Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: During the past year, we all have been made aware of tragic cases of severe child abuse and neglect. Sadly, three children die each day in our country as a result of maltreatment. Those who died, most of them under the age of 5, were harmed by the same people who were responsible for their care.

During April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, thousands of people in small towns and large cities throughout the nation work tirelessly to encourage public awareness of child abuse and its prevention. The National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (NCPCA) supports these efforts and encourages everyone to become involved in preventing child abuse before it occurs. If every adult did just a little, fewer children would suffer pain, injury or death due to abuse.

SEVEN STEPS TO STAMP OUT CHILD ABUSE

1. REPORT suspected abuse or neglect. Inform authorities if you suspect that children are being harmed. Your concern may mean that children are protected from an abusive environment.

2. ADVOCATE for services to help families. Communities need comprehensive services that address issues which affect families. Parenting programs, health care and housing needs are vital to maintaining healthy children and families.

3. VOLUNTEER at a local child abuse program. Parent support groups, crisis centers and hot-lines are typical programs that often welcome volunteers. Check your telephone directory for the names of agencies in your area.

4. HELP A FRIEND, NEIGHBOR OR RELATIVE. Someone you know may be struggling with parenting responsibilities. Offer a sympathetic ear or a helping hand. Assisting occasionally with child care or offering to locate sources of community help can be a tremendous boost to someone under stress.

5. HELP YOURSELF. Recognize the signs that indicate outside help is needed. If you feel overwhelmed, constantly sad, angry and out of control, get help. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

6. SUPPORT AND SUGGEST programs on child abuse prevention for local organizations. Kiwanis Clubs, Exchange Clubs, PTA, church groups and women's and men's clubs all offer excellent opportunities for raising public awareness in the community.

7. PROMOTE programs in schools. Teaching prevention strategies can help to keep children safe from those who would abuse them.

Abby, your readers are the most caring people in the world, and I know that once alerted, many of them will take this national problem to heart. That's what it takes, individuals as well as organizations. -- JOY BYERS, NATIONAL COMMITTEE TO PREVENT CHILD ABUSE

DEAR JOY: I was shocked to learn that more than 3 million children are reported as victims of child abuse and neglect each year. I urge readers to contact the NCPCA for more information on preventing child abuse. Call 1-800-55-NCPCA to request material, or write P.O. Box 2866, Chicago, Ill. 60690.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600