Tagged: child abuse prevention

Protecting Against Emotional Abuse

According to the Child Maltreatment 2017 report prepared by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2.3 percent of children experienced psychological or emotional maltreatment in 2017. This number underestimates the true scope of the problem, as emotional abuse is more difficult to identify than other types of child abuse.

Children from all backgrounds can be at risk of emotional abuse, especially when a family is experiencing multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty and homelessness. All of these may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.

Research has shown, however, that the good can outweigh the bad, and that we can mitigate or eliminate the risk of emotional abuse by developing strong protective factors in parents and families.

The Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework distills extensive research into a core set of five protective factors that everyone can understand and recognize in their own lives. These protective factors work as safeguards that can help parents find resources or supports and encourage coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under difficult circumstances.

Parental resilience is a protective factor that can help one manage stress when faced with challenges, adversity or trauma. Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience. They have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well.

Social connections can also provide emotional support for a family. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. On the other hand, parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and/or neglect.

Access to concrete supports for the entire family may also help prevent the unintended emotional abuse or neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children. Families who can meet their own basic needs and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

It is also important for parents to understand child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language and social and emotional development. Children thrive emotionally when parents provide respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Conversely, delayed social-emotional development may obstruct healthy relationships.

When multiple protective factors are present, a family is better able to successfully navigate difficult situations and moderate the risk of emotional and other types of abuse or neglect.

​Within the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Office of Early Childhood has established the Strengthening Families Network to increase awareness and encourage efforts to embed the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework in family support practice across Colorado.

Learn more about how this framework is being implemented throughout the state here.

Hidden Scars: A Look at Emotional Abuse in Sports

While we often talk about the long-term, adverse effects that stem from physical and sexual abuse and neglect, the toll and trauma of emotional abuse can be just as damaging.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love and threatening. Children who have suffered emotional abuse or neglect may find it difficult to form healthy relationships, become overly reliant and dependent on one person, or develop problems with emotions and memory.

Within the world of sports, emotional abuse is an under-acknowledged but common form of abuse that occurs at all levels, from youth and grassroots amateur sports organizations to professional leagues.

Emotional abuse within sports and athletics typically manifests as shaming and mocking for poor performance, using inappropriate nicknames, denying attention, making threats of repercussions, and excluding or singling out individuals.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport– the first national organization of its kind focused on ending all forms of abuse in sports – has endeavored to make athlete well-being the centerpiece of our nation’s sports culture through abuse prevention, education and accountability. Katie Hanna, the Director of Education & Outreach for the Center, explains that abusive behaviors are usually demonstrated by coaches, but can also be perpetrated by an athlete’s teammates or even parents.

“No matter the source, emotional abuse and bullying can have a lasting impact on athletes. These bullying behaviors can manifest feelings of shame and degrade self-esteem, pushing some athletes to leave their team or even quit the sport entirely because of it.”

Within the world of sports, Hanna adds, the power imbalance between coaches and athletes can lead to that relationship degrading into an unhealthy one.

“At the Center, we offer training for sports groups, coaches and parents that educates them on how to create a safe and supportive environment for athletes. Ultimately, it comes down to prevention and changing the sports culture to focus on building healthy relationships that foster the growth and improvement of athletes.”

In addition to offering trainings and consultations to sports organizations, the U.S. Center for SafeSport responds to and resolves allegations of physical, sexual and emotional misconduct. The Center also has exclusive authority over reports of alleged sexual abuse or conduct related to the underlying sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its 50 National Governing Bodies. Since launching in 2017, there have been 3,256 reports made to the Center, 552 sanctions issued, and 796,505 SafeSport trainings completed.

“The most important thing you can do as a parent, coach or athlete is to speak up when you see or hear something inappropriate happening on the court or field,” said Hanna. “The more we openly discuss this issue, the more we can ensure that every athlete will be safe, supported and strengthened through sport.”

To learn more about the U.S. Center for SafeSport, click here.

De-Bunking the Myths of Mental Health

Over 200,000 children and adolescents in Colorado have diagnosable and treatable mental health conditions. Alarmingly, less than one quarter of these children and adolescents receive any type of professional care. Only in recent times are social services and community resources focusing on the prevention of toxic stress, its impacts on mental health, and the promotion of healthy social and emotional development.

On February 7, 2019, we convened a group of pediatric and mental health experts to help educate our supporters and partners on mental health issues facing Colorado’s children and their families. Here, we de-bunk the four most common myths of mental health and share what we learned from this important discussion:

Myth #1: Behavioral health and mental health are the same thing.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, to do so is incorrect. Mental health focuses on a person’s psychological state, whereas behavioral health is a broader term that includes mental health. Behavioral health looks at how behaviors impact an individual’s physical health and well-being, but does not necessarily address all of the external, environmental factors that may influence an individual’s well-being, such as poverty, discrimination or abuse.

The negative stigma that surrounds mental health has pushed many healthcare and education professionals to reference behavioral health when talking to individuals and families because it’s an easier entry point into a discussion about mental health. Ultimately, the most important thing is to engage people in conversation and identify the appropriate treatment, regardless of how the topic is presented.

Myth #2: Mental health issues are hereditary.

Some psychiatric diagnoses, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD, are likely to be hereditary, meaning they are caused by a gene mutation that is inherited from a parent. But other mental health issues are likely a combination of genetics and lifestyle, which means that certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and environmental factors may trigger it.

The vast majority of children and youth in mental health treatment programs have histories of maltreatment, traumatic exposure and chronic stress or adversity. These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can damage the developing brain and lead to problems in learning and behavior, as well as increased susceptibility to physical and mental illness. So, although hereditary and genetic factors can influence mental health, our environments, relationships and external supports are significantly more impactful.

