Op-ed on Why Preventing Child Abuse is Everyone's Job

Tony Dungy and Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins
Submitted: April 18, 2013

Being a parent is one of life's greatest joys and responsibilities. As fathers, we each strive to give our children love, support, and protection. Every child deserves security and happiness but, sadly, that is not what every child receives. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month - an important reminder to us all that preventing child abuse is everyone's job.

Preventing child abuse begins with the nurturing of a child's physical, social and emotional well-being. Of course this begins at home, but it continues in the community, at school, and even among others in public – all places where each of us can play a role in protecting children. Here are some simple things you can do to promote healthy surroundings for children:

  1. Know Your Neighbors. By acquainting yourself with the children and families in your neighborhood, you become a ready lifeline if a need arises. A frightened child or a despondent parent will be more comfortable turning to you for help if they know you.
  2. Encourage Other Parents. Good parenting comes naturally for most but requires constant diligence. When you see a parent doing a good job with their child, praise them.  If you see a young mother or father treating their child kindly in public, commend them. 
  3. Offer to Help. If you see someone using unwise parenting techniques, don't criticize. Instead offer to help by saying, "My children used to throw temper tantrums when they were this age too. May I do something to help?"
  4. Start in Your Own Home. A child's well-being is multifaceted. Child abuse takes many forms and is not limited to the physical. It also includes emotional abuse, neglect of basic needs and sexual abuse. If you are struggling with the responsibilities of parenting, you are not alone. There is help. Both the Department of Children and Families and Family First have resources to help you and your child, and they are partnering to make even more assistance available to you.
  5. Water a Seed. There are wonderful programs to give parents and caregivers the tools they need to promote a child's well-being. Although many of us have an image of a child abuser as a stranger, child abuse usually takes place in a child's home at the hands of a person the child knows well. Free school programs like All Pro Dads Days and iMOM Mornings offer mothers and fathers the encouragement and training they need to parent well.

Join us in helping protect all children from abuse, so that every child can grow up receiving the love, support, and protection they deserve.

For more information on All Pro Dad and iMOM, visit www.AllProDad.com and www.iMOM.com. For parenting tips from birth to teenage years, download DCF's free Parenting Guide e-book at www.myflfamilies.com/parentingguide.  

Tony Dungy is a Super Bowl winning coach, an NBC TV commentator, national spokesman for All Pro Dad and the father of eight children. David Wilkins is the Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families and the father of three children.