Child abuse and neglect prevention is a topic highlighted in April, but one that must be carried into every month. Long lasting prevention can only happen when several factors come into play, including changing behaviors within the home and community—on the ground—as well as creating commonsense policies that ensure children are protected and families are supported—on a systems level.

We know that child abuse prevention starts at home and in our local communities. We can make a difference in the lives of individuals and families in a variety of ways within our community. We can also work to keep children safe on a much larger scale, through policy change.

When child abuse trends are recognized either in a community or statewide, it is often the result of a policy that needs to be changed or created. For example, a few years ago Kentucky had the highest rate of child fatalities due to abuse and neglect in the country. Advocates and policymakers came together to identify a strategy to keep children from dying from abuse. Several ideas came from that gathering, including the creation of an external panel that reviews child abuse and neglect fatalities and near fatalities. Because of that panel, Kentucky now has a better idea of why child abuse deaths occur and ways in which the system functioned or failed.

A very recent law signed by Governor Bevin was also the result of advocates stepping up to address the problem around repeated child sexual abuse and testimony in court. Senate Bill 60 will accommodate a child’s more generalized testimony when a tragedy of repeated abuse occurs, known as a continuous course of conduct. SB 60 considers how age and trauma impact a child’s memory.

Neither of those policies would have been put in place if it wasn’t for the work of individuals and groups who advocated for change. Parents, professionals, and policymakers worked together to ensure Kentucky is a safer place for children.

Do you advocate for change? It can be as simple as casting a vote for a person who represents your interests, or as involved as meeting regularly with legislators to discuss issues that concern you and solutions that can make a big impact. Learn how you can become an advocate here. Get involved with the Face It® Movement to end child abuse in Kentucky.

We know that no matter how you participate in ending child abuse, the actions you take can make a significant difference in the lives of children and families, and could potentially save a life.