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FOR RELEASE: March 16, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

State Health Agency Promotes "Safe at Home" for Child Abuse Prevention Month

On the eve of April's observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has launched a public awareness and outreach program to help ensure that children in Oklahoma are truly SAFE AT HOME.

From 1993 to 1997, the overall crime rate in this country fell 21 percent, meaning that most of us are safer today than we were six years ago. During this same period of time, however, reports of child abuse and neglect rose by nine percent, according to Prevent Child Abuse America, the nation's leading child abuse prevention organization.

In Oklahoma, the rise in child abuse and neglect cases is even more staggering. The number of confirmed child abuse and neglect cases doubled from 8,359 in 1993 to 16,710 in 1998, according to the Department of Human Services' reports.

"April's observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month is an appropriate opportunity to remind ourselves of our collective responsibility to prevent the abuse and neglect that robs so many of our children of their childhood, their sense of security and well-being, and their future," said State Health Commissioner J.R. Nida, M.D.

Dr. Nida offered a few simple ways each of us can help prevent child abuse and neglect and make children SAFE AT HOME.

  • Be a nurturing parent. Children need to know that they are special and loved. Educate yourself about a child's development process so you can have reasonable expectations about what your child can and cannot do.
  • Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Being a parent isn't easy. Someone you know may be struggling with his or her parenting responsibilities. Offer a helping hand.
  • Help yourself. When the big and little problems of everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control, take time out. Don't take it out on your child. Take a deep breath. Turn on some music. Know where you can find help should you need it.
  • If your baby cries… It can be frustrating to hear your baby cry, especially when nothing you do seems to work. Learn what to do if your baby won't stop crying. But, never shake a baby!
  • Get involved. Advocate for services to help families. Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of children and families.
  • Monitor your child's television and computer use. Watching violent films on TV or playing violent computer games can harm young children. Not only does it scare them, it also teaches children that aggression is a good way to handle frustration and solve problems.
  • Spend time playing with your children… or read to them instead!
  • Report suspected abuse or neglect. Keeping children safe is the responsibility of every adult. If you have reason to believe a child has been – or may be – harmed, call the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Hotline at 1-800-522-3511.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health's Office of Child Abuse Prevention promotes the health and safety of children and families by reducing violence and child maltreatment through education, multidisciplinary training of professionals and the funding of community-based family resource and support programs. For more information about how to use the office's resources to prevent child abuse and neglect or to get involved in Child Abuse Prevention Month activities, call the Office of Child Abuse Prevention at (405) 271-4470.



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