Child Abuse Prevention Month to focus on families, community

Friday, March 29, 2013

The subject of child abuse garners an almost universal reaction among Americans. In a recent poll, 89 percent of Americans called child abuse a "very important" moral issue to them.

Yet it is something that continues to be a problem across the country.

With April observed as Child Abuse Prevention month, the local organizing committee for the month and its activities is focusing on celebrating family and community.

"The month of April is devoted to celebrating everything we can do to transform our community into a place that cares about -- and actively supports -- families and children," reads a statement from the Putnam County Child Abuse Prevention Month Committee. "By ensuring that all parents in our community have access to quality childcare, affordable health services, parenting education resources and substance abuse and mental health programs, we make progress toward what the month stands for."

The majority of child abuse cases stem from situations and conditions that are entirely preventable in an engaged and supportive community. A community that cares about early childhood development, parent support and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to see families nurturing children who are born healthy and enter school ready to learn.

Cities and towns that work to create good school systems and who come together to ensure that affordable housing is available in good, safe neighborhoods are less likely to see stressed, isolated families who don't know where to turn.

"Child Abuse Prevention Month is about connecting all of these dots so that the solutions to child abuse receive the attention the public craves," the committee's statement said.

The family and community engagement efforts actually started this week to coincide with spring break and give families healthy outlets for their energies.

The month itself will kick off with a Child Abuse Proclamation from Mayor Sue Murray at noon on Monday at City Hall.

The signing will be immediately followed by the placing of pinwheels on the Putnam County Courthouse lawn. As always, one pinwheel will be placed for each victim of a reported child abuse incident in Putnam County during the past year.

In addition to the pinwheels, businesses and organizations throughout the community have agreed to prominently display blue ribbons to promote child abuse awareness.

Another community awareness event planned for the month will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, when the Department of Child Services will host a candlelight vigil at ResCare, 1306 S. Bloomington St.

However, the month is about more than just awareness, says Putnam County Family Support Services director Cari Cox. It's about fostering an environment where abuse is less likely to happen.

"Child abuse prevention isn't about putting out the gory details (of child abuse," Cox said. "It's about supporting families and community."

As such, the committee has published a calendar with suggested activity for each day of the month to promote a healthy family environment.

Some suggestions include:

April 1: Tell your children they're amazing and one of a kind.

April 6: Put on your favorite music and dance, dance, dance the day away.

April 11: Slip an "I love you" note into their lunchbox or backpack. They'll love the surprise.

April 24: Have a beach party. Turn on some beach music and dance. Pretend to surf and swim.

The calendar was sent home with all Putnam County elementary students prior to spring break.

"It's not enough to care about the problem and address its consequences," Cox said. "We have to pay attention to the kinds of efforts that will prevent it from happening in the first place. So this April, learn more about what you and your community can do to support child abuse prevention. It's a shared responsibility and we're stronger together."

Members of the 2013 Child Abuse Prevention Month Committee are Putnam County Family Support Services, Department of Child Services Putnam County Head Start, Children's Bureau Inc. -- Community Partners for Child Safety, Putnam County Youth Development Commission, Mental Health America of Putnam County and Court Appointed Special Advocate.

Sponsors and participants in Child Abuse Prevention Month include Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, Old National Bank, A.A. Huber and Sons, Hammer and Company CPAs, Red Barn Farms, Putnam County Museum, Putnam County Public Library, A 'n J Bowl, Greencastle Parks and Recreation, Greencastle Rotary Club, West Central Veterinary Services, Ashley Square Cinema, Wal-mart, Headley Hardware, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Greencastle Housing Authority, Farm Credit Mid-America, Knoy Resource Center, City of Greencastle, Ivy Tech, Little Hands Daycare, Greencastle Middle School, Putnam County Commissioners, Greencastle Chamber of Commerce, Greencastle Police Department, North Putnam High School, Monical's Pizza , First Christian Church, Hayes Murphy Sharp & Brackney, The National Center for College Costs -- Murray and Associates, Putnam County Senior Center and Old National Trail.

Find out more about child abuse prevention in your community by contacting Family Support Services at 653-4820.

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