Australian children under 12 months of age are twice as likely to be abused or neglected than any other age group.
Leading child protection organisation Act for Kids said infants account for more than 10 percent of child abuse cases nationally.*
“It’s the youngest kids, those that cannot even tell others what is happening to them, that are most likely to experience abuse and neglect,” CEO Dr Neil Carrington said.
“What worries me, is authorities right across the country are preparing for the number of child abuse and neglect cases to skyrocket as vulnerable families struggle to cope with the extreme pressures of COVID-19.
“In other countries where COVID-19 is more advanced, the number of reports involving vulnerable children are up by as much as 300%.
“We are preparing for a tsunami of child abuse cases, and we need help to make sure we can reach as many at-risk kids as soon as possible,” Dr Carrington said.
“Unfortunately, the demand for our services is growing as more children are trapped in homes that are not safe.
“This leaves young children extremely vulnerable, as they are developmentally unable to verbalise their thoughts and emotions.”
Dr Carrington said that is why Act for Kids had launched its I love Mondays campaign, to raise funds to help more children from its 28 therapy and support centres across the country.
“Our therapists support many children who have experienced trauma from birth, just like five-year-old Maddie,” he said.
“Maddie came to Act for Kids after suffering years of physical and emotional abuse from her parents, and witnessing severe domestic violence and drug abuse, including Ice. She is now receiving speech therapy and psychological support every Monday to help her overcome her trauma and teach her the communications skills she needs to engage in education and build healthy relationships.
“Although she looks like any other little girl at first glance, the trauma she suffered has left scars that will last a lifetime without ongoing therapy,” Dr Carrington said.
If left untreated, abuse in childhood can result in debilitating, long-term consequences including mental health problems, unemployment, difficulty developing and maintaining healthy relationships, eating disorders and obesity, alcohol and substance abuse, and even suicidal behaviour later on in life.
With early trauma-informed support, children and young people can overcome their experiences, and go on to have happy and productive lives.
Dr Carrington said it’s crucial we stand together to protect at-risk children and support families who are struggling.
“To help Act for Kids reach children in urgent need of assistance, visit actforkids.com.au,” he said.
*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Child protection Australia 2018–19. Child welfare series no. 72. Cat. no. CWS 74. Canberra: AIHW.
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