Child abuse prevention is a critical year-round effort

CSBA business affiliate Keenan Associates ReLIEF (Regional Liability Excess Fund) provided three districts an educational grant during Child Abuse Prevention Month in support of programming fostering a safe environment for children.

Keenan, an industry-leading California insurance brokerage and consulting firm for health care organizations and public agencies, facilitates a contest for Child Abuse Prevention Month, observed each April. Cajon Valley Union School District, Hemet Unified SD and Menifee Union SD each received $2,000.

“This grant not only showcases our commitment to child abuse prevention but also highlights our collective efforts in creating a safe and nurturing environment for our students,” Hemet USD Superintendent Christi Barrett said in a statement. “We extend our gratitude to ReLiEF for providing this opportunity, and we look forward to utilizing the funds to further enhance the educational experience of our students. Together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of our students and ensure their safety and well-being.”

National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. In California, there are more than 307,000 reports of child abuse per year, or one every two minutes, according to Safe & Sound, a children’s advocacy organization focused on strengthening families and ending child abuse. Of those reports, more than 51,800 are substantiated — about 142 cases per day. According to experts, this alarming number is likely higher, as abuse often goes unreported. The true rate of abuse in California is about 1 million children, Katie Albright, former CEO and president of Safe & Sound, said in an April 2021 webinar.

According to the organization, abused children are 77 percent more likely to require special education as well as have higher rates of school absenteeism and poorer academic performance; 59 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, and 28  more likely to have an adult criminal record, which makes it more difficult to find employment; 200 percent more likely to be unemployed as adults and more likely to receive public assistance; have 21 percent higher long-term healthcare costs, a higher incidence of chronic health problems, mental health issues and substance abuse throughout adulthood.

Local educational agencies play an important role in reporting child abuse, as all LEA employees are “mandated reporters” of child abuse or neglect as found in California Penal Code Section 11165.7. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only legal and law enforcement personnel come before education personnel among the list of professionals who made a report about child abuse or neglect.

Schools are also critical in proactive efforts — research has shown that school-based prevention programs increase a child’s knowledge, self-protection skills and the likelihood of telling a trusted adult about abuse.

In partnership with ReLiEF, Keenan launched a child abuse prevention resource website, which includes a link to a micro-learning series of videos and free abuse prevention tools and resources.