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Preventing family violence key to healthy early childhood development

The health and wellbeing of our keiki is very important to our island community.

There are many factors that contribute to a healthy home and environment where a child can thrive, including food security, quality health care, a safe household with loving caregivers, etc.

There are also many circumstances that can endanger a child, impair a child’s development and negatively impact their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing with possible lifelong consequences.

One of the most prevalent dangers to children is family violence. The prevention of family violence should be a priority across the state.

Family violence occurs in all types of families and in every community across Kaua‘i. The act of family violence can traumatize keiki when they witness abuse or are the direct targets of abuse. They can also suffer trauma when they have to leave their home because it is unsafe. In fact, family violence is one of the main causes of homelessness for women and their children.

Children exposed to violence may experience issues with attachment, school engagement, longer-term academic success, relationships and parenting. Elementary-school-age children (6 to 12 years) have difficulty paying attention at school or at home. They may even become quiet or withdrawn. Researchers have also found that exposure to verbal abuse does affect certain areas of the brain. These areas are associated with changes in verbal IQ and symptoms of depression, dissociation and anxiety.

Currently, there are limited resources dedicated to providing support to Kaua‘i families after family violence occurs. And with the rising rates of family violence in Hawai‘i as a result of the pandemic, it is more critical than ever that these support services become available to victims of family violence.

In addition, there is very little to no resources dedicated to the prevention of family violence. This inattention to prevention of family violence ensures the damaging affects to keiki will continue, resulting in more children suffering.

Commit to Keiki, which is a non-partisan, statewide initiative, is focused on increasing investments in Hawai‘i’s youngest keiki and the wellbeing of their families by engaging with gubernatorial candidates to educate and encourage them to commit to the following three priorities: family-violence prevention, child care and early learning, and early childhood mental health.

A recent voter poll, commissioned by Commit to Keiki, shows that over eight in 10 voters (85.4%) think it is important for Hawai‘i’s next governor to prioritize programs that prevent family violence such as child abuse, neglect and intimate-partner violence.

It is imperative to the health and growth of our community that Hawai‘i’s next governor prioritizes family-violence prevention through policies and investments that support family-violence-prevention programs and continue to support the victims of family violence. Our future governor’s leadership is key to ensuring our keiki have access to safe, secure and nurturing homes.

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Renaé Hamilton-Cambeilh is executive director of YWCA Kaua‘i.
Source: The Garden Island

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