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BellaOnline's Missing and Exploited Children Editor

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Recognizing Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation


Imagine being born and being addicted to drugs, and going through the painful physical symptoms of withdrawal in your first few weeks of life. Imagine lying alone in a dark room naked on a vinyl mattress wearing a soiled diaper for days at a time. Can you feel the painful cramping in the baby’s stomach from dehydration and lack of nutrition? Further dehydration results from crying for hours on end because no one ever comes to sooth you. A child finally falls asleep simply from pure exhaustion, only to wake up a few minutes later to repeat this horrid cycle.

If the most basic of needs of an infant food, shelter, and reassurance are unmet in the first days, weeks, months, or years, the child learns the world is not a safe place. How lonely of an existence this must be for a child? No child deserves to go through life this way. Dr. Seuss tells us, "A person is a person, no matter how small.”

Children are the future, our most valuable resource. In order for a child to grow into a productive and successful adult, he or she must learn that if he or she cries and is hurt that someone will take care of them. This shows a child how to trust the world and people around them.

Children deserve daily, even hourly guidance from a reliable and trust worthy adult, in order to develop a healthy sense of personal identity. A child will mirror those closest to them. Every child deserves to have a warm bed, a safe home, and a watchful caregiver as they explore and learn how to survive in his or her environment. Every child deserves to feel good, to know if he or she has a bad day that someone will offer reassurance and guidance.

Every child deserves to have a birthday party, every year. A birthday is the day to celebrate your unique sense of self and individual milestones they have accomplished that year. Children deserve love, shelter, food, and water. Every child should be reminded about how amazing he or she is and how important that child is to someone else.

Tragically, everyday children survive abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Even more tragic is that someone ignores the red flags or obvious acts of abuse and does nothing to help. Every day children live and die (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) by the hands of the adults entrusted with their care. Every night adults struggle with the life long after affects of being a child hood victim of abuse. It is no longer acceptable to know a child is living in an abusive home and choose to do nothing.

Some children will never know what it means to live and thrive in a nurturing environment. Parenthood is a daunting task under the best of circumstances. In challenging times, parenting is overwhelming. There is no greater responsibility in our lifetime than to protect and raise a child. Marian Wright Edelman once said, “If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.” Everyone must take a stand when it involves a child.

If you buy a new car, refrigerator, or even a home, there are people you can resource for information if a problem arises. Often the only information parents receive from a reliable source is in the first 24 to 48 hours immediately after giving birth, totally exhausted both physically and emotionally. New parents leave the hospital with a few pamphlets and if lucky phone number of a local doctor. Yet, after discharge, parents might find criticism, questioning, and misleading information from family, friends, and even complete strangers.

If a child is well behaved, parents are told how lucky to be blessed with a good baby. If a child is a holy terror, the parent is to blame and often led to believe a complete stranger could raise the child better. Many people will never question advice given by a grandparent, co-workers, doctor, teacher, or neighbor, despite the internal alarm system ringing loud and clear. Soon even a good parent may begin to doubt his or her personal ability to raise their child.

The greatest tragedy of child abuse is the loss of self-identity a child faces. A child faces a lifetime of anonymity unless someone chooses to intervene. Reporting child abuse is easy. The National Child Abuse Hot line is 1-800-422-4453 or 1-800-4-A-Child. The reporter can remain anonymous when reporting suspected child abuse. If you know of a child who is being hurt or neglected, please call today.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Erika Lyn Smith. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Erika Lyn Smith. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Erika Lyn Smith for details.

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