National Child Abuse Prevention Month
– April 2023 –
Every April, child and youth serving organizations, including Catholic Dioceses, parishes, and schools, join the national movement to recognize and lift-up the immeasurable significance of Child Abuse Prevention. The Catholic Church embraces this opportunity as a time to highlight the importance of protecting children from abuse and to raise awareness that child abuse is preventable, as we reaffirm our work to help create and nurture safer childhoods locally and nationwide.
In Santa Clara County alone there were 1200 verified cases of child abuse and one child fatality as the result of child maltreatment in 2021, according to a recent study from the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Prevention Council. Studies have identified child maltreatment is a persistent problem within Santa Clara County and the greater Bay Area. Although it is a hidden social ill, its impact is significant. Child maltreatment impacts not just the child, but the family, the community, and society at large. At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year in the United States. This is likely an underestimate because many cases are unreported. In 2020, 1,750 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States, there are approximately 58,000 reports of child abuse in the greater Bay Area every year. About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse.
The impact of maltreatment not only morally degrades our society, but it also significantly hurts our economy. In fact, the physical, mental, and emotional effects of maltreatment persist long after child maltreatment occurs, and result in ongoing costs to every sector of California. Child maltreatment is a core underlying factor in many of California’s ongoing struggles, such as high rates of school dropout, homelessness, incarceration, and chronic health issues.
Let us join in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ by showing our support for protecting God’s children, through our recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month within our local parish and school communities. To assist you in this effort, the Office for Youth Protection has developed an online toolkit that is rich in resources to promote child abuse prevention awareness for use by parishes, schools, and caring individuals alike as we come together to demonstrate our support for children and families who have been affected by abuse. Please read below for ideas on how you can promote Child Abuse Prevention:
Diocese of San José's Child Abuse Prevention Month Toolkit
All types of abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, their future relationships, and ability to function at home, work and school.
Though we work tirelessly year-round in the Lord’s vineyard to create safe environments for our children, let us put a special emphasis this April to promote child abuse prevention in our community to help protect all children. To assist you in this effort, we have enclosed a Child Abuse Prevention Month Toolkit. The toolkit is rich in ideas and resources – but don’t panic! – just pick as few or as many activities that will work within your resources. We all hold the power to change lives, and even one single act of kindness and hope may reach a person who needs to hear it or be the catalyst for helping a child in need: Diocese of San José Child Abuse Prevention Month Toolkit
Prayer Opportunities & Activities in Support of Child Abuse Prevention
#WearBlue4Kids Faith Weekend – Saturday April 1, 2022 & Sunday April 2, 2023: Caring individuals observe Wear Blue 4 Kids Faith Weekend to make a visible commitment to preventing child abuse and to show their support for making great childhoods happen nationwide by wearing something blue. The Office of Child Abuse Prevention has designated the first weekend in April as a time for us all to show our support for Child Abuse Prevention Month by wearing blue. Together, as caring individuals, faith communities, and organizations in Santa Clara County can band together to make a visible commitment to preventing child abuse and help in supporting the call to make great childhoods happen nationwide by simply wearing blue. #DSJWearsBlue #GrowingBetterTogether #ThrivingFamilies #WearBlue4Kids #StopChildAbuse
Blue Sunday National Day of Prayer – Sunday April 30, 2023: Each year, Blue Sunday National Day of Prayer is offered on the last Sunday in April. On this day, Churches of all faiths are asked to join together on this day of prayer to demonstrate support for children and families who have been affected by child abuse. The Diocese of San José is united in this effort and recommends that the USCCB’s Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse be offered this day at parishes throughout the Diocese as a symbol of God’s Love and our support for all of those who have been harmed by the trauma of child abuse. May the Lord shed his Mercy on theses vulnerable souls. Bilingual Prayer Card (LINK).
