Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse Starts at Home
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Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse Starts at Home

Nurse-home visitors with the Nurse-Family Partnership advocate for young children in the Lubbock area.

Written by Beth Phillips

Nurse-home visitors use interactive tools to educate young families about child abuse.

Nurse-home visitors use interactive tools to educate young families about child abuse.

If you’ve ever crawled around the house to see the world from a baby’s perspective, you might be a nurse-home visitor or a client from the Nurse-Family Partnership Program (NFP) at the Combest Center.

Nurse-home visitors use a host of hands-on activities and unique tools like simulation and videos to educate hundreds of young families in Lubbock about home safety, safe sleep, car seat safety, proper feeding, stress management and emotional refueling, to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

“Children deserve to be loved, and they don’t have a voice,” said Nurse-Home Visitor Samara Silva, BSN. “They don’t have that voice to stop from being hurt and they deserve love and attention and positive parenting.”

However, every day in Lubbock County an average of four children become victims of abuse and neglect, according to the South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse and Prevention. The majority of these children are age 3 and under.

A Chance at Prevention

Lisa Dillard, R.N., MSN, NFP, said nurse-home visitors act as advocates by making the topic of abuse and neglect a common discussion in home visitation.

“If we’re not educating and advocating about the prevalence of child abuse for the 0-3 population, then we have no chance at preventing it,” Dillard said. “People don’t make perfect decisions in the heat of the moment, but if they can have some education and awareness of child abuse, I think they’re more sensitive in their response, or are more prone to ask for help.”

Nurse home-visitors assess for safety of the environment of the client while she’s pregnant, and that plants the seeds for a safe environment for the baby. Nurse-home visitor Kim Hamilton, R.N. said the best thing about NFP is the immediate feedback she’s able to provide to the families with whom she works.

“When we go into homes and we see cribs that have stuff in them, it’s one thing to say it to somebody, but it’s another thing to go into the baby’s room and go, you know, this isn’t a great thing to have in the crib, and let me tell you why,” Hamilton said. “It makes it so much more effective to be standing there with somebody.”

Pillows, blankets and stuffed animals should be removed from the crib to prevent babies from suffocating, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Covers, pillows, bumper pads, positioning devices, soft mattresses and toys in the crib are associated with the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, a common concern among parents of infants.

Time Out

In addition, the NFP program has encountered incidents involving children who have been diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, a form of abusive had trauma and inflicted traumatic brain injury often resulting from violently shaking an infant. Nurse-home visitors Shane Pruitt, MSN, R.N., and Bridget Robinson, BSN, R.N., CLC, said one of the most important tips they pass on to young parents is that if a baby is crying inconsolably, it’s OK to take a time out and emotionally regroup.

“Sometimes as a mom, you feel like that is your job — you’re supposed to quiet your baby and comfort them; if you can’t, there’s something wrong with you,” Robinson said. “We tell the moms it’s OK to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away. That’s the right thing to do.”

Nurses talk to clients about the Period of PURPLE Crying, and give them strategies for managing stressful periods when the baby just will not stop fussing.

The Period of PURPLE Crying is an acronym that explains that crying is a normal part of every infant’s development from about 2 weeks of age until about 3 to 4 months of age.

“When you tell a young mom that babies are born to cry, they may cry this many hours a day, it normalizes crying, so it can reduce the stress a little bit,” Dillard said.

But when it comes to a family’s home life, “normal” is a relative term. Silva said because physical and emotional abuse is often a cycle, many children grow up with parents who were mistreated themselves and don’t know how to parent any differently.

“If parents don’t know what’s appropriate discipline and what’s inappropriate, they might not think it’s inappropriate some of the things that were done to them as children, and it might be — It might be on the borderline of abuse, or it may be abuse,” Silva said.

Breaking the Cycle

There’s more than one type of abuse. Neglect is the most common. Neglect is defined as putting a child in a dangerous situation, or not meeting the basic physical and emotional needs of your child.

Dillard said parents can break the cycle of abuse by preparing for parenthood through education classes, talking to people, reading books, being more involved in child rearing and finding ways to ensure stressors don’t become issues parents take out on their children.

For anyone who sees a family struggling with the responsibilities of parenthood, nurse-home visitor and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Hunt offers this advice:

“If you see something, don’t turn your back,” Hunt said. “Don’t ignore it.”

You can show your support for child abuse and neglect awareness by wearing blue on Friday (April 4). The NFP and the C.A.R.E. Center, in conjunction with the South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention, is asking at least 40,000 Lubbock residents to participate in the 4for4 challenge.

Email lubbock4for4@yahoo.com on or before Friday and describe who you are and how many will be in your “blue group.” The results will be reported to see whether this year’s goal has been met or exceeded.

Other child abuse awareness events this month include:

  • Saturday (April 5): Children’s Advocacy Center's Stand Up for Kids
  • Sunday (April 6): Family Guidance Center's Memory Ride & Candlelight Vigil
  • April 11: Region 17′s Early Childhood Conference
  • April 19: CASA's Tech Theta Color Dash
  • April 26: Family Guidance Center’s Blue Ribbon Rally

For more information on child abuse and prevention efforts at the Combest Center, contact Dillard at 743-9672 or lisa.dillard@ttuhsc.edu.

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Story produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, (806) 743-2143.


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Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center
Combest Center

The Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center serving Lubbock and surrounding areas.

The nurse-managed center specializes in primary care and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension and obesity for all ages.

Care is provided by nurse practitioners and a pediatrician.

School of Nursing
School of Nursing

The School of Nursing began in 1979 with the development of the first nationally accredited Continuing Nursing Education Program in Texas.

With campuses in Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, Dallas and the Permian Basin, the school offers a variety of programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • RN to BSN
  • Second Degree Web-based BSN
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Post Master's Nurse Educator Certificate Program

Connect with the School of Nursing on .