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Protecting Our Children: Child Abuse Prevention Month

Beginning in 1983, April was designated National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month is meant to bring awareness to the issue of child abuse in the United States and promote child/family wellness. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. Psychology Today defines child neglect “as any egregious act or omission by a parent or other caregiver that deprives a child of basic age-appropriate needs and thereby results, or has reasonable potential to result, in physical or psychological harm”. Younger children are the most neglected and girls are more subject to neglect than boys. Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native children experience victimization at twice the rates than that of Hispanic and White children. As of 2022, 7,350,000 children have been reported to be victims of child abuse.  

The movement for child abuse prevention began in 1874, with 10-year-old Mary Ellen Wilson suffering physical abuse from her foster mother. Mary Ellen’s case was the first high-profile child abuse case in the United States, especially during a time when animal cruelty was prioritized over the children’s wellbeing. The case led to the country’s first child abuse conviction and the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  

Mary Ellen Wilson

Photo of Mary Ellen Wilson

(Courtesy of The NYSPCC Archive, New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC))

One hundred years later in 1974, the federal government introduced legislation to address the nation’s child abuse problem. The Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act provided states federal funding to invest in child abuse prevention resources and treatments. More recently, federal legislation such as, the Family First Prevention Services Act, Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, and Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017, further the protections of children and improve services designed to support families and build healthier communities.  


The Center for Disease Control lists ways in which communities can help reduce the risks for the occurrence of child abuse. These actions include: 

  • Strengthening economic support to families 

  • Changing social norms to support parents and positive parenting 

  • Providing quality care and education in early life 

  • Enhancing parenting skills to promote healthy child development 

  • Intervening to lessen harm and prevent future risk 

Here at Williams, McClernan, and Stack, our attorneys have extensive experience in representing children who have been victims of abuse and neglect. We take pride in using our practice to promote the wellness and advocacy of children. If you have any concerns about a child’s wellbeing, feel free to contact us and schedule a consultation.   


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