HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— National Child Abuse Prevention Month works to increase awareness about ways to support families and prevent child abuse and neglect during the month of April.
Champions for Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads is a nonprofit organization located in Chesapeake that focuses on strategies of prevention through awareness campaigns, training programs and legislative advocacy.
The organization encourages people to be mindful of children in their immediate circle.
“Take an interest in the children around you, the children that you know, your neighbors’ children, and look to make sure that they're taken care of in good and healthy ways,” said Executive Director Melynda Ciccotti.
The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention Control says physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect are the most common issues.
Ciccotti says even when child abuse ends, the damaging effects can last a lifetime.
“It doesn't go away. After a child has been abused, there are consequences to their health and well-being that last way on into adulthood, and this is what we are working very, very hard to reduce."
Child Protective Services reviewed more than 64,500 reports of abuse from July 2019 to June 2020 in Virginia alone.
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated child abuse, and only time will tell the severity of the impact.
“Think about a parent or a family with two or three children - and even more - that are not in school where they should be. They're not going to school where they can be monitored and supervised,” said Ciccotti.
Ciccotti encourages people to be mindful of bruising, children who are withdrawn or act out in aggression.
Reports of abuse or neglect can remain anonymous and can be made to your local department of social services or the Virginia Department of Social Services' 24/7 hotline at 800-552-7096.