National Child Abuse Prevention Month: a safe place to turn

By April 13, 2016

USA (MNN) — Child abuse is an overwhelming reality. What do you do if you know of a child who is a victim? Thanks to the work of organizations like Bethany Christian Services, you don’t have to answer this question on your own.

In light of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we spoke to Tom Nolan of Bethany to learn more about their ministry, Safe Family for Children (SFFC). He shares how everyday people are changing lives for families with a high risk of abuse.

Addressing the cause of child abuse

We’ve all been there. The day-to-day pressures and stress weigh us down to a breaking point. We lose it. For some of us, that means we snap at a cashier, throw a coffee cup, or splurge on a particularly unhealthy treat.

For others, particularly those with constant pressure and no outside help, stress can manifest itself in the abuse or neglect of a child.

Nolan says this is typically the cause of child abuse: a buildup of stress within isolation.

“The reality is that families are struggling, and sometimes children are the victims of family struggles,” he explains.

Some of these struggles are accumulated stress situations–like a pile of unpaid bills sent to collections. Other stress factors might be a parent’s mental health, substance abuse, or a sudden illness.

These things can happen to anybody, but for the parent without a spouse or outside family to turn to for help, it can be particularly devastating.

Stepping up so families can get to their feet

Read Jennifer's story about how Safe Families for Children saved her from having to give up her children. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services).

Jennifer was able to keep her children because of Safe Families for Children. (Photo and story courtesy of Bethany Christian Services).

In many cases, by time someone from the outside steps in to help, abuse has already taken place and the family is permanently scarred by what has happened. SFFC aims to address the issue before anything happens so that families can stay together and learn how to deal with stress healthily.
The idea is really quite simple.

“The most important and most effective solution to addressing child abuse is relationship, Nolan says. “If you have a relationship with somebody, then a person has someone to reach out to when they get to that point of stress in their life that could lead to child abuse and neglect.”
This isn’t a job for trained professionals only, but for the family who has the resources to help out another family. As Nolan explains, it’s volunteer-driven and professional supported.

The local Church

SFFC is run through local churches that volunteer to help families in their area. Nolan says, “The idea is that the Church has within its four walls the resources to meet the needs of the community. And so if we can build relationships within churches to meet those needs of children and families, then we’re going to reduce the occurrence of child abuse and neglect.”
He explains that sometimes these resources are as simple as helping a parent find a job, providing their child with a coat, or bringing them with a meal. Other times, it’s taking care of their child while they recover their ability to give their child a safe home.

Building trust and Biblical hospitality

An isolated family in peril needs somebody to step in and help. However, it may take time for them to trust a stranger. SFFC wants families in need to have people they can trust to lovingly share their burden with them. As their name suggests, they want to provide families with a safe family. If you want to get involved, you can find out how by visiting Bethany’s website or SFFC.

Nolan says it’s one way to show Biblical hospitality. He also says when families ask why an individual through SFFC is helping them, it provides a great opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

Be praying that more churches will step forward to join the program and that families will volunteer to help families in need. Pray for the protection of children who are currently in dangerous situations.

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