MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, and the WVU Medicine Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) wants everyone to join in the fight against child abuse.
On Thursday, PICU staff gathered in the Ruby Memorial atrium, all wearing blue to honor child abuse victims and shed light on their struggles. Dr. Charles Mullet, chair of pediatrics, said as a healthcare system, it was their job to get the word out and make the public recognize child abuse does happen and does need to be prevented.
“It is a tragedy; we need to prevent it,” Mullett said. “When it’s not prevented, we are here to help the kids get through and get things turned around by working with the state.”
To prevent child abuse, WVU Medicine has undertaken many endeavors. One of the most notable has been its partnership with retailer Kohls.
We have partnered with the Purple Project, a project for newborn parents. It’s like ‘don’t shake your baby’ education; here’s all the bad things that can happen if you shake your baby, just set your baby down and walk away. It’s normal for babies to cry, don’t take it upon yourself to be frustrated; just set the baby down and leave because are fragile.Dr. Charles Mullett – Chair of Pediatrics, WVU Medicine Children’s
The partnership with Kohl’s has made a noticeable impact all across West Virginia, Mullett said.
There is, now, far more awareness about child abuse than there was before.
“If I think back in 5-10 year periods of time, there’s far more awareness about the fragility of babies in 2021 than there was in 2010 than there was in 2000, so we’ve definitely made progress with this,” Mullet said. “We want to make progress in all the other aspects of child abuse.”
One major aspect of child abuse that Mullet and the WVU Medicine PICU team want to tackle is the role the pandemic plays.
It has created a harsh economic reality for many families and many of the state’s industries are seeing some downturn, the chair of pediatrics said. This, in turn, takes a toll on parents who sometimes take out their frustration on their children.
That is why Mullett emphasizes the importance of communities coming together to help each other overcome some of the economic and emotional challenges of COVID. There are many ways to offer nonfinancial support that could seriously impact a child’s wellbeing.
Because as Mullett said, when child abuse is not prevented, the PICU has to treat victims. But, unfortunately, even the skilled professionals there cannot always save a child’s life.
“It is a tragedy with a capital ‘T,'” he said. “We have had two cases in the last two months of a baby and a child who have died from child abuse, and it is such an emotional toll. It wears on us — it comes with a lot of extra unpleasantness with the legal system that we have to go through.”
“It’s so bad on so many levels, particularly for the child and particularly for the family, so if we can get the word out to love on each other, don’t shake your baby, don’t hurt your child. Just give them a safe space, walk away, and collect yourself; that’s what we need to be talking about because we don’t want any of this. We need to get the message out to families.”
If you think a child is being abused or maltreated, tell the authorities. Call local police or contact West Virginia Child Welfare Services by calling the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline: 1-800-352-6513.
If you need resources on recognizing and preventing child abuse, then WVU Medicine Children’s can help. Visit the hospital’s Child Protection Page to learn more.