Posted Online: Dec. 04, 2012, 10:02 am

View from QCA: Child abuse preventable

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By Sue Swisher

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Sue Swisher
The holiday season is a time to reflect on the blessings in our lives. It's also a time to celebrate and give back to our communities.

You might choose to do that through cash donations to jingling volunteers with red buckets, through donations of food to the local food bank, or through other direct donations. However, another way to give back is by reporting concerns about a neglected or abused child. A strong community protects innocent children and allows them to grow in safe and loving homes.

The Illinois Department of Children & Family services recently reported that the Quad-Cities community has a rate of reported abuse and neglect twice the statewide average. It's heartbreaking to think about children living through such troubling situations at any time of year, but particularly during the holiday season.

However, with community awareness and individual action the stories of these children can be heard.

Families dealing with high stress-loads such as poverty, isolation, and single-parent status can be the very homes where abuse and neglect are more likely to occur. But, fortunately, family services, such as those provided by the Child Abuse Council, exist to provide parenting education and support to overburdened families.

When you report suspected abuse or neglect, whether in your family, neighborhood or community, steps can be taken to connect families with services and provide children a safe and nurturing environment. Together, community action and family services can help make a child's holiday season one that is free from abuse and neglect.

You may ask "What can I do to help?" There are a number of options.

-- Support the parents you know, not necessarily financially, but emotionally. Parenting is a tough and sometimes lonely job.
-- Report child abuse or neglect if you have reason to believe it's happening. In Illinois call 1-800-252-2873, in Iowa call 1-563-326-8698 — or call your local police department.
-- If problems exist, encourage families to get help. The Q-C area has numerous child and family services that can assist.
-- Support organizations that work to prevent and respond to child abuse and family violence. Volunteer or make a donation. Because of the economy many organization are seeing decreases in state and local support at the very time that families need increased help.
-- Hug your own child or grandchild and be thankful that he/she is safe, secure and loved.

This year the Child Abuse Council celebrates 35 years of providing child abuse prevention and treatment services. Our ability to have an impact on the lives of thousands of children over the years has only been possible because of the generosity and loyalty of the community.

Child abuse and neglect can be prevented, and each of us can make a difference in the future of the children we know and those we don't.
Sue Swisher is executive director of the Child Abuse Council in Rock Island.