Letter to the Editor: You can help prevent child abuse and neglect

To the Editor:

Across our community, there are parents and caregivers who may be struggling with balancing the stress of daily life alongside caring for a child. Whether it is working multiple jobs trying to put food on the table, grappling with a substance use disorder, wondering where the next month’s rent will be coming from or dealing with anxiety related to the COVID-19 crisis, balancing these pressures with parenting and running a household can at times be very difficult.

Sadly, stress in its many forms can be a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. At Northeast Iowa CASA, we see this time and time again with the children and families we serve who are involved in the foster care system. Stress is a natural byproduct of parenthood, but when those stresses are combined with anxieties over things like financials, health, employment or relationships, it can become too much for one person to handle.

While there is no excuse for abuse or neglect, we must understand what underlying issues can cause it to occur if we, as a community, wish to prevent it and help families safely stay together. After all, we know that the vast majority of parents love their children - and the last thing they want is for their kids to have to go into foster care based on their circumstances during a difficult time.

So maybe you’re wondering: What can you do to help? As a community, we can come together to help prevent child abuse and neglect by aiding our own family members, friends and neighbors in reducing the stresses of parenthood. There are many efforts you can undertake to support families directly, and while they may seem small, they can have a major effect.

Offering childcare, donating items, providing a meal, or just lending an ear or a voice of experience can take an immense amount of stress off a child’s caretaker. These acts of kindness do make a difference, because we never fully know what a family might be dealing with. Even one of these acts could mean the world to a struggling caregiver.

Another way to support children and families in our community is to become involved by advocating for the protection of Iowa’s children and improvement of the child welfare system. The Iowa Child Advocacy Board, operating the Court Appointed Special Advocate and Foster Care Review Board volunteer programs, seek individuals willing to make a commitment to this work. To learn more, visit childadvocacy.iowa.gov or for more information locally contact Kerry Brennan at kerry.brennan@dia.iowa.gov.

Kerry Brennan
CASA Program Coordinator & CAMS Specialist