April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM), a time to recognize the importance of communities and families working together to prevent child neglect and abuse. During the month of April, we will share child abuse and neglect prevention activities and strategies to implement throughout the year.
The idea of Child Abuse Prevention Month began in 1974, when President Nixon signed the first federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Nixon marked the beginning of a new national response to child abuse and neglect. The act provided federal assistance to the states for the purposes of child abuse prevention, identification and treatment programs. The legislation also created the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect to act as a focal point for CAPTA activities. The National Center on Child Abuse continues today, but is now known as the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The Federal Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect published their first report in March 1978, setting federal standards for child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment programs and projects. In 1982, Congress designated June 6 – 12 as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week.
In 1983 the month of April because Child Abuse Prevention Month when Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation No. 5039 which stated that child abuse and neglect “continue to threaten the lives and health of over a million of our Nation’s children. Their physical suffering and emotional anguish challenge us, as parents, neighbors, and citizens, to increase our attention to their protection and intensify our efforts to prevent their maltreatment.”
In the decades since, efforts to prevent child abuse have expanded with new federal agencies, laws and grants that create minimum standards, provide support and offer resources for child abuse prevention. Broad-based partnerships between national organizations, federal groups and parents strengthen families and communities. Some resources support families while other resources support service providers in their work with parents, caregivers and children.
During April you may see people wearing a looped blue ribbon or a blue pinwheel in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month, and you may wonder what the significance of blue is. There is deep meaning behind what has become a nationally recognized symbol for child abuse prevention.
In the spring of 1989, a grandmother named Bonnie Finney took a stand against child abuse in Norfolk, Va. She tied a blue ribbon on the antenna of her minivan in remembrance of her late grandson and as a signal to her community that child abuse was a devastating social plague.
Her grandson, Michael Wayne "Bubba" Dickenson, and his siblings had lived in an at-risk, abusive home environment.
Despite Finney's efforts to intervene on behalf of her grandchildren, the boyfriend of the children's mother murdered 3-year-old Bubba. His body was found, bound, beaten, and bruised, in a weighted toolbox at the bottom of a canal.
Finney said she was thinking about all the bruises she had seen on her grandchildren and decided to tie a blue ribbon on her van. She said she intended to never forget the battered, bruised bodies of her grandchildren. The color blue is a reminder of the color of their bruises and serves as a reminder to fight for protection of children.