Column: Join in Fight against Child Abuse

Column: Join in Fight against Child Abuse



Giselle L. Pelaez


Sonia Quinonez

A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in our country, one of the worst records among industrialized nations that results in the death of between four and seven children each day. These tragic fatalities are just the tip of the “iceberg” of consequences our community faces due to child victimization.

Every year, more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, involving more than 6 million children.

In the City of Alexandria, 1,670 reports of child abuse and neglect were received last year alone.

While child abuse and neglect almost always occur within the family, the impact reaches far beyond. We all pay a price in both direct and indirect costs, which total more than $80 billion each year.

April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month: an important opportunity to highlight public-private collaborations in our community that provide critical services to prevent child maltreatment, including ways every resident of Alexandria can get involved.

Our city prioritizes strong families and communities, actively fostering conditions that reduce or eliminate risk of abuse and neglect while promoting healthy development and wellness of our city’s children and families. The Center for the Study of Social Policy identified five protective factors that reduce risk for abuse and neglect: parental and youth resilience; social connections; knowledge of child/youth development; concrete support in times of need; and social-emotional competence of children and youth. When fostered in a community, these factors correlate with reduced incidence of child abuse and neglect. We are fortunate that Alexandria hosts numerous programs that promote them, strengthening our entire community as a result.

Child Abuse Prevention in Alexandria: What it Looks Like

  • An accredited Children’s Advocacy Center program at the Center for Alexandria’s Children provides direct intervention with identified children affected by sexual abuse and severe physical abuse to ensure no future re-victimization;
  • A well-established Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program at SCAN ensures a voice for children involved in the child welfare system;
  • Healthy Families – Alexandria, a home visiting program, provides concrete support to young and vulnerable families.
  • A network of early care and education providers in the city collaborate to ensure early intervention and support for all of our families;
  • SCAN’s parenting classes and support groups in English and Spanish provide information on child development, positive discipline, and effective family management;
  • The Center’s Learn and PlayGroups emphasize protective factors for families with children under 5 without formal preschool or early education access.

What Can You Do?

Be informed: Join the Center for Alexandria's Children, SCAN of Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Family Services, and the Department of Community and Human Services in raising awareness of how to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. During the month of April, we are partnering to provide free training for parents, child-serving professionals, and community members, to learn how to protect children from child sexual abuse.

Research shows that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18, but this victimization can be prevented. Authorized facilitators with direct experience working with child abuse victims in the City of Alexandria will lead three interactive sessions of Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children training where participants will learn direct prevention strategies and techniques to protect the children in our community.

What do you do if you suspect a child has been abused? How do you recognize signs of abuse and neglect? Do you know your legal obligations as a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect? Two additional training sessions will provide an opportunity to learn from Alexandria Child Protective Services (Hotline: 703-746-5800) about how to recognize, react and respond responsibly to suspected child abuse and neglect.

Registration is required for all community trainings. Visit

Show Your Support

All of our children deserve a chance for healthy and happy lives. The blue pinwheel, as a national symbol of child abuse prevention, reminds us of that imperative. This April, order a “Pinwheel Garden in a Box” from SCAN of Northern Virginia and plant it at your school, church or agency to demonstrate your support of children in your community.

Share our message: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Share the blue pinwheels you see. #pinwheelsforprotection

For additional information on how you can make a difference for vulnerable children in our community, visit or