Nearly one in six Americans currently live in poverty. It is devastating to the family on so many levels, and as research shows it is also a contributing factor to higher rates of child abuse and neglect. A study released at the end of 2011, in the midst of the current recession, showed a correlation between a depressed economy and higher rates of abuse.
As Thanksgiving has passed, many of us are clearly aware we have a lot to be thankful for. Most of us spent the holiday enjoying time with friends and family and sharing memories over a nice meal. Yet many families did not eat on Thanksgiving, nor do they have food in their homes on a regular basis. According to national statistics, one in four children do not know where their next meal will come from.
Researchers noted an increase in shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, as well as other types of abuse and neglect. The increase makes sense if you consider the ecological model of abuse and the risk factors that contribute to abuse: stress, substance abuse, domestic violence, parental discord, unemployment, and poverty. Poverty is also one of the main underlying causes of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The takeaway for all of us should be to ask ourselves what we could do to help those families currently struggling. How can we offer a bit of extra support to either a family or to organizations in the community that support struggling families such as food banks or nonprofits that protect children? If we have a little bit extra (money or time), now is the time to step up and give a little bit extra to help families in need. It’s the right thing to do and it may help protect a child from maltreatment as well.