Health Team

Parenting support groups help prevent abuse

Posted May 17, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2012 6:20 p.m. EDT

— It's not uncommon to see news reports about parents being charged with child abuse or neglect. 

In North Carolina alone, about 126,000 cases of child neglect or abuse are reported to departments of Social Services each year. Many experts believe that even more cases of abuse go unreported. 

Although child abuse cases can be difficult to read or hear about, there is help for parents that can prevent abuse or neglect from ever happening. 

For many single parents who deal with extra stress when taking care of children alone, support groups are one way to help kids stay safe. 

Rosie Allen Ryan, president of Prevent Child Abuse, says parental support groups can provide invaluable education for single parents and families struggling with raising children. 

"If you don't know better, you can't do better," Ryan said.

Michael Bellizzi, a divorced father of two sons, said he joined a support group at his church to help keep his stress low and education level high when he has questions about parenting. 

"My situation was made even more difficult by being divorced, but I've participated in a single-parenting (workshop) through a church organization," Bellizzi said. "I realized I wasn't the only person. All of that has enabled me to be a better parent, a more patient parent." 

Children who suffer from abuse or neglect often deal with social or psychological development issues, and Ryan said it can even begin to impact physical health. 

"The incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver disease, of alcoholism, of heart disease and even obesity is significantly increased," she said. 

To report an incident of child abuse or neglect, contact a local department of Social Services. In the long run, the help both the children and parents can receive will benefit everyone involved.