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Health and Family Services Cabinet
Reduce Stress to Prevent Child Abuse During Holidays; Neighbors can help by reporting suspected abuse

Press Release Date:  Thursday, December 18, 2008  
Contact Information:  Media Contact: Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6180, ext. 4014; or Vikki Franklin, (502) 564-7042  

Note to producers: Download an audio clip of Jim Grace, assistant director of the Department for Community Based Services’ Division of Protection and Permanency, at

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2008) – Even in very loving families, stresses can increase during the holidays.

With kids home from school, travel and seasonal shopping and its expenses, parents can get frazzled more easily than usual. What is usually a fun and happy time for children can become devastating when parents or caregivers cope by becoming abusive.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the state agency charged with child and adult welfare, reminds adults to keep their cool this winter when it comes to disciplining kids.

“Parents enjoy spending time with their children, but frustration can escalate during times of high stress,” said Jim Grace, assistant director of the Division of Protection and Permanency in the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS). “It’s never OK to hit a child.”

When parents are upset with a child’s behavior, a tried-and-true method to regain composure is leaving the room and counting to 10, Grace said.

“Once you return to your child, stay composed and speak in a calm voice,” he said. “Keep a clear head so you can appropriately discipline for unacceptable behavior.”

Teach children how to communicate, Grace said. Ask them to talk about what’s bothering them rather than reacting by hitting or yelling. Model this behavior, and ask other adults around your children to do the same.

“Children are usually better behaved when their parents and caregivers are happier and more relaxed,” Grace said.

If you’re under stress, talk to someone. Give other parents a break by offering to listen. Sometimes just being able to express anger and frustration helps ease tension.

Grace said staff at county DCBS offices may help parents by finding resources to deal with the household problems that may cause stress, such as loss of a job. Community resources are often available to assist families who need help with services like utilities, child care or job training.

“The local offices can assist with referrals to appropriate agencies,” Grace said.

Log on to to find the phone number for the DCBS office in your county.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet’s community partners, is a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Kentucky's children through its outreach.

“Abuse and neglect are associated with short- and long-term consequences that affect not only the child and family, but also society as a whole,” said PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred. “PCAK gives parents and caregivers expert guidance on child safety. We’re proud to be one of DCBS’ partners in prevention.”

PCAK offers a toll-free hot line -- (800) CHILDREN – that provides information and referrals to help prevent child abuse. Visit them online at

Grace said it takes effort from all members of a community to stop abuse and neglect. Kentuckians should remember that if they even suspect child abuse or neglect, they must report it. “It’s the law,” he said.

Last year more than 33,000 reports of abuse were investigated, and almost 9,900 of those were substantiated.

Call your local police or the cabinet’s child abuse hot line at (800) 752-6200 to report. Callers will remain anonymous.

Parenting Tips

When you feel you need to discipline your child with a time-out or punishment, keep these tips in mind from Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.

• Get some space. If you are so upset you feel like screaming -- or more -- leave the room. Say, "I'm so angry, I need a minute to think." Then leave the room or send your child to his room so you can calm down and regroup. You’ll get yourself under control, and it’s a good example for your children.

• Be quick. Catch your child in the act. Delayed reactions dilute the effect.

• Use selectively. Use time-out for talking back, hitting and safety-compromising problems. Don't overuse it.

• Keep calm. Your anger only adds fuel to the fire and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger. This prevents you from being in control.

• Stick with it. Once you say, “time-out,” don't back down or be talked out of it. If you decide to use time-out to control hitting, for example, use it every time your child hits, even if he spends most of the day in time-out. Eventually, he'll decide that it's more fun to play without hitting than to sit alone in his room.

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Last Updated 12/18/2008