In 1983 President Ronald Reagan declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and each year since it has been observed nationally.

That it’s more than worthy of being honored is obviously an understatement since child abuse in the United States is shockingly widespread.

Recently the US Department of Health and Human Services stated an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 2015.

Compare those 1,670 deaths — which means that nearly five children lose their lives to abuse and neglect every day in AmerIca — to the numbers cited on the website for the 2014-15 flu season — 148 pediatric flu deaths.

According HHS, that year, “Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served more than 311,000 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families.”

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as:

• Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation

• An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

The federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept CAPTA funding, however each state provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes.

"Minor injuries in children are incredibly common, and most are not the result of abuse or neglect," said Cindy Christian, MD — lead author of The Evaluation of Suspected Child Physical Abuse published in Pediatrics Magazine last April.

Christian — who is also past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect — continued, ”But sadly we also know how common it is for physicians to miss cases of child physical abuse. When these injuries are not correctly identified, children often return for medical care later with more severe— or even fatal injuries.”

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas cites some sobering statistics regarding child abuse in Texas:

• Today, 185 Texas children will be victims of abuse.

• In one year, more than 65,000 cases of child abuse were confirmed in Texas.

• 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before her 18th birthday.

• 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before his 18th birthday.

So what do you do if you suspect a child you know is being abused?

In addition to the state’s Child Protective Services at 2175 W South Loop, Stephenville, 254-965-2605 — we also have three local organizations that directly address issues of child abuse and neglect:

• Paluxy River Children’s Advocacy Center at 1540 Southtown Drive, Suits 101 & 102 in Granbury. 817-573-0292. Kerry Stannell is executive director.

• Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children at 1385 N. Graham Street. 254-965-6610. Judy Walker is executive director.

• Cross Timbers Family Services at 241 E. McNeil Street. 254-965-5516. Jodee Lucero is executive director.