April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Let's work together to build healthy families and healthy communities.
Every child deserves a happy and carefree childhood. Child abuse and neglect is 100% preventable. Unfortunately, not every child is spared abuse or neglect. Last year alone, 11 out of every 1,000 children in New Mexico were victims of abuse or neglect. As our most precious and future resources, we can all help New Mexico families thrive to prevent child abuse.
Eighteen percent of adults in New Mexico report that they have suffered four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), or extremely traumatic life events as children. The first three years of a child’s life are recognized to be the most important in a child’s overall development. Experiencing abuse during these formative years can have serious negative consequences on children as they grow up. The more stress one experiences as a child, the more long-lasting damage occurs. This is why early detection and prevention is so important. This month, we are increasing awareness about this serious issue and sharing supportive resources with families who have been impacted by trauma.
How to Help
There are many helpful programs in our state that serve adults and parents. Finding treatment is one of the first steps struggling parents and caregivers can take to get help. The New Mexico Human Services Department, Behavioral Health Services Division (BHSD) can connect child abuse survivors to real help through their local and statewide partner agencies. BHSD supports the collaboration between mental healthcare, treatment and prevention programs for families, and works closely with the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families (CYFD) to help children find treatment.
To build whole, healthy communities, our children must feel safe and protected. Key interventions such as home visits with nurses or other child development experts are proven ways to create loving, nurturing environments for children. Home visits can be requested by calling 1-800-691-9067 or online. Another resource for parents is the Nurse-Family Partnership program, established in New Mexico in 2012. First-time parents and families may be eligible for free services through this program.
Help accessing healthcare and family education for Medicaid-enrolled pregnant women and children ages 0-3 is available through the Families FIRST program. Additional behavioral health help for Medicaid-enrolled children will soon be available, free of charge, through schools, thanks to a statewide amendment adopted in 2022. We encourage you to ask your school district for current available treatment and help spread the word about these resources to first-time parents and young families.
Mentoring programs help families receive a network of community support. Parenting classes can also provide local, culturally relevant environments for parents to connect with others and learn critical skills that can decrease the chances of abuse or neglect. Many school districts welcome volunteers to help mentor students. And, if time is limited, donating to local organizations that support whole-family health and positive child development is always a great option.
Sometimes, new parents and families experiencing poverty add to the stress of parenting. When basic human needs like shelter and food are endangered, it can add to the emotional strain of parenting or caregiving. The New Mexico Human Services Department helps families who are in need access financial support for purchasing nutritious food through the SNAP program and also offers an income cash assistance program to help families who are struggling to meet their basic needs. These community resources are important for prevention but are not an instant fix.
Parenting can be very challenging, even for the experienced mothers and fathers. CYFD has developed 12 tips to help parents guide their children in a positive way, and prevent lashing out as a result of everyday pressure:
- Take a deep breath, and then another. Remember, you are the adult.
- Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing what your child is about to hear.
- Press your lips together and count to 10 (or 20).
- Put your child in a time-out. Remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.
- Put yourself in a time-out. Think about why you are angry—is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
- Phone a friend.
- If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
- Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
- Exercise—do some pushups or jumping jacks.
- Turn on some relaxing music.
- Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
- Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN.
Helping Children in Need
When children display injuries that are difficult to explain, or if they have withdrawn from their families and friends, it is important to advocate on their behalf if you suspect abuse or neglect.
Even though child abuse is a serious issue and occurs far too frequently, it is 100% preventable. Let’s stay vigilant and make sure the children around us are all well cared for. This April, and every month, take the pledge to advocate for child abuse prevention efforts. Together, we can ensure future generations of New Mexican children will be cared for, loved and supported by building thriving communities.
New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families (CYFD)
CYFD’s 12 Alternatives to Lashing Out at Your Children (English) (Español)
New Mexico Human Services Department Behavioral Health Services Division (BHSD)
New Mexico Early Childhood Education & Care Department
New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (OSAP)
New Mexico Kids – request home visits and other resources here.
REACH NM – (505) 591-9444 (Youth Resources)
New Mexico Child First Network – is dedicated to improving the lives of children in foster care and empowering those who serve them through training, policy reform, and direct mentorship and support.
April Is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
New Mexico NAMI – resources for families
New Mexico Child Abuse Prevention Program (NMCAPP) – a consortium of organizations working to prevent and eliminate child abuse.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-7233 (TTY: 800-787-3224) or text “START” to 88788
Stronghearts Native Helpline: Call 844-762-8483 (844-7NATIVE)
CYFD’s Domestic Violence Survivor Service Providers
CYFD’s Domestic Violence Offender Treatment Programs