COLUMBUS — Advocates hope their message of protecting children being a shared responsibility will strike a chord with Ohioans in May during Child Abuse Prevention Month and beyond.
Tim Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services, said there's a strong correlation between abuse or neglect and the challenges families face related to employment, health care, mental health and substance abuse.
He noted generational trauma also is a factor.
"Parents learn to abuse by being abused themselves," Schaffner said. "And trauma has a far-reaching impact on the developing child and on, really, the functioning of adults in many areas."
Schaffner said Ohio agencies are keeping children safe and families together by removing the burdens that lead to abuse.
Prevention strategies include connecting families with positive parenting programs, high-quality early childhood education, primary health care and behavioral-health and substance abuse treatment.
Trusted adults, including teachers and child-care providers, often are relied on to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
But Schaffner argued prevention really takes a village.
"It takes this kind of community awareness of child abuse and 'See something, say something,' how each of us can keep children safe; and the availability and the knowledge of services to respond to trauma," Schaffner said.
The "Everyday Ohio Heroes" campaign celebrates the role trusted adults play in a child's life and recently honored eight Ohioans for making a difference in child-abuse prevention.
Schaffner noted there are many initiatives at the state and federal level that are keeping child-protection agencies on the cutting edge of family interventions.
"Every child-welfare agency and job and family services has extensive training in early identification of trauma for a child and understanding and identifying the trauma histories that the parents have had in their childhood," Schaffner said.
For the first time, agencies in Ohio will be able to get federal funding for prevention services. The Family First Act will cover up to half of the costs for certain mental health, substance abuse and parenting services for families of children at risk of entering foster care.
Ohio is currently working on five evidence-based services that will be implemented by Oct. 1.