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Children's hospital starts 'No Hit Zone' program to prevent violence against children

Children's Hospital kicked off the "No Hit Zone" program.

NEW ORLEANS -- More than half of children younger than 14 who were hit and spanked, did not understand what discipline message parents were trying to teach them.

The study is just one of the many reasons why one local hospital has started a campaign that they hope parents and other businesses will adopt.

At the New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center, the Audrey Hepburn Care Center at Children's Hospital has a team of medical professionals on the front lines stopping neglect and physical, sexual abuse of children.

They have everything from the physical "no ouch" exam to a place where law enforcement can watch on camera, as therapists talk with children about their lives.

"We're seeing more and more children every year, so it's not going down," said Dr. Ellie Wetsman, about children who are abused.

Dr. Wetsman is a Board Certified Child Abuse Pediatrician, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at LSU Health Sciences Center. She says some risk factors for abuse include stressors, such as single parenting, money problems, less education, growing up with violence in the home and addiction.

"I hear a lot of times, 'My dad's a really nice guy, but when he comes home drunk, he just takes it out on me,'" she said.

So Children's Hospital kicked off the "No Hit Zone" program. Every single hospital staff member will be trained on how to intervene when they see hitting.

"Go up and have empathy. We don't want to shame a parent or anything like that, and say, 'Wow, looks like you're having a hard time. Can I help you?'"

It's not only about abuse, it's also about the many studies showing why, even spanking, is not a good disciplinary tool.

"You have more medical problems as an adult, health problems, mental health problems, problems with relationships, addiction," Dr. Wetsman explained about children who were hit.

Losing IQ points and even changed genetics, are showing up in studies on hitting. A simple spanking can get out of control when you're angry and lead to anti social behavior, aggression, negative child-parent relationships and lower self-esteem in children as they grow up.

"We don't want to teach our children to resolve conflict with violence," she added.

The Children's Hospital Care Center has educational materials including why a time-in is better than a time-out.

For more on the free program or to get help:

Advocacy Center: 504-894-5484

E-mail: nocac@lcmchealth.org

To report child abuse:

NOPD child abuse: 504-658-5267

New Orleans Child Protection: 504-680-9100

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