By Pam Darnall
President/CEO, Family & Children’s Place
Spring is a time for new beginnings, with more daylight, budding flowers … it’s a time of renewal.
So, we annually use the extra sunshine to shine some light on an ongoing problem: child abuse, and to renew calls for greater vigilance to keep our most important adult responsibility – protecting children
With the growth of the #Metoo, #TimesUp, and #March4OurLives movements, communities are acknowledging and tackling problems that have been long known, but where too little correction has been made. Whether it’s sexual violence against children or adults, or gun violence in schools, people are showing they’re tired of inaction.
Family & Children’s Place works with the most vulnerable population – children – some having experienced the worst kinds of trauma. Through tailored, specialized care, the children and families we serve get another chance at a happy, healthy, and safe future, but not all are fortunate enough to get another chance.
Mary is one of the lucky ones.
Mary came to Family & Children’s Place because she told someone she trusted that she felt like she was worthless, that she had no value, nothing to contribute. She had suffered multiple traumas, including physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. The only positive, unconditionally caring adult in her life was her grandmother, who passed away when she was young.
Over time, working with her therapist, Mary came to realize that she had worth, that she mattered, so she was able to build herself up and gain confidence. Mary now is on track to graduate from high school in May with plans to go on to nursing school.
She has asked her therapist to attend her graduation “because you are the reason I’m graduating.” Mary’s improvement was a team effort – the guidance and support of a caring counselor, along with help that enabled her to develop and grow her own strengths, positive steps she attributes to the support and healing provided by Family & Children’s Place.
We continue to help children like Mary – and there are far too many Marys out there – but we cannot do it alone. We depend on the compassion and generosity of partners such as the Face It Movement, Kosair Charities, Metro United Way, and many generous groups and individuals. And we count on people, everyday citizens – neighbors, teachers, parents, doctors, nurses, church leaders, scout leaders, and others to be vigilant, to look out for children, to note any evidence of abuse.
Last year, Family & Children’s Place helped more 6,000 children and family members, and we expect to help even more this year, and next year, and the next … because we know the pain and suffering doesn’t stop because of the heightened awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Children will continue to be denied food or care. They’ll be beaten and bruised, no matter the time of year.
As a community, we must act. We must recognize that Louisville, our own neighborhoods, are not immune to the abuse and neglect children suffer, and that it’s never OK.
In 2016, 81 children in Kentucky died or nearly died due to substantiated physical abuse or neglect – harm at the hand of another. With increased awareness and action by community members, we have to wonder how many of those 81 children could have been saved.
Child abuse is not inevitable; it is preventable.
We need to hold one another accountable and to speak up when we see or suspect abuse of any kind. When you see a child with irregular bruising and unexplained injuries, report it. When you see increased anxiety and withdrawn behavior, report it.
Make sure your own children are empowered to share. Let them know they will be believed if they have something to share, and that it’s important to tell an adult if they see a friend, classmate, or playmate injured in any way.
Kentucky and Indiana both are mandatory reporting states. That means if you witness or suspect abuse, you are legally accountable to report it. Children’s lives depend on it, and children are counting on you to do the right thing.
A child’s safety must never be left to uncertainty.
Reporting is easy. Call your respective state’s hotline.
In Kentucky, 1-877-597-2331
In Indiana, 1-800-800-5556
Save the numbers in your phone; ask your friends and family to do the same.
While April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we naturally pay more attention when we participate in rallies and breakfasts, see it in the headlines and online, remember that every day is the right time to be vigilant, to learn the signs of abuse and how to respond.
Please join us at Family & Children’s Place this April and stand up against abuse. Because violence, abuse, and neglect are things no child should endure.
See it? Suspect it? Speak up! Report it!