April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and area officials say the focus is on celebrating great childhoods.
Ginger Meyer is clinical director with the Children's Medical and Mental Health Resource Network. She says it continues to be a major issue in southern Illinois due in large part to opioid abuse by parents and the rate of poverty.
Meyer says it's important for everyone to look for signs of child abuse, both physical and emotional. She says the abuse leads to an erosion of empathy, love and all the connections that make us human.
"Whenever they experience child maltreatment, those pathways create different turns and create different pathways for fears and feeling neglected and actually not wanting to be around people. It proves to them, or it confirms what they've been taught, that the world is a horrible and evil place."
Meyer says child abuse prevention advocates want children to have great childhoods so their bodies and brains are wired to feel all the things that make us social beings.
Meyer says the southern Illinois region is working on creating a trauma-informed system of care.
"That way, no one agency, organization or investigative body is responsible for putting together resources and support systems for these families, safety nets as you will, to make sure the children have the resources that they need."
Meyer says ways for all of us to help are by being supportive of parents and report cases of child abuse. She says the abuse effects their health, well-being and brain development and victims often suffer from chronic health problems as children and adults.
Union County Hospital in Anna will host a ribbon tying ceremony Tuesday, April 9 at 9 a.m. to recognize child abuse victims.