Myth #3: If you have a mental illness as a child, it’s something you must live with for the rest of your life.

There has been significant progress in developing trauma-informed and evidence-based treatment programs that can shift negative trajectories and improve outcomes for children. Here locally, Children’s Hospital Colorado is home to a wide array of outpatient, day treatment and inpatient services that provide a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents ages 5 to 17.

While medical professionals can effectively treat most children, it is more challenging to address the environmental factors that trigger mental health issues in children. There has been a movement toward mental health treatment providers working collaboratively with patients and their families to identify the underlying triggers and help them through crises together. When everyone in the family is provided with the resources and skills to help a child get better, the positive outcomes are considerably more sustainable.

Myth #4: When a child acts out, it is clearly a behavioral health issue.

Dr. C. Henry Kempe often remarked that if you do not understand someone’s behavior, you do not understand their history. When someone acts out violently or aggressively, it is likely because they have experienced a traumatic event or series of events. Breaking the stigma of mental health requires us to look at the issue through a different lens – one that considers an individual’s history and recognizes the myriad of factors contributing to their current well-being. As a community, we can help build up children’s resilience and promote healthy behaviors by ensuring they have supportive relationships and positive environments that nurture their growth and development.


The mental health crisis is one of many threats to the healthy development of Colorado’s children. Over the next few months, Kempe will continue to bring together community partners to help shine a light on these connections and how we can partner as a community to end the cycle of abuse and positively impact child development. We appreciate your support of our efforts to give all children the opportunity to thrive.

 

 

Dr. Kathryn Wells named new Director of Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect

The Kempe Center and Kempe Foundation are pleased to announce Kathryn Wells, MD as the new Executive Director of the Center. A board certified specialist in Child Abuse Pediatrics, Dr. Wells has dedicated her career to protecting children and families and building communities where children have the opportunity to thrive.

“In my experience, child abuse and neglect can’t be solved by one person or profession,” said Wells. “In this role, I hope to build on the tremendous reputation and history of the Kempe Center as a leader in preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. We hope to build and strengthen the community partnerships we have with the State of Colorado and counties around the state. In doing so, I hope Colorado will be a model for the rest of the country.”

For nearly 50 years, the Kempe Center has strived to improve the care and well being of all children by strengthening families, communities and the systems that serve them. Through clinical service, research, education and training, the Center supports innovation in systems and communities that work with vulnerable children, youth and families.

Dr. Wells will also be serving as the Section Head for Child Abuse and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The Center is located on the Anshutz Medical Campus, and is supported by the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Kempe Foundation. It also works in partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado to run the Kempe Child Protection Team, a multidisciplinary team made up of professionals from medicine, pediatrics, mental health and hospital social work to evaluate, diagnose and treat suspected victims of child abuse and neglect.

Prior to taking this position, Wells was the Medical Director of the Denver Health Clinic at the Family Crisis Center and an attending physician at Denver Health and with the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She also did clinical research at the Kempe Center and served as an Outreach Liaison with ECHO Colorado. Wells is originally from Montana where she went to college at Carroll College in Helena, MT. She then earned her medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, NE where she also completed a pediatric residency at Creighton/University of NE combined program. She practiced general pediatrics for 5 years in Caldwell, ID before coming to Colorado in 2001.

Wells follows Dr. Desmond Runyan in this position. Runyan retired from the Kempe Center in 2018

Announcing the 2019 Kempe Award Honorees

On March 14, The Kempe Foundation will honor two community advocates at our signature Imagine 2019 Luncheon – Jade Woodard and Cresa. Both honorees are commended for their dedication to children through professional and personal accomplishments and commitments. We are grateful to have these honorees as long-time supporters of Kempe and leaders in our community.

“Kempe is pleased to honor Jade and Cresa as community leaders at our Imagine 2019 Luncheon,” says John Faught, Chief Executive Officer of The Kempe Foundation. “This year’s honorees manifest the same compassion and caring for children that is the core of Kempe’s work.”

2019 Kempe Professional Award Honoree, Jade Woodard is the Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado – a united network of four established organizations partnering to build brighter childhoods through education, advocacy and family support. Governed by a single Board of Directors, agency programs are fully integrated to leverage resources and increase overall capacity to implement powerful programs to keep kids safe.

Over the past decade, Jade has worked alongside The Kempe Foundation to bring people together in innovative ways to heal children and families. By leveraging her relationships and collaborating with other professionals, she continues to help move statewide child abuse and neglect prevention efforts forward.

 

2019 Kempe Imhoff Family Community Award Honoree, Cresa is the world’s largest tenant representation firm with a corporate mission to “Do the Right Thing.” Through their Cresa Cares program, employees and leadership are encouraged to give back to their local communities by supporting charitable organizations, many of which are dedicated to the well-being and care of children and families.

Garrett Johnson, the Managing Principal of Cresa and a Kempe Ambassador, will accept the award on behalf of the company. For more than three years, Garrett has served as a Kempe Ambassador, working in concert with the Foundation to identify awareness, education, advocacy and fundraising opportunities to help end child abuse and neglect. He is a community advocate for not only the safety, health and well-being of children, but also for the work of Kempe.

Congratulations to this year’s honorees – we thank you for your passion and dedication to Kempe’s mission to keep all children safe and healthy by supporting experts in the field, advocating for children and engaging with communities. And we look forward to celebrating you on March 14!

Register today for Imagine 2019 and help us celebrate these incredible individuals!