Pinwheels for Prevention: In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the pinwheel as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention. Show your support for our nation’s children and help get your children involved in the movement by making your own pinwheel display or even better, a pinwheel garden! This is a great family activity for parents and children as well as caring individual who want to show their support. Download your Pinwheel Template and Instructions (LINK) | Pinwheel Coloring Sheet (LINK)
Create a “blue ribbon tree” at your parish or school, encouraging children and adults to tie a blue ribbon around a specific tree (the trunk and the branches) in honor of child abuse prevention and in support for those harmed by such abuse. You could also have each person say a prayer for those who have been abused as they tie on their ribbon. This is a great family activity for parents and children to do at home. History of the Blue Ribbon: In Spring of 1989, a very personal awareness campaign was conducted by a Virginia grandmother, Bonnie Finney, whose 3-year-old grandson had died as a result of abuse. Ms. Finney tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car to remember and honor her grandson. She spoke out in her community to alert others of the tragedy of child abuse and the use of the Blue Ribbon has since expanded across the country, embraced by many. Now, the Blue Ribbon is a nationally recognized symbol promoting child abuse awareness. The power of Ms. Finney’s story demonstrates the effect just one concerned citizen can have on raising public awareness and promoting child abuse prevention efforts. Bilingual Prayer Card (LINK).
Reminder: Submit Annual Audit Reporting Form after completion of the VIRTUS© Catholic Safe Environment Curriculum for youth trained in diocesan schools and religious education programs by April 30th, 2023. Audit Forms: School Form | Parish Form
USCCB Resources for Parishes & Schools: Bulletins, Handouts, & E-Flyers
- April is Child Abuse Prevention Month – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- A Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse – Download: BILINGUAL
- Praye for Healing & Reconciliation – Download: BILINGUAL
- Novena for Protection and Healing from Abuse – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- Warning Signs of Abuse in Minors – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- Five Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- Keeping Children & Teens Safe Online – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- Ten Tips for Protecting Children and Offering Outreach to Victims/Survivors – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
- USCCB Youth Protection Norms – Download: ENGLISH | SPANISH
Darkness To Light Resources: Child Abuse Prevention Advocacy, Awareness & Statistics
These 5 Steps to Protecting Children are key factors in preventing child sexual abuse.
- Step 1: Learn the Facts – If we don’t understand child sexual abuse, we can’t end it. It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused.
- Step 2: Minimize Opportunity – Safe environments can help reduce the risk for abuse. More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations.
- Step 3: Talk About It – Talking openly breaks down barriers and reduces stigma. By talking openly about our bodies, sex, & boundaries we can encourage children to share.
- Step 4: Recognize the Signs – Signs of abuse aren’t always obvious, but they are often there. Emotional or behavioral changes are often the most common signs.
- Step 5: React Responsibly – It’s our responsibility to react appropriately to suspicion, disclosure, or discovery of abuse. Only 4% to 8% of reports of all sexual abuse are false.
Learning the facts is the first step to preventing child sexual abuse.
- The Magnitude of the Problem – Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than people realize. Find out how big the problem really is.
- Signs of Abuse – Do you know what to do if you suspect or discover child sexual abuse? Learn the facts about signs of abuse that will help you identify when to report.
- Offender Statistics – Those who molest children look and act just like everyone else. Abusers can be neighbors, friends, and family members.
- Circumstances of Abuse – Child sexual abuse takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances.
- Risk Factors – While no child is immune, there are child and family characteristics that can heighten the risk of sexual abuse.
- Consequences of Abuse – Emotional and mental health problems are often the first consequence and sign of child sexual abuse.
- Facts on Reporting – Only about one-third of child sexual abuse incidents are identified and even fewer are reported – HELP REPORT ABUSE! Please note that this is a general statistic and not based on the diocese’s reporting procedures, which follow State and Federal Mandated Reporter laws.
Interactive Online Resources from VIRTUS, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
NetSmartz is NCMEC’s online safety education program. It provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children how to be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risks and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on- and offline. Available in English and Spanish Language: English Language Website | Spanish Language Website
KidSmartz is NCMEC’s child safety program that educates families about interpersonal safety and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors. This program offers resources to help parents, caregivers, and teachers protect kids by teaching and practicing the four (4) Rules of Personal Safety using tips, printable activities, quizzes, articles, music, videos, and more. Available in English and Spanish Language: English Language Website | Spanish Language Website
Report Abuse: If any person, or persons, needs to report a case of Clergy Abuse, we encourage them to fist contact the civil authorities (local law enforcement). Once a report is filed with the local authorities, individuals are encouraged to contact the Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults (OPCVA) at 408-983-0113. The diocese has a secure third-party reporting website and can be accessed online at https://opcva.ethicspoint.com or the Toll-Free 24 Hour Phone Number: 844-372-1691
Mandated Reporter Information – Santa Clara County Child Abuse & Neglect Center Toll-Free 24 Hour Phone Number 1-833-722-5437