April is Child Abuse Prevention Month





SANTA FE -- Governor Bill Richardson has issued a Proclamation for April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in an effort to address the approximate 30,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in New Mexico each year.

“Child abuse and neglect are serious problems, and finding a solution depends upon the involvement of people within our community,” said Governor Richardson in his proclamation. “During periods of economic challenges, families feel more vulnerable, and as a result, child abuse and neglect increase drastically.”

Three members of the NM Behavioral Health Collaborative -- the Children, Youth and Families Department, the Human Services Department and the Department of Health -- are partnering this month to help raise awareness of and prevent child abuse, and support families in their efforts to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all of New Mexico’s children.

One of the initiatives includes encouraging parents to learn the Twelve Alternatives to Lashing Out at Your Child as a child abuse prevention method, as well as 10 pieces of advice for new moms and dads. “Sometimes a simple suggestion, such as splashing cold water on your face, or taking a deep breath and remembering you are the adult can make all the difference in keeping your cool as a parent and avoiding what could turn into a violent situation,” said Dorian Dodson, CYFD Secretary. “We are providing the 12 tips to our clients, and as many parents as possible in the community to prevent as many child abuse situations as possible.”

Another initiative being launched during Child Abuse Prevention Month is the Maternal Depression Workgroup pilot program to address maternal depression and substance abuse.

“Maternal depression, either prenatal or postpartum, gone unrecognized and untreated can have a devastating effect on the entire family,” said Dr. Alfredo Vigil, Department of Health Secretary. “The pilot program is designed to offer new or pregnant mothers with depression get the care they need to ensure a healthy motherhood for the first year, which is an incredibly critical time for the mother, child and family.”

The pilot program will work with women in three communities -- Santa Fe County, Sandoval County and San Miguel County. The goal is to assure that women with depression during pregnancy or postpartum, especially women at dual risk due to substance abuse identified through validated screening, receive the care they need to be healthy parents for one year.

The population will be women enrolled in the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC), or Families FIRST during pregnancy and mothers of newborns enrolled in WIC or Families FIRST.

A third initiative is a public service announcement encouraging parents to recognize the possibility of child abuse or neglect and urging them to seek help.

“There are a lot of pressures new parents face, many of them financial,” said Katie Falls, Human Services Department Secretary. “Parents might think they are alone in dealing with these issues, and we hope the public service announcements will help them learn they are not and there is help available.”

The PSAs are being distributed to the New Mexico Broadcasters Association radio stations. The State departments encourage stations to read as often as possible during the month of April and beyond.

Finally, while the goal is to prevent child abuse, the Governor’s proclamation also encourages “all New Mexicans to be vigilant and fervent in their efforts to stop child abuse, recognize when it happens, and know what to do when you suspect it. Report abuse or neglect to the Children, Youth and Families Department Statewide central Intake Hotline, 1-800-797-3260, or to law enforcement or the appropriate tribal entity.”

About the Collaborative
The Collaborative was created during the 2004 Legislature to allow most state agencies and resources involved in behavioral health treatment and recovery to work as one in an effort to improve mental health and substance abuse services in New Mexico. This cabinet-level group represents 15 agencies and Governor Bill Richardson’s office.