H&V Rises to the Challenge:
O.U.R. Children’s Safety Project

Who hasn’t heard the stories, especially when they make the national news?  Allegations of sexual abuse at a state school for the deaf or even in a neighborhood school make our stomachs knot with anxiety. It is a terrible reality that children with special needs are three times more likely to be a victim of child abuse or neglect, and when communication is a challenge, it makes this risk all the more horrifying. Would you know what to do if you suspected your own child or a child you know was the victim of child abuse or neglect?

Observing, Understanding, and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect for children who are deaf and hard of hearing are the main areas of focus for a project being jointly undertaken by Dr. Harold Johnson at Michigan State University and Hands & Voices, as we continue our efforts to increase parent and professional education in keeping our children safe from child abuse and neglect.  We are challenging one another to spread the word about this important topic.  Parent Guides from CO Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side are participating in a pilot project, keeping logs of the questions that arise, and sharing thoughts as they learn more about this topic.

There’s a lot more that we can be doing beyond wringing our hands in frustration.  Below are resources that will be useful to parents in developing skills that will prepare us to share effectively with their own children. But don’t just stop at your own child or student, here are some things that you can do to help others be prepared:

Child Abuse and Neglect:
Helping Parents Talk to Children

(reprinted with permission from the National Exchange Club Foundation)

There are two aspects to keep in mind as we begin. The first is helping parents prepare themselves to talk with their children. Many parents are hesitant to talk with their children about child abuse and neglect. Reasons for this vary widely, but include things such as:

It’s helpful to simply acknowledge these anxieties right from the start with parents. Tell them many parents, in the beginning, share these concerns. However, children have been taught about these issues for many years through schools, and community programs and are experience has been that these situations don’t occur. Children will handle this as well as parents do and sometimes maybe even better.

The second aspect is finding the right words. Make it as easy as possible. These tips may help:

1. Keep it simple. Children don’t need many details. You don’t have to explain details of physical or sexual abuse or neglect. 

2. If you are relaxed, your child will be relaxed. This can be easier if you pick a relaxed time to talk with them. Maybe over lunch, or while driving in the car or walking to the park. You can begin casually with introductory lines such as:

3. If you feel nervous, tell them. Your child will sense it anyway. Explain that sometimes it’s hard to explain things or some things might feel sad to think about, but are important to talk about.

4. Include this dialogue in the other “safety” talks you do with children, such as, fire safety, traffic safety, and now, personal safety.

5. Have the conversations regularly, not necessarily frequently, but regularly. We continually remind our children about crossing the street and not playing with matches, etc. It is ok to remind them to that if anyone ever hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell someone.

6. Choice of language will assist in making easier for you to say and easier for your child to understand. Some easy phrase could be:

7. If you are really uncertain about making this about your child, start off by talking about a “what if” regarding a friend, such as “what if someone was touching your friend Shelby’s private parts, what should Shelby do?”

8. Always give your child options / scenarios of what to do if there is a problem.

9. Always remind them that you will always try your best to make sure they are safe.

10. Be ready in case your child has something to tell you.

Other things to remember

Resources that can help!

Local Assistance

Every county in every state in the United States has a child protective services agency.  The names may vary, but they are responsible for dealing with child abuse and neglect.  Check your local yellow pages or call one of the organizations below for assistance.


Child Help 800-4-A-Child www.childhelp.org
Hands & Voices 303-492-6283 www.handsandvoices.org
National Exchange Club Foundation 800-924-2643 www.preventchildabuse.com
Friends National Resource Center (919) 493-1584 www.friendsnrc.org
Child Welfare League of America 703-412-2400 www.cwla.org
Prevent Child Abuse America 800-244-5373 www.preventchildabuse.org 

Hands & Voices is committed to making a difference and being a leader in bringing information and education to ‘our world’ about this important topic.  For more information, contact us at parentadvocate@handsandvoices.org