April always seems like a month of brightness and renewal. As someone who has spent his career advocating for child welfare, however, April has long held a deeper meaning for me as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is more true than ever in 2017 as Champions for Children celebrates its 40th anniversary. We’ve got a host of major activities planned throughout the month. The biggest of these is our Community Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect on April 27th, which we are hosting with the Junior League of Tampa, our founding organization. We’ve had an huge response for this event, and we’re looking forward to an engaging and educational morning.

The Saturday after our big conference, we’ll be welcoming many of our client families to Lowry Park Zoo for a Family Fun Day, giving them a chance to learn and enjoy themselves at one of our community’s great cultural assets.

As Child Abuse Prevention Month gets underway, I’d like to highlight a key piece of the larger child abuse puzzle that too often gets overlooked. If you’re like most people, when you hear the words “child abuse”, you think of physical or sexual violence. While these are, of course, critical issues, they don’t tell the whole story. Whenever we talk about child abuse, there’s an important, often unspoken addition: child neglect.

Where other forms of abuse involve actively inflicting harm on a child, neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic needs, like food, healthcare, shelter, supervision and protection. This can be due to a number of factors, including substance abuse, psychological issues, or simply not having the knowledge or resources to adequately care for their child.

Through programs like Healthy Families, Nurturing Parenting, and our Family Learning Center at DACCO, Champions for Children works hard to identify, educate and support those families in our community with risk factors for child neglect. But we can’t do it alone. To truly combat child neglect, the community as a whole—educators, healthcare providers, and even friends and family of parents with young children—must learn the signs and risk factors of neglect, know the resources available to parents, and, in those unfortunate cases when it becomes necessary, be prepared to report child neglect.

Throughout the month of April, we’ll be continuing the conversation on child neglect through various channels. Because our mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect, we’ll be using the hashtag #AndNeglect on social media. Whether you’re a child welfare professional with knowledge to share or an individual who has seen the effects of neglect firsthand, I’d like to personally invite you to join the conversation.

Only when we work together and keep the dialogue open can we truly envision a world without child abuse and neglect.