A Closer Look at Child Abuse and Neglect

Every April, we commemorate Blue Ribbon Month by raising awareness for the issue of child abuse and neglect. It is important that we, as a community, better understand child abuse so we can work together to keep children safe and build a strong and nurturing community.

There were 1,622 reports of abuse or neglect in Napa County in 2018. Of those, 149 cases involving 242 children were substantiated. Most abuse is unreported, so the true number of victims is likely three to four times higher.

What is child abuse and neglect?
Child abuse and neglect often takes place in the home and comes from a person the child knows well. The major types of child maltreatment include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.

Why does child abuse occur?
Child abuse and neglect affect children of every age, race and income level; however certain factors relating to the child, family, community and society can increase risk. Common risk factors include stress, substance use, isolation, childhood trauma and intimate partner violence. These circumstances, combined with the inherent challenges of raising children, can result in otherwise well-intentioned parents cause their children harm or neglecting their needs.

What is the impact of child abuse?
Child maltreatment is a traumatic experience and the impact on survivors can be profound. The trauma of abuse and neglect has been associated with increased risk of: depression and suicide attempts; substance abuse; developmental disabilities and learning problems; teen pregnancy; domestic violence; chronic illness; and other physical and mental health outcomes.

What are the warning signs?
Symptoms of abuse or neglect include: signs of malnutrition; unattended medical problems; unexplained injuries; child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver; age-inappropriate knowledge of sex; and extremes in behavior. The presence of a single sign does not prove that child abuse is occurring; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, it could indicate maltreatment.

How can I help prevent child abuse and neglect?

The majority of families who are at risk for child maltreatment will not abuse or neglect their children. Everyone can play a role in building the protective factors that eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being of children and families. When all members of the community work together as a whole, families feel supported and are better able to nurture and care for their children. Here are some things you can do to help build strong and nurturing communities:

  • Support agencies that work to strengthen families and reduce the risk of abuse and neglect. Donate, volunteer and spread the word about their work.

  •  Advocate for policies and legislation that help improve the lives of children and families.

  • Help build a network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors for parents in your community.

  • If you suspect a child is being mistreated, take immediate action. In Napa County, call 707.253.4261 to report suspected abuse or neglect.