Other Voices: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and an appropriate time to think about all the children and families in your life. What are you doing that makes a positive difference? Perhaps more than you realize.
Did you know that children are less likely to be abused if their family understands child development, spends time talking and playing together, regularly engages with friends, and is resilient to everyday challenges? This may be obvious to you, but some children are not lucky enough to receive this nurturing care. Their parents did not experience it themselves as children and don’t know it is important. They may view healthy attention as excessive or indulgent.
Simple actions like praising a child, playing house or ball, listening and soothing fears, all build and maintain positive parent-child relationships. This creates resiliency that children need to thrive. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that even attentive parents need reminders to take a grown up “time-out” when frustrated, to listen fully, and make time to play. Providing nurturing care requires plenty of emotional resources and support, which is why engaging friends and extended family to help is critical to our children’s wellbeing.
When parents struggle with substance abuse, mental health challenges, job loss, or lack a supportive network this nurturing care can suffer. Eventually, the basic needs of a child can overwhelm parents who cannot meet their own needs. Often families become isolated and withdrawn just when they could use support and guidance to get back on track.
Child Advocates of Nevada County brings hope to children and families who are struggling with these issues. We passionately believe every child’s voice should be heard and every child should have a safe and nurturing home, free from abuse or neglect.
Child Advocates’ four programs brighten the future of children and families by providing them with direct support, encouragement, and education. CASA, Foothills Healthy Babies, Welcome Baby, and CAPINCS all support Nevada County’s children.
CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, provide a voice for children who have been removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. For a child, Dependency Court is a confusing and endless maze of adult rules and priorities. A trained CASA volunteer makes sure that their assigned child’s needs are understood and addressed by the Court. They make sure that the child does not get lost in the very process that is trying to protect them.
Foothills Healthy Babies’ home visitors help new mothers identify their strengths and goals. Home visitors make referrals, assist with problem-solving, and provide weekly child development and parenting information. They help moms and their babies get off to a great start and can continue to offer support for 3 to 5 years.
Welcome Baby is a short-term program. Home visitors link brand new moms to Baby & Me support groups and educate them about Shaken Baby Syndrome, SIDS, and the importance of understanding baby’s cries. They also screen for post-partum depression and lead exposure risk.
And finally, Child Advocates provides community education through Child Abuse Prevention in Nevada County School, or the “CAPINCS” Child Safety Puppeteers program. High school students put on puppet shows about bullying and abuse to preschool to fifth grade children. Children learn to identify and name behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable and to say, “No.” The program also helps them identify all the adults in their life they can turn to stop abusive behavior.
All of us are impacted by the welfare of the children in our community, when our children and families thrive, our whole community thrives.
Child Advocates is proud to be a United Way Partner and is a member of the Community Support Network. Our mission is to provide advocacy, education, and support so that every child in Nevada County grows up in a safe, nurturing, and healthy environment. Together with the other members of the Community Support Network, Child Advocates of Nevada County is working to strengthen our families and create a safe community.
You can learn more about us at caofnc.org or call us at (530) 265-9550. Classes begins April 14.
Laura Harter is executive director for Child Advocates of Nevada County.
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