This April marks the 35th anniversary of Child Abuse Prevention Month. While the spotlight on this crisis has been bright over this period of time, child abuse remains a persistent challenge to families and communities throughout the country. The National Child Abuse Hotline states that a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds, and more than 6.5 million children are the subject of child abuse referrals to state protective agencies every year.
The Junior League of Wichita and now President Laura Roddy decided to take on this fight in 2011, making child abuse their focus area for their Issue-Based Community Impact model (IBCI) project. The results of their work include: Two Lives at a Time, a partnership with the Wichita Children’s Home to help teen moms develop crucial life skills, including how to build healthy relationships and effective parenting practices; providing and outfitting a van to deliver diapers, baby items and self-care items where they are needed the most; a puppet show that has taught thousands of children about physical and sexual abuse; and partnering on a five-part television series on child abuse that aired last year (all five parts are below). These efforts are funded by the League’s annual fundraisers, Holiday Galleria and Kitchen Tours.
The Junior League of Wichita’s work is a powerful example of our members’ engagement, an important case-study on the benefits of IBCI and an inspiring reminder that League Members improve and save lives.
Discuss the journey with the Issue-Based Community Impact model and how you decided on child abuse.
We started a very long and very deliberate process back in 2010. We really did a lot of research at trying to find the intersection of our community’s needs and our members’ interest level, and we narrowed it down. And then we spent even more time developing the outcome statement of what we would work on. For us, we wanted to combat child abuse. We identified a need as there was a spike in child deaths in our community. And we said we wanted to combat child abuse through awareness, prevention and intervention. So, the array of activities we have undertaken in that time included volunteer hours, planning and committing $500,000 to that effort. That includes $300,000 to the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, which takes a multidisciplinary response to child abuse cases. We also committed three years and $150,000 to a partnership for with the Wichita Children’s Home.
This seems to be a really powerful example of how IBCI can drive change in a community.
We were excited because clearly it is going to be powerful for all of our members who are involved. A lot of members go through training or go through the background checks to be approved to work at the Children’s Home and work directly with these teenagers. That shows there has been a really positive response from our membership of wanting to be hands-on. And it speaks to knowing that you are going to impact someone’s life.
Tell us more about the Puppet Show and the five-part series.
The puppet show has been going on for five or six years. That has been a fantastic project. We had a committee doing our research on needs. Our school district, which serves about 50,000 kids, had a desire to do child abuse and sexual assault education because they have counselors at schools but not every school has a social worker. By us offering this program, it really helps them introduce and frame this subject matter to the students. But it’s not something they would easily be able to do because it does take three of us at a time.
There is something about the puppet show that is more engaging to students than just a video would be. They are captivated by it. They love asking questions. The script addresses serious matters, but there are also some light-hearted moments, too. So, it’s just a compelling way to teach the kids. We are not the experts, though. The social worker or the guidance counselor then leads a guided discussion at the end. And there have been numerous occasions where a child has come forward and an investigation has ensued because of our presentation. The school district was very grateful for that partnership. They could not have done it on their own. It’s up to every principal to invite us. And we have done our shows at different private schools, suburban districts, Boys and Girls Clubs and more.
And the five-part series?
Our signature fundraiser is a shopping event called Holiday Galleria. Members of that committee, in looking at their media buys and their strategy for last year, were able to form a partnership with our local ABC affiliate television station. And the television station wanted to show the bigger picture and the bigger story—so they committed to telling the story about child abuse in our community. And then we were able to capitalize on it. They did a five-part story and it was pretty impactful. It features a Junior League member who was telling a very powerful story of abuse that she witnessed and experienced growing up herself. She is now chairing our Two Lives at a Time project. The series also highlighted a member whose grandson died as a result of child abuse.
The core value of The Junior League is that it—through its members—serves as boots on the ground in the U.S., U.K., Mexico and Canada, strengthening local communities near and far. Have you seen that in your work?
One of the impressive things about our organization is that we have built up such good rapport and respect over the decades for being passionate, thorough, dedicated and for studying the issues. We have been able to be a convener. We were able to put together our ChildAbuseWichita.org website as a one-stop shop reference point for people looking for resources or having questions, by bringing together our community’s diverse stakeholders in child welfare. We also support the Wichita Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention, always attending, playing a significant role, helping with some of the funding.
I think the power of all the connections and respect that our members have earned over the years in the community has helped us draw groups together to talk about collaboration. We can convene and collaborate and work well with other organizations.
Is it safe to say that combating child abuse will be an enduring part of the Junior League of Wichita’s work into the future?
We know we are on through 2020 for sure. We kind of checked back in with the members about a year or so ago before we committed to the Children’s Home. Obviously, we haven’t solved the problem of child abuse. But our members are still invested to working in this area. So, we made this three-year commitment to the project.
KAKE-Protecting Our Children From Abuse Parts 1-5