News

School’s Out… Look Out and Reach Out to Prevent Abuse and Neglect

Melanie Anderegg
President & CEO
May 2022

In April 2020, the Tulsa Area United Way, together with the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, Child Abuse Network and Family & Children’s Services started a coalition to educate the community about ways to identify and report child abuse.

The campaign, Look Out Reach Out was created in response to child expert observations during the pandemic, namely that social isolation put children at higher risk of abuse and neglect. The closure of schools and daycares, the most common places to identify and report child abuse, and the high levels of stress among families, made it more important than ever to reach out to those at risk.

With the school year ending and summer break beginning, it is worth revisiting the 5 R’s of Look Out Reach Out as a valuable prevention practice.  The definition of prevention is “the action of stopping something from happening or arising.” It should come as no surprise then that the 5 R’s are action oriented. Each of them asks us to use our eyes and ears to look for families in crisis and step up for children everywhere. As much as we all wish that child abuse and neglect were non-existent, the fact is, just like in other parts of the world, it is happening right here in our community.

How can you help prevent child abuse and neglect? First, RAISE the issue. We can all do our part to share information, resources, and positive parenting strategies. Get educated. Bust myths. Speak up. Volunteer at one of the many excellent child welfare organizations in the greater Tulsa area.

REACH out. Pay attention to the families around you. Ask how they are doing/feeling? Whether you’re a coach, teacher, parent, restaurant worker or neighbor, if something doesn’t seem right, or your gut instinct is sounding the alarm, trust yourself.

REMEMBER risk factors, including a history of abuse or neglect as a child, drug use, family crisis, mental illness or unemployment. Child abuse is not limited to one race/ethic group, gender, age group or social or economic status.

RECOGNIZE warning signs. These may include changes in behavior or school performance, problems concentrating, being withdrawn, bruises, burns or other injuries that can’t be adequately explained, coming early to an activity, staying late, and not wanting to go home. A single sign or symptom may not indicate abuse; look for a pattern or multiple signs. The best way to know if a child has been abused is if the child tells you.

REPORT your observations. According to the Child Abuse Network (CAN), one in 15 children in Tulsa County will be involved in a child abuse investigation. Based on that statistic, children in your sphere of influence are depending on you to pay attention. Any concerns about child safety can be reported anonymously to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. However, failure to report suspected abuse or neglect is a crime. Don’t assume that someone else is doing something. Make the call.

 We believe that all children deserve to be safe and all parents should have the knowledge and skills necessary to protect, nurture, and provide for their children. Together, we can all help prevent child abuse and neglect and provide hope to children and families.