April is Child Abuse Prevention Month – a time to raise awareness and make meaningful connections with children and families in our community.
According to the 2020 Lane County Data Card from Our Children Oregon, in 2019, 17.5 children per 1,000 were victims of abuse or neglect. The Oregon Child Abuse Prevalence Study estimates that 24,000 Lane County youth and nearly 100,000 Lane County adults have experienced child abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence alone.
We can all help prevent child abuse and neglect by creating a nurturing community and giving families the support they need. As a community member, here are some things you can do:
• Support schools and institutions like libraries that provide equitable, cost-free opportunities for children to learn and give children a chance to realize their potential.
• Work toward economic equity and fair wages, so parents and children have access to healthy food, adequate health care, and affordable housing, and don’t have to cope with the added stress that poverty can bring.
• Regularly check in on your neighbors and friends who are parents. Raising children is a challenging job. Since isolation is a risk factor for neglect and abuse, sometimes a friendly hello or check-in can do wonders for an isolated parent who is having a rough day. Even the smallest gestures can have a big impact.
• Kids need strong families to grow and thrive. Support parenting education and child abuse prevention programs, such as those offered at Parenting Now, 90by30, Relief Nursery, Kids FIRST, CASA of Lane County, and the Pearl Buck Center.
• Volunteer at organizations that serve families in our community. Many nonprofits depend on volunteer support to help with events, administrative work, and more. Many local volunteer opportunities are listed at unitedwaylane.org/volunteer.
•Share community resources, such as those found at resources.parentingnow.org, with families so they know where to access support with basic needs and legal services.
• Support prevention programs, such as counseling services, home visit programs that have been proven to stop abuse and neglect before it occurs.
Any Oregon resident can learn to be a protective community member. Oregon Child Abuse Solutions offers a variety of training opportunities and informational videos for the community. Online training and resources can include information on signs, symptoms, medical assistance, and identifying abuse signs within different groups of children.
During the month of April, many agencies and businesses in Lane County are participating in a Pinwheels for Prevention awareness campaign. You may see pinwheels twirling in front of businesses, faith centers, and nonprofit agencies alike. These pinwheels serve as a reminder of the delight and beauty of childhood. They stand for all children’s chances at a healthy and happy life.
So when you see these pinwheels around town, remember that keeping kids safe, and supporting families is up to all of us.
Amanda Bedortha is the communications manager for Parenting Now. She wrote this for The Chronicle.