“Maltreatment in childhood is a global issue,” says Melissa Jonson-Reid, Ph.D., a child welfare expert and a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in the U.S. there are about 3 million reports of abuse or neglect each year, and about 60 percent of such reports are deemed to meet states’ criteria for investigation or assessment.
Jonson-Reid offers six ways to get involved in protecting children from mistreatment:
1. Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in foster care. More information is available at http://www.nationalcasa.org/about_us/index.html
2. Check with your local Department of Transportation to see if they offer Children’s Trust Fund license plates or something similar.
3. Join an organization that helps lobby for and support child protection and child welfare efforts like the American Humane Association, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), or the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (IPSCAN). A detailed list of organizations across the world that work on issues related to child abuse and neglect can be found at: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/resourcesforprofessionals/Directories/international_wda48965.html
4. Volunteer with your local crisis nursery program. Crisis nurseries offer residential care with the hopes that they can prevent abuse or neglect by caring for the children briefly while a parent addresses the current crisis.
5. Stay alert about local/state opportunities to support legislation and initiatives that support maltreatment prevention and intervention through groups like Citizens for Missouri’s Children.
6. Consider a career in policy, programs or intervention that prevent child maltreatment and/or assist children who have experienced maltreatment. A discussion of careers in child welfare can be found at: http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/children/NASWChildWelfareRpt062004.pdf