Prevent Child Abuse Florida recognizes the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month in April. The theme of this year’s awareness and impact campaign is “Everyone can help families thrive. Especially you!”
April 2022 marks the third year CAP Month occurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty remains high. COVID-19 adds stress that can overload parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, the necessity of new childcare and schooling arrangements, and food insecurity.
“Now more than ever, we need to band together in collective ways that help our families and children thrive. Too often, our society thinks of raising healthy children as a parent or caregiver’s responsibility alone,” said Chris Lolley, Executive Director. “In reality, we all benefit when groups of people work together to collectively care for children.”
Several local organizations are coming together in Indian River County to bring awareness to the campaign. “United Way invests in local solutions to prevent child abuse through nonprofit agencies with established best practices. As a community, we are helping to improve parenting skills, counseling, support, and connections to a host of resources,” said Meredith Egan, CEO UWIRC. “Our efforts to raise awareness and community engagement are small but significant steps to ensure children and families in our community are safe can thrive.”
In real day-to-day life, our best chance to reduce child maltreatment is in prevention. So what does it look like to strengthen families? It means connecting them to concrete supports in times of need, improving their understanding of child development, expanding social connections, increasing parental resilience in times of stress, and nurturing social and emotional competence in families. Across the Treasure Coast, families who are struggling have access to people and organizations who will work with them to build these capabilities and lift their families up. A few are listed below:
Healthy Families Florida is a nationally accredited home visiting program for expectant parents and parents of newborns. The program improves childhood outcomes and increases family self-sufficiency by empowering parents through education and community support. Parents voluntarily participate in Healthy Families so they can learn how to recognize and respond to their babies’ changing developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques, cope with the day-to-day stress of parenting in healthy ways, and set and achieve short- and long-term goals.
Indian River County Healthy Start is a nonprofit organization that works to assess and fill gaps and illuminate and eliminate barriers to improve the maternal and child health system. Our mission is to establish and support a local system of care that optimizes the health of moms, babies, and their families. One of our programs that helps reduce child abuse and neglect rates is Parents as Teachers. The Parents as Teachers model sends our Health Coordinators into the homes to spend time with parents and their babies or toddlers. We encourage parents to interact with their children in new ways by providing activities that are affordable and easy to use.
Safe Families for Children supports families in crisis through a compassionate, caring community. Our objectives are to prevent child abuse and neglect and keep kids out of foster care. We do that by supporting the parent through a crisis when stress and circumstances might result in children being harmed. We connect our families to volunteers who offer coaching, support with the children, connections to community resources, other forms of temporary assistance to stabilize from the crisis, and friendship. We meet families where they are and are able to work alongside them in ways that complement the other community programs they might need to keep their family secure.
Childcare Resources works for families, subsidizing the cost of high-quality care for children in Indian River County. Care is provided at the Childcare Resources School and privately-owned childcare centers. All schools are nationally accredited through NAEYC. Childcare Resources works for educators, too. Local early childhood professionals can attend one-day workshops highlighting best practices, pursue higher education opportunities with assistance, work with a coach on a one-on-one basis, and participate in networking and training opportunities.
All of these organizations and more are coming together throughout April to support Prevent Child Abuse Florida and spread awareness using the message that “Every day, we help families and children thrive.”
“Research shows that positive childhood experiences grow thriving families and communities,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “This is the moment to build a child and family well-being system that propels families to grow and thrive together. Please consider joining us to ensure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are cultivated to enable children, families, and entire communities to succeed – today and for generations to come.”
Indian River County has several community organizations and supports to strengthen families and help prevent child abuse. Prevent Child Abuse recommends the following ways that people everywhere can help raise awareness and impact their community this year:
- Wear blue on April 1st, Wear Blue Day, to show support for children and families. Post a photo or video on social media and include the #WearBlueDay2022 hashtag.
- Follow Prevent Child Abuse Florida on social media and share their posts throughout April. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Use the hashtags #HelpFloridaFamiliesThrive and #CAPMonth to signify your commitment to helping children, families, and entire communities to thrive.
- Make a tax-deductible donation.
- Plant pinwheels in front of your office, building, or church.
- Refer people who need help to unitedwayirc.org/pinwheel for a list of local action steps and resources.
For more ways to get involved in CAP Month, please visit www.ounce.org/CAP_toolkit.html
United Way of Indian River County (UWIRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every community member. United Way works with local programs to provide resources to individuals and families in crisis today while working year-round to improve community conditions and create lasting solutions. We are effectively building a strong foundation and improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. For more information about your local United Way, please call (772) 567-8900 or visit our website, UnitedWayIRC.org.