WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (April 15, 2021) – April is the month that the Department of Defense recognizes the importance of preventing child abuse and encourages the community to learn more about the topic. It is also a time to put the issue at the forefront, so as the year progresses, we are armed with resources to take action if child abuse is suspected.
This year's theme and tagline is All In to End Child Abuse, our first duty is to our next generation. It serves as a reminder that our children are our future.
“While we are all busy with demanding lifestyles, we should always set aside time and put children first. They are the next generation, and if we put them first now, they will return the favor for generations to come, to ultimately end child abuse," said Cynthia Valenzuela, Family Advocacy Program Manager at White Sands Missile Range. “Putting children first is not necessarily about the quantity, but the quality of time spent is what is most important. Many busy individuals can make a huge impact in five minutes of kindness versus hours of poor interactions.”
As members of the Army community, we must protect our children. There are plenty of signs that indicate child abuse. For example, as the weather gets warmer, if you see a child wearing long sleeve clothing or clothes that are too warm, it could indicate that someone is trying to cover up bruises. In colder months, the opposite situation may indicate abuse if a child is not wearing warm clothing; they may not have access to proper attire.
“Children may be experiencing neglect if they are excessively hungry or are distracted by food. This may indicate they are not eating a well-balanced diet, are facing food insecurity, and are constantly concerned when their next meal will be,” said Valenzuela.
Another red flag is when you notice observable changes in a child's demeanor when a certain individual is near. If a child avoids an individual, this could be due to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
There are several ways the community can help at-risk children or families. You can start by understanding the limitations of parents and encouraging parents to take time for self-care. Our society can begin by not stigmatizing parents when they take time out for themselves.
“It does take a village to raise a child, and some parents need help. If you see a child being abused or neglected, contact our local child abuse reporting hotline at 855-333-SAFE. They are not here to take children away or press criminal charges on families,” said Valenzuela. “While yes, sometimes in extreme cases of child abuse this does happen, but mostly they are here to support families and provide them with resources like childcare assistance or parenting classes.”
Valenzuela also said we need to stop protecting our fellow community members, friends, family members, or Service Members because we are afraid of how it will affect the adult’s life. We need to start protecting children, be the voice that they may not have. Abuse and neglect have lifelong effects and can turn into generational abuse, impacting generations to come.
At White Sands Missile Range, you can support child abuse prevention month, by participating in the pinwheel coloring event. Pinwheels are a symbol to remind us that all children deserve a childhood free of abuse. The Family Advocacy Program and Child and Youth Services (CYS) collaborated to create a free activity for children of all ages. Families can pick up a pinwheel from the CYS or the Army Community Service center, decorate the pinwheel, and return it to the center to be put on display as a reminder of the awareness campaign.
The Family Advocacy Program has additional events all month long, including outreach tables, a color run, and informative Facebook posts.
As a final reminder, all you need is a suspicion of abuse or neglect to report to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department hotline 855-333-SAFE. Remember, all adults over the age of 18 are mandated reporters and must report.
For more information contact the White Sands Missile Range Family Advocacy Program at 575-678-2018.