This is a heavy one. April marks time for many things, including National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Having invested the bulk of my career towards preventing child abuse, or soothing its impact, I am moved to draw attention to the cause.
The numbers are shocking. In the United States alone, over 3 million reports flood Child Welfare each year. But that’s just the number of reports, and each claim usually includes multiple children. In 2007, 5.8 million children were involved in 3.2 million allegations. That year, an estimated $104 billion was spent on the crisis.1 This is not to mention the millions of children whose abuse goes unreported every year.
Adding to the tragedy, more subtle forms of abuse –neglect and emotional abuse-- are also the most ignored. Neglect comprises by far the most common form child abuse and is increasing at frightening rates. In this harsh economy, our social service systems are less poised than ever to address the growing problem. Services to children and the elderly are consistently first on the chopping block, and first back on that block for the next round, and so on.
It really does take a village. Still, one caring gesture towards a pained child makes a difference. Of this, I assure you.
 Info courtesy of www.childhelp.org 1800 4-A-Child
Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA 1971
Brown Buckle Shoes
“Come on! Would you hurry it up, already? I’m going to be late for work!” Dad shouted. My heart raced. My eyes welled. I was blowing it again. Dad was mad at me, and I couldn’t find my shoes.
Just a few minutes earlier, I rejoiced in donning my favorite dress: a dark, multi-colored flower pattern that mommy made me. She attached an olive green velvet ribbon to the neckline. I felt pretty in that dress. But I felt ugly when I made dad mad. My sister was already sitting in the station wagon, waiting quietly like a good daughter should.
I gulped down some Minute Maid orange juice. Mom never stirred it enough, and I hated those little yucky specks that floated to the top. I couldn’t quite figure out how to avoid drinking them but still get some juice down. After a few spoonfuls of Lucky Charms, I was good to go.
At least, I thought I was ready. So far, the morning had gone smoothly. Then, it came time to grab my brown buckle shoes. They were my favorite, and I kept them side by side just below the foot of my bed.
Upon a mad dash into my room, I didn’t see those shoes. “It’s time to go!” He shouted. I looked under the pink cotton shirt that lay at my feet. No, my shoes weren’t there. I looked on top of and around my bed. Time and luck were against me. “Hurry up!” “Your sister’s been waiting!” Dad kept shouting at me. Tears streamed down my face. I was bad. I was a bad kid, the bad kid who made daddy mad and late for work.
My head suddenly shifted towards the doorway, where mom stood peacefully. “It’s alright,” she assured. “Everything is going to be alright.” I breathed life back into my lungs and glanced under my bed. My eyes fell upon the pair of brown buckle shoes, quietly hiding together and within my reach.
While slipping my feet into the shoes, I ran out to the car that was fueled by dad’s rage. I lost my breath again. My heart raced. As I held onto mom’s words, I looked down at my innocent feet that were protected only by those brown buckle shoes – my favorite pair.