On April 4, 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation dedicating April 1983 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In that proclamation, President Reagan recognized that children can be abused, harmed, and exploited in a number of different ways, including physically, sexually, and emotionally. He called upon the public to take action to prevent, rather than to remedy the mistreatment and neglect of children, asserting that “action taken after cruelty has occurred is often too late.” He invited governors, other political and public leaders, and those involved in private groups to join together in efforts to increase vigilance against harm toward children and to protect the future of the United States.
President Reagan’s 1983 proclamation built upon steps that the United States government had already been taking to increase awareness, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect nationwide. In 1974, President Nixon signed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the first federal child protection legislation enacted in the United States. CAPTA provided funding to state programs designed to combat child abuse and sent a message to the nation that the government was issuing a nationwide response to this problem. CAPTA has continued into the present day in supporting state efforts in this regard. A number of additional national funding efforts followed, and many laws, programs, and agencies have arisen in the years since the initial passage of CAPTA which have further developed and strengthened efforts to prevent and address child abuse and neglect in all of its devastating forms all over the country.
This year, April marks the 35th Anniversary of President Reagan’s proclamation and the 35th recognized National Child Abuse Prevention Month. While we as a nation have come a long way in recognizing the severity of this problem and taking steps to prevent child abuse and protect our children, there is always more that can and must be done. There are many different ways in which you can get involved in these efforts, from as simple as paying attention to children you encounter in your life to donating your time or money to causes that protect children or becoming an advocate in a legal or political forum. Educate yourself on youth protection and recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect, and what steps you can take if you think a child may be suffering. Donate to recognized causes for prevention of child abuse or child mentorship programs, or even consider becoming a mentor yourself. Write to your state and federal representatives in support of laws that protect children and their rights, and that provide funding to help innocent children who have been harmed. Regardless of differences in political or social opinions, we can all agree that children deserve to be loved, protected, and kept safe, and April is a month that reminds us how important it is to focus on that goal.