What do you do to prevent child abuse and neglect in our community?
Nearly 100 residents have been trained to be “Strengthening Family Ambassadors." These ambassadors are nonprofit leaders, child-care surveyors, AmeriCorps members, care managers and volunteers, and they will be taking to the streets this month throughout Douglas County to conduct 500 “random acts of kindness.” Each ambassador will be giving a sticker and bookmark to an adult and youth that they witness having a positive interaction.
A positive interaction may include witnessing a child who is screaming but the parent talks the child in a calm manner or a parent being engaged in a conversation with his or her child while at the park instead of checking messages on a phone.
This effort is being held in conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month with the hopes of creating community change and sending the message that everyone plays a role in helping children and families are strong and healthy.
Congress first recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983. Since then, national, state and local activities have occurred, but this the first year that a group of Douglas County agencies have united to promote and raise awareness during the month. United Way of Douglas County and Douglas County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) spearheaded the effort in February when nine agencies, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, attended. The group has grown to include more than 30 agencies and is now called the Douglas County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force.
To help raise awareness, members also planted 300 blue-and-white pinwheels in Lawrence. The pinwheels stand to remind residents that every child deserves the chance to live a healthy, happy life. According to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, there were 79 victims of child abuse and/or neglect in Douglas County. There also will be sidewalk chalk messages and displays on the University of Kansas campus. The group also is encouraging residents to wear blue April 19 in recognition of Kansas Child Abuse Prevention Day.
“Significant negative outcomes occur when children are abused or neglected. The child has a higher likelihood that they will experience poor physical and mental health as an adult,” said Jenn Preston, supervisor of the Healthy Families Douglas County program at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. “Additionally, our community and economy suffer because we don’t have individuals reaching their fullest, productive potential. We also spend a larger amount of money on interventions to heal these adults who have experienced trauma in their childhood.”
For more information about the Douglas County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, contact Diana Frederick, executive director of Douglas County CASA at 785-832-5172 or email@example.com.