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Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month: Working Together to Make Ohio Safer

By Danielle Vandegriff, Executive Director/CEO, Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers 

As April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, we see this as a great opportunity to understand the problem in Ohio and what we can all do to make our state a safer place for every child. Originally scheduled as a child prevention week in June of 1982, the United States has been promoting Child Abuse Prevention Month since April of 1983 (1), to highlight community responses to addressing and preventing child abuse while supporting children and families (2). The Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (ONCAC) seeks to raise awareness against child abuse this month alongside several crime victim service organizations.  


To combat the problem of child maltreatment in Ohio, we must first understand the scope of the issue.  

ONCAC is the statewide association in Ohio that provides support to Ohio’s 37 local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) (3). CACs are trauma-informed child-friendly centers composed of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that take part in the response to child abuse and neglect including victim advocates, forensic interviewers, medical professionals, mental health professionals, law enforcement, children services, and prosecutors. With all these multidisciplinary partners working together, Children’s Advocacy Centers serve children and families by coordinating the response to child abuse and neglect in a manner that is trauma-informed, evidence-based, and child-focused all while making sure that caregivers and children feel safe, informed, and leave feeling better (4). Children’s Advocacy Centers are an integral part of the response to child abuse. Children’s Advocacy Centers enhance case outcomes and integrate families with services including counseling, case management, medical treatment, and more. 


Early intervention and prevention programs are pivotal to preventing child sexual abuse. Prevention programming such as bystander intervention, implementation of codes of conduct, and body education for youth can provide children, families, and communities with the resources needed to prevent child abuse from happening. Several Children’s Advocacy Centers throughout Ohio offer prevention programming in their local communities. With child abuse being an adverse childhood experience (ACE), failure to prevent or intervene in abuse can result in negative health outcomes. In 2015, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found that 21 percent of adults with one ACE and 32 percent of adults with two ACEs were current smokers and that 16 percent of adults with one ACE and 32 percent of adults with two ACEs had experienced depression (5). They also found that non-fatal child maltreatment has an estimated $830,928 in lifetime costs associated, with $760,000 of this cost being related to reduced quality of life.


In addition to prevention, Children’s Advocacy Centers can assist with early intervention. Children seen at a Children’s Advocacy Center are anywhere from 1.5-4 times more likely to receive forensic medical exams (6). While abuse can occur at the hands of adults, it can also occur at the hands of other children; with Children’s Advocacy Center treatment, 98 percent of children who hurt another child do not repeat this behavior


Successful child abuse prevention involves everyone: community organizations, educators, professionals, caregivers, and families. Please use the information below to better understand what steps we can take to protect kids. 


1 National Children's Alliance. (n.d.). History of national child abuse prevention month.  

2 Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.). About national child abuse prevention month.  

3 Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. (n.d.). Child Abuse and Neglect Referrals and Outcomes. 

4 NCA. (n.d.). Fact sheet: About NCA and CACs. National Children’s Alliance. 

5 Health Policy Institute of Ohio. (2020). Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Graphics.  

6 NCAC. (2019). Efficacy of the child advocacy center model. National Children’s Advocacy Center.  


Other Resources 


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