By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –It’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, in North Philadelphia, brought in scores of professionals today for its second annual conference on child abuse prevention.
With hundreds of thousands of children falling victim to physical, mental, and emotional abuse every year, the purpose of this conference was to ask, “What can I do to put child abuse prevention into practice?”
“Effects of the abuse are not just at the moment, but it’s the long-term effects that lead to lifelong health problems, mental health problems that we are trying to mitigate,” says Dr. Maria McColgan (at lectern in photo), who runs St. Christopher’s Child Protection Program, which is in its tenth year.
She says they see about 500 kids each year who have shown signs of abuse and neglect — “signs like bruises on the trunk, bruises on the neck, bruises in the genitalia, the buttocks — those are obvious,” she says, “but also a child who has severely poor hygiene, is severely withdrawn, seems fearful of their parents, a child that has sexualized behaviors — these are some of the many indicators that child abuse could be occurring.”
McColgan says if you see abuse, you can report it anonymously by calling the child line at 800-923-0313.
St. Christopher’s honored Child Protection Program founder Dr. Angelo Giardino, who now works in Houston, Tex. He says his new mission is to destigmatize parent training to keep parents from becoming abusers.
“We want to make parent classes as inclusive as childbirth classes,” says Giardino. “Children are not born with an owner’s manual, so there is no shame in getting coaching during the early years.”
St. Christopher’s is currently building its Center for the Urban Child, which will be dedicated to breaking the cycle of abuse, violence, and poverty in families. The center is expected to open in the fall.