What are the behaviors that indicate a child who will one day become a member of society is becoming an autonomous individual who is self- sufficient and self-reliant? Remember that the goal is a healthy, successful, productive member of the community. The most notable toddler behaviors

are exploration, self-help skills, and a sense of possession. The toddler behavior that can be the most worrisome but important is negativity as the toddler finds his power and defines himself or herself as an individual. Even this behavior also leads to the goal of being a successful member of society who is also a strong individual.

Important as this behavior may be, it is also the one that can trigger child abuse. See the Advocacy in Action feature, “Addressing Child Abuse Prevention: One Person Can Make a Difference,” to discover what one town led by one individual did to pre- vent child abuse.

Negativity The first sign of developing autonomy is when the darling baby who happily opened his mouth for each bite of cereal or strained vegetables suddenly one day clamps his

Here is a story about what one town did to respond to child abuse in the community. When a toddler died as the result of abuse, a group of residents, led by one in- dividual, decided to do something. This was in the time when child abuse was just beginning to be recognized as widespread and a threat to children’s mental and physi- cal health. Though laws were in place, they were not yet enough for this particular group of citizens who wanted to prevent abuse in their community, not just punish it. This motivation on their part coincided with some fund- ing set aside for prevention, intervention, and treatment of child abuse. The group went to work.

First they established a hotline for parents to call, just to talk, when they felt as though they might not be able to control themselves. Then they began to edu- cate the community about child abuse and about us- ing the hotline. This group soon discovered that what parents needed was a variety of support services. Some needed parenting information and skills, some needed

relief child care, some needed a job, some needed a place to live, and some just needed relief from the many stresses in their lives that led them to take out their frustrations on their children. The picture was much bigger than anyone had ever suspected.

Today many of these services are in place, including parent support and education groups, relief child care, an emergency aid fund, part-time temporary home ser- vice with a helper coming into the home to help with household and child management, and other services. In addition they offer an innovative service they call “phone friend” for children who come home from school to an empty house. All of this because one person cared and figured out how to involve others in advocacy.

For more information about child abuse signs and prevention, visit the Child Welfare Information Gate- way and Zero to Three websites. Zero to Three also has a program called Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect (PCAN).

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