My first few months as a new mother in England were difficult. When I came home with my son, my husband had flu. He couldn’t help in any way. I thought I had to carry on as always, keeping the house clean, doing laundry, shopping, as well as caring for a new baby. I hemorrhaged, although not seriously enough to get treatment. My baby didn’t feed well, he stayed awake most of the night. I was exhausted.
At the local Well Baby Clinic, mothers sat in a circle with their babies, with the local nurse in attendance. One by one, they talked about their children. When it came to my turn, I said, “He’s awful. He won’t take his milk, he never sleeps. Sometimes I wish I’d never had him.”
The nurse looked at me and said, “Mrs. Welch, what a terrible thing to say.”
Yeah, that’s all the help I got.
Around about that time a sensational story made headlines. A little girl had died of child abuse. All the warning sign were there, but the social services professionals who visited on a regular basis ignored them. This was the first time child abuse made headlines in modern England.
I thought, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
If I had a little less patience, more stress, more anger, that mother could have been me.
So when I started work at a child abuse prevention agency 17 years later, I already knew not all child abusers are evil monsters. Yes, some are, but most are parents who are at their wits end, those who can no longer cope with enormous pressures most of can’t imagine. Or they just don’t know how to properly rear a child. Or they treat their children the same way in which their parents treated them, because they know of no other way. I learned that many of these parents just need education and a few supportive services.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. I urge you to support nonprofit child abuse prevention services. Families that complete prevention services don’t go into the welfare system in the first place. These services make all the difference, and not only in the life of a child, and his family. They save money for our state and nation.
When a child is removed from the home, these are only a few of the services that come into play:
Anger Management Classes.
These services are paid for on a state and federal level, and can be needed for years after the child returns to his home. Dealing with the aftermath of abuse costs state and federal governments thousands of dollars, per family. Prevention services, on the other hand, are cheap by comparison.
Please, give to your local agencies. When government feels the crunch, it cuts funding to needed community services. I’ve never understood that, but that’s the way it is. Small, local agencies are closing or having to drastically reduce services. So give a little now, and save a lot. Give a few dollars and save your state thousands. Give a few dollars and save a child.
A Prayer for Children
We pray for children who put chocolate fingers everywhere, who like to be tickled, who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants, who sneak popsicles before supper, who erase holes in math work books, who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those who stare at photographs from behind barbed wire, who can’t bound in the street in a new pair of sneakers, who never get to go to the circus, who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who sleep with the dog and bury the goldfish, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money, who cover themselves in Band-Aids, who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink, who slurp their soup.
And we pray for those who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them die, who can’t find any bread to steal, who don’t have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser, whose monsters are real.
We pray for children who spend their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool, who squirm in church and scream in the phone, whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who aren’t spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children who want to be carried and those who must, for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance. For those we smother . . . and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
Ina J. Hughes.