April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and our theme this year is Spreading the Light of Prevention.

Agencies and volunteers recently gathered for the annual “Placement of the Pinwheels”, the kickoff event for CAP month each year. Pinwheels, symbolizing families receiving support and information, were placed in the hope that other parents driving by will see them as powerful symbols of help and healing.

In 2020, there were over 900 incidents of alleged abuse/neglect that were investigated by Floyd County Division of Family and Children’s Services. For those 900 investigated cases, some were closed because there was no evidence to indicate abuse or neglect had occurred.

Unfortunately for 90 children, there was enough concern about their safety that foster care was warranted. For many more families, there was overwhelm enough that DFCS connected the families to local agencies and services.

These families are not led by bad parents. These are families who love their children but who are struggling, are in a season of overwhelm, or aren’t quite sure how to find the path forward when some many stones of stress are being thrown their way.

Abuse and neglect are more likely to occur when parents are overwhelmed, when they don’t have the resources they need to provide for their children, and when they are isolated. We can reduce this overwhelm and isolation by providing extra support, solid information, and encouragement.

Consider some of these ways to bring help and hope to families during CAP Month 2021:

♦ If you are a neighbor: Consider checking in with parents on your street. Get to know them and their children. Check in with them to see how they are doing, bring supper over after a parent has worked a double, or offer transportation if needed.

♦ As a friend, offer an afternoon of childcare while a parent goes on a job interview, be a good listener, and encourage them to reach out for help when needed.

♦ As an agency or services, ask parents how you can make your service more easily accessible. That might mean providing a place where children can play while parents wait for an appointment or offering to call an agency for a parent to do a warm handoff rather than putting the burden of accessing additional help on a parent who is already struggling.

♦ If y♦ ou are a business owner, think about ways you can support parents on your team. These can be as complex as providing childcare support to as simple as allowing an hour off to attend a parent-teacher conference.

Working together, we can spread the light of prevention so that all of our children have equitable opportunities to grow and thrive in safe, stable, connected and nurturing communities.

The Exchange Club Family Resource Center offers weekly in-home education and support to families who feel overwhelmed or who want to become stronger parents. To learn more, call 706-290-0764.

Tina Bartleson is the executive director of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center, which provides in-home parent education and mentoring to families with children 0-12 years. She has 32 years experience working with families and may be contacted through www.exchangeclubfrc.org.

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