Claire Louge, July 7, 2020
A lot of people are concerned with the decline in calls to the DCS hotline since the pandemic began. They are worried that kids are unsafe at home and, because they have less contact with other protective adults in the community, their situations are going unreported. How do we make sure these cases are reported to DCS? That’s a question I hear a lot.
I get it. I’m concerned too. But if you share this concern, I have another question for you.
How can you support families in your community so that abuse/neglect doesn’t happen in the first place? Why do we need to wait for abuse to happen before we act?
What if we considered ourselves not just mandated reporters, but also mandated supporters? What if we got ahead of the problem of child abuse? What if we considered it our duty, as community members, to support families the best we can so that they can support children the best they can?
Call me a dreamer, but I think the world is waking up to the fact that we can’t stop a problem just by dealing with its consequences. We’re having historic discussions right now about how to solve problems by addressing their roots.
I want to do that with child abuse.
We know some of the conditions that lead to child abuse are:
- lack of parent coping skills
- social isolation
- lack of parenting knowledge
- lack of resources
And there are numerous disadvantages that lead to those conditions, like historical trauma, distrust in systems, a lot of shame around asking for help, and generational poverty, to name a few.
So how do we, as individuals, address those issues? We start with where we are, and who we are. We connect with the families in our community. We give ourselves the mandate to be supporters.
It’s going to feel a bit awkward to do this. Why? Because we’re not used to meeting our neighbors anymore. We drive into our garages or walk through our apartment doors without making eye contact with anyone around us. We don’t have time, or we don’t want to bother anyone, or we just don’t know how.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that if I was going to encourage people to reach out to the families in their community, I had to walk my talk. I live in an apartment complex, and back in January, a family moved into the apartment next to mine. I knew from the cadence of the crying I occasionally heard that they had a very new infant. I had never introduced myself. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to bother them. I didn’t want to be awkward. But dealing with this discomfort is the work, so I wrote them a note introducing my partner and I. I gave them our numbers and told them that if they ever needed anything, we were right next door.
They texted me the next day, thanking me for the note. We talked about where we were both from, and what we did for a living. We have since met officially in the parking lot. They have two of the most adorable children I have ever seen in my life. And do you know what I realized? Although my intention was to support their sense of connection, getting to know them wound up benefiting me. I feel more connected. This isn’t just about supporting families; it’s about building community, and that’s good for all of us.
What about you? What can you do to support families, where you are?