Ending Child Abuse and Neglect

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Child Abuse and Neglect is a more common phenomena than we may think. According to the National Children’s Alliance, 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. According to Department of Human Services reports on Child Abuse, East Hawaii suffers unusually high rates. This April we are shining light on this issue in observance of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. 

History of Child Abuse Prevention In America:

Child Abuse has a long history including infanticide, sacrifice, slavery, and human trafficking. In “The Case of Mary Ellen” the first child abuse case was prosecuted in the United States, paving the way for government intervention and formalized guidelines for child protection. Today, our society has come a long way, creating structured systems like Child Welfare Services in order to protect vulnerable children. 

While Child Welfare Services was developed in order to help, we know from generations of intervention that foster children still struggle disproportionately compared to other children. Foster children face challenges in financial well being, mental and physical health, emotional bonds in relationships and stable housing when they age out of the foster system. Instances of child abuse have also continued with foster parents, where some children continue to experience cycles of abuse after being removed from their birth families. Over flooded case management (lack of staff, funding coupled with high reports of CAN) have also led to system failures. 

In indigenous communities, this can be even more stark, where cultural differences in family values and living situations as well as structural racism can play a role in disproportionate child separation of people of color. In Hawaii, Hawaiian children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system. If you are a Native Hawaiian adult interested in providing a stable, loving home for ‘oiwi children, please contact Hui Ho’omalu to learn about foster parenting. Our keiki certainly need you.

While foster systems and child removal are often rooted in good intentions, it’s possible that some milder cases could be prevented with Family Strengthening: In her article, “Maternal Instinct Isn’t Real, but the Myth Makes Parenting Harder” author Virginia Pelley debunks the myth of maternal instinct, arguing that good parenting is often practiced and learned. For those seeking better parenting tools and community supports, healing and growth are certainly possible. 

A Critique of Child Separation (& Why Neighborhood Place of Puna Exists):


In her TED Talk on the failures of the Child Foster Care System and ways Family Strengthening can teach better skills to prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, Molly Mcgrath explains how sometimes child removal can make a social worker feel like a “savior”, but often the more consistent, less emotionally rewarding work of Family Strengthening, rather than family separation, is more effective in supporting healthy children. 

Many children taken from the home suffer continued abuse and neglect within the foster system. The speaker also explains how there are learned skills and emotional supports children miss out on without the social experience of family. Neighborhood Place of Puna began in 2002 as a result of higher than average instances of CAN in Puna and South Hilo. Our Family Strengthening program is our oldest program addressing the needs of parents seeking support to help keep their families healthy and united.

Why Neglect is the Most Common Form of Maltreatment a Child Can Experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF3j5UVCSCA

In this video, researchers and health practitioners explain how neglect can have major negative impacts on child development. Importantly, neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. In our age of busy work schedules and distracting devices, it may feel that temporary “minor” neglect exists in gray areas. Neglect can also present itself in challenging situations of poverty, where a child may lack basic resources in part because their parent is financially struggling. Neighborhood Place of Puna works with parents to ensure that these difficulties are addressed with adequate support so no keiki are left without basic resources to thrive. Please watch this video on how the most common -and perhaps had to define- form of maltreatment affects children’s development. 

Unfortunately, while the foster care system has many problems, Child Abuse and Neglect is a complex social issue with no immediate or simple solutions. In the video, “Child Protective Investigators: A Day in the Life” a worker shows what interviewing and reporting is like in suspected Child Abuse and Neglect cases. She describes that a majority of cases involve drugs and neglect as a result of drug-use, and also described some of the worst cases that “still bothered” her emotionally.

Child Abuse and Neglect is a tragic and all-too-common occurrence in our world. Neighborhood Place of Puna is dedicated to addressing and healing the issue in our local communities –by using holistic supports like our Family Strengthening Program.

Child Abuse and Neglect Concerns During COVID19: 

During the COVID19 pandemic, Child Abuse and Neglect reporting has gone down by 50% in many parts of the United States. This is likely because mandated reporters -those who must report abuse like teachers and counselors- are no longer in contact with socially-distanced children. To help us fulfill our mission of ending Child Abuse and Neglect we ask that community members keep a watchful eye for suspected Child Abuse and Neglect in their communities. Please do not hesitate to report if you suspect abuse is happening, especially at this time. Your tip may help save a life.

To Report~

Child Abuse or Neglect 808-832-5300 or (toll free) 1-888-380-3088

Child Trafficking 808-832-1999 or (toll free) 1-888-398-1188

If you are a family or friend of a family interested in Neighborhood Place of Puna’s Family Strengthening program, please contact at 965-5550 to ask about enrollment. Family Strengthening is free and voluntary to any parent or  guardian seeking to improve their family relationships and childcare skills.