Child abuse statistics are shocking and frightening, but they don’t tell the whole story. Most of the 15,198 reports received by the Child Abuse Registry of Orange County in 1990 were referred to such social service agencies as the Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center in Orange, says Ray Gallagher, supervisor of the registry, which can be reached around the clock at (714) 834-5353. Less than 10% of the cases that are investigated end up in court, according to Gallagher.
Social service workers see the cases that rarely make headlines--the ones in which a slow process of counseling, education and support enables parents to stop hurting their children and start loving them.
“There are not very many hopeless situations,” says Georganne Bruce, co-assistant director of the Exchange Club program. “If you really want to change, you can. It’s never too late if you’re willing to work.”
She says the following warning signs indicate that it’s time to ask for help:
* Feelings of loneliness and isolation.
* Doubt, confusion or anxiety about your parenting skills.
* Guilty feelings about the way you treat your child.
* Negative thoughts about yourself and your child.
* Recurring arguments or violence between you and your spouse.
* Accumulated stress related to finances, health, work or emotional problems.
* Memories of abuse from your childhood that are revived by your child’s behavior or looks.
* Alcohol or drug abuse problems.
Bruce says you don’t have to be in crisis to call the Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center for help at (714) 532-7663. It’s OK to call even if you just need some guidance or reassurance in a difficult situation, she says. The center will also send you a free book called “Healing the Heart of the Family,” which is designed to help prevent child abuse by educating parents.