a parent.
Listen. Sometimes, just being able to express anger and frustration helps ease tensions. Go shopping with a parent and child. Children are usually better behaved when their adults are happier and more relaxed. Invite a parent to go jogging or bowling or golfing. Exercise helps relieve stress and being a source of social support helps everyone.
- Reach out to neighbors or relatives with children.
Offer to babysit to give them a much-needed break.
- Praise and encourage the children you know.
Mean words can make a child feel worthless, ugly, and unloved, and the hurt can last a lifetime. So be positive. Tell a child you're proud of her and why. Stick up for her; don't let others tease or make fun of her. Smile. Let her know she is important to you. Say, "You're terrific. I like you!"
- Take action...don't wait for someone else to do it!
Arrange for a speaker on community resilience, child maltreatment, historical trauma, emotional healing, and other topics to come to your PTA, church, club, or workplace. The more we all know about these issues, the more we can do to stop it.
- Organize safety systems for your neighborhood.
Arrange for neighbors who are at home most of the day to watch out for children on their way to and from school. Set up "safe houses" where children can go if they feel threatened or afraid. Participate in a telephone network for neighborhood children who are home alone after school and need help, advice, or reassurance.
Volunteer your time in a child crisis shelter, parenting support program, drug abuse prevention or treatment program, or shelter for the homeless.
- Set up an after-school-hours program at a retirement home.
It's hard to tell who benefits more from such an arrangement, the children or the elders.
- Form a Carpenters Guild.
Work with others in your church, club, or workplace to repair homes of families living in vulnerable conditions in order to make them more livable for children.
- Host a baby shower.
Invite friends and neighbors to bring items for infants, children and families who need specific caregiving items.
- Start a resource room.
Call our offices at Minnesota Communities Caring for Children and Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota to find out where you can donate or collect diapers, clothing, toys, books, and formula to help ease the transition for children who must be removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect. Hold a fund raiser to buy school supplies for foster children, foster families and the biological families!
- Work in a day-care center.
Volunteer your time in a day-care center that serves children and families. Work with your church, club, or organization to form a partnership with a child-care center that serves children and families in vulnerable conditions.
- Be a mentor.
Help a pregnant teenager learn parenting skills. Or be a mentor/modeler to a pre-teen through one of your school or community mentoring programs.
- Learn more about child abuse and child abuse prevention.
Teach others. Plan an adult education program in your church, club, or organization to inform people about children's needs. Open your group's facility to local education programs for parents.
- Become a foster parent.
It's not an easy job, but the rewards are great when you help a child learn what it feels like to be safe.
- Help a foster child get a good start.
Call MCCC/PCAMN to provide "housewarming gifts" of linens, pots and pans, small appliances, and lamps for 18-year-old foster children who are moving out on their own. We will refer you to drop off places for those items.
- Get involved with the child welfare staff and programs in your county.
Be an advocate. Educate yourself on the programs offered.
- Understand which children are most likely to be abused.
Although child abuse occurs in all racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups, physical abuse and neglect are more likely among people living in poverty. Children who are most likely to be abused are children who are mentally retarded, premature, unwanted, stubborn, inquisitive, demanding, or have a disability.
- Learn to recognize the signs of abuse.
Learn the signs of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse listed at the bottom of this page. Be watchful.
- Report suspected child abuse and neglect.
Call 911 or your local law enforcement agency if you think a child is being neglected, sexually abused, or physically or emotionally abused. Children are hardly ever abused only once. If you suspect it, you must report it. That's the law. Reporting suspected child abuse makes it possible for a family to get the help they obviously need.
If you see a child being abused in public, do what you can to help:
- Divert the adult’s attention.
- Start a conversation with the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, “Shopping with children can really try your patience, can’t it?” Talk to the child.
- If the child is acting out or misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or her. Praise the parent or child.
- Find something positive to say about the child or the parent. For example, “That’s a pretty dress your daughter is wearing. Where did you get it?” Offer to help.
- For example, if a child has been left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a caretaker returns.
- Avoid negative looks or comments. This may only increase the adult’s anger, making things worse for the child.