April is National Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month when child wellness and welfare organizations across the U.S. elevate the importance of creating systems and programs that put children and families first. Prevent Child Abuse Florida recognizes that all community members have a role in ensuring children have positive experiences and families have the resources they need when needed, well before they are in crisis. The theme of this year’s awareness and impact campaign, led by Prevent Child Abuse America and its national network of state chapters, is “Building Together: Prevention in Partnership.”
“Through nonprofit agencies with established best practices, United Way invests in local solutions to prevent child abuse. In our community, we provide parenting skills training, counseling, support, and connections to various resources,” said Meredith Egan, CEO United Way of Indian River County. “Our efforts to raise awareness and engage the community are small but significant steps to ensure children and families in our community are safe and can thrive.”
Extreme stress and uncertainty for families may increase the risk of child abuse and neglect, raising the need to support families and prevent abuse before it occurs. Child abuse and neglect are preventable, and all communities benefit when children and families are well supported.
Throughout CAP Month, Prevent Child Abuse Florida, its national organization Prevent Child Abuse America, alongside other chapters, affiliates, and supporting organizations, are using the metaphor of building blocks and construction to reinforce the concept that prevention cannot and does not happen alone.
“Child abuse neglect and prevention only happens in partnership. During this year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, our nationwide network is on a mission to show how friends and neighbors, parents and caregivers, business leaders and elected officials, educators, and community organizations all have a role to play in building bright, safe and successful futures for our nation’s children,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “There are several ways you can get involved in this campaign, and there are also some everyday things you can do to help stop abuse or neglect before it starts.”
Local Organizations Working to Strengthen Families
Several local organizations are coming together in Indian River County to bring awareness to the campaign. In real day-to-day life, our best chance to reduce child maltreatment is in prevention. What does it look like to strengthen families? It means connecting them to concrete support 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, struggling families 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 non-profit organization that assesses and fills gaps and illuminates and eliminates 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 affordable and easy-to-use activities.
Safe Families for Children supports families in crisis through a compassionate, caring community. We aim 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 harm children. We train and vet volunteers willing to serve as part of a Circle of Support for parents and children. Volunteers can coach, friend, or host children short-term to help a family stabilize. Staff also helps the family with connections to community resources and other forms of temporary assistance to stabilize the crisis. We meet families where they are and can work alongside them in ways that complement the other community programs they might need to keep their families safe and together.
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 work 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 one-on-one, and participate in networking and training opportunities.
All 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.”
Prevent Child Abuse Florida recommends local community members help raise awareness and impact through the following simple action items this April and beyond:
• Follow Prevent Child Abuse Florida on social media and share posts throughout April. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Use the hashtags #BuildingTogether, #PreventionInPartnership and #CAPMonth to signify your commitment to helping children, families and entire communities to thrive.
For more ways to get involved in CAP Month, please visit https://www.ounce.org/CAPMonth.html.
About United Way of Indian River County
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.