Area rallies as April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month, also known as Child Abuse Prevention Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse.

April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983.

Every April, observation of Child Abuse Prevention Month is used to raise public awareness of child abuse and neglect, recommit efforts and resources aimed at protecting children and strengthening families, and promote community involvement through activities that support the cause.

The theme of this year’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month initiative mirrors the theme of the 21st National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, “Strong and Thriving Families,” and focuses on helping individuals and organizations in every community strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.

AITKIN COUNTY

Aitkin Mayor Gary Tibbitts issued a proclamation this week, making the month of April Child Abuse Prevention month in the city of Aitkin.

Recently retired from Aitkin County Health and Human Services, founding member of the Aitkin County Child Abuse Prevention Committee Sue Tange recalls that Aitkin County formed its own committee in 1991.

Tange was the child protection intake worker for the Aitkin County HHS at that time. She recalled that the state encouraged the counties to form child abuse prevention councils that would be independent of county business.

Instead of being concerned with investigating and intervention, Aitkin County CAPC was formed as a stand-alone committee that would encourage families and work to mitigate child maltreatment and educate the community.

Tange gathered community stakeholders and asked for people to support the formation of a committee. Instead of employees or public service agency representatives, the committee should mostly be community members.

The makeup of Aitkin County’s CAPC remains similar today. Members include the county child protection supervisor, county attorney, a sheriff department representative, educators, faith community representatives, and at large members Tange and Susan Clark-Harris.

Clarke-Harris was the director of sexual assault services prior to her retirement. Cheryl Meld of McGregor Schools is a long-time educator member who represents the McGregor community in the committee.

Meeting at noon on the first Wednesday of every month, the committee pursues its mission of promoting healthy relationships among children, community members and families. The philosophy is that the stronger and healthier relationships are within the family, the less likely it is that children will be harmed.

Child protection in the county is divided into three levels. Levels 1 and 2 are addressed by the Aitkin County CAPC.

Level 1 is information and healthy levels of support targeted to all children in the community and

Level 2 is serving children at risk.

Level 3 falls within the responsibility of county child protection services.

County child protection agency involvement occurs when an incident has happened. The goal is then to alleviate the risks to the child and teach healthier ways of relating in the family.

The state of Minnesota used to provide some funding, but the Tim Pawlenty administration pulled that funding, so that now the committee depends on funding raised by an annual Radiothon to End Child Abuse to raise money to carry out its mission.

Aitkin County CAPC makes small grants to other organizations in the community that are interested in running programs or events or doing publicity that helps CAPC carry out its mission. Radio station WJJY and sister stations in Brainerd and a simulcast on a Bemidji radio station carry the radiothon.

Organizations funded included Kinship Partners, Kids Plus of McGregor and Aitkin county schools if they have a desire to put on a special event that involves healthy relationships, self esteem and other healthy relationship issues.

Tange responded to a question about social/economic trends and whether they correlate with trends in child abuse and neglect by saying that the only way they might notice trends is if they have individuals from HHS on the committee. Aitkin County stats over time have tracked closely with the national stats, Tange said.

National agencies that are tracking those data include NCCAN. Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota also has a connection to a larger child abuse organization that keep stats and publishes them.

Some time ago, it was brought to the attention of the Aitkin committee that there were some trends in the county with drinking and driving.

In response, they put up a billboard to bring the issue to people’s attention, and to notify people about the consequences of drinking and driving with children in the car. That was the first time they connected the work of the three member agencies with the incidence of child abuse. That provided a theme for the year to focus on.

In 2019-20, “Words matter” is the theme for Aitkin county CAPC. The committee sponsors a billboard on Hwy. 210/169 north of Aitkin carrying the words “Your Child is an Echo.” The billboard may not be replaced this year because of the cost.

On occasion, a committee member will take a program into the schools, but that is not the normal function of the committee. An example of outreach in the schools occurred last fall when Community Education Executive Director Lara Parkin organized parent nights with a meal provided and then send the children for an activity while the parents had a presentation on mental health, sex trafficking and other current issues.

Cheryl Meld organized a program in the McGregor schools in response to information that some youngsters didn’t have the best parental involvement and were getting into mischief in town. Meld and others organized a parents and children get-together and that went on for a number of months and was really well received by the families involved. Relationships were built and made a difference in the community, she said.

Aitkin County Child Abuse Protection Committee has a page on Facebook.

NATIONAL DIRECTION 2020

This year’s national initiative highlights the 2019 Prevention Resource Guide: Strong and Thriving Families, which is intended to support child welfare service providers in their work with parents, caregivers, and children to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.

The National Child Abuse Prevention Month website is at www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/.

The United States Administration for Children and Families serves as the first point of contact for information and assistance for states and tribes operating child welfare programs. The ACF is responsible for publication of the Child Maltreatment Reports, which provide information on the number of child victims.

According to Child Maltreatment 2010, the most recent report of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), a nationally estimated 754,000 duplicate and 695,000 unique number of children were found to be victims of child maltreatment in the federal fiscal year 2010.

That year more than one-half of states (29) reported a decreased number of victims when compared to FFY 2009.

Based on the unique number of victims, an estimated 78% suffered neglect, an estimated 18% were physically abused, an estimated 9% were sexually abused, an estimated 8% were psychologically maltreated, and an estimated 2% were medically neglected. In addition, an estimated 10% of victims experienced “other” types of maltreatment such as “abandonment,” “threats of harm to the child,” and “congenital drug addiction.”

The full text of Child Maltreatment 2010 is available on the Children’s Bureau website at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/index.htm.

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