We Americans like to designate particular months as reminders of important causes or larger ideals—nutrition and women’s history are March, black history is February, mental health and foster care is May. But few hit home emotionally as much as April’s candidate – National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Child abuse, regrettably, is a problem that doesn’t seem to go away. While 2008, the most recent year for which the government has statistics, saw the lowest child victimization rate in five years, the data shows that an estimated 772,000 children were victims of child abuse and neglect, a rate of 10.3 per 1,000 children.
The Junior Leagues are doing something about it. While the welfare of children had been a priority since the League’s earliest days, in 1973 the organization officially adopted child advocacy as an Association-wide program and co-sponsored a training conference on advocacy skills to help Leagues produce results in their local communities. Then as now, we believe building community awareness of the problem and providing resources to educate families are key elements to preventing child abuse and neglect.
That work continues across the country with programs like:
- The Junior League of Sarasota is in the second year of its three-year Child Abuse Prevention/Intervention Signature Project and will play a key role in the development of the new Child Advocacy Center in downtown Sarasota. JLS will work with the Child Protection Center, the leading agency in the Child Advocacy Center facility, on projects including internet safety education, child abuse prevention education, supervised visitation as well as development of a lunch facility and a playground. JLS will also work closely with the Child Protection Center in the planning of events for the “Paint the Town Blue” campaign, a month-long initiative to build awareness of child abuse in the Sarasota community.
- The Junior League of Winston-Salem combats child abuse by teaching third grade children about the issue through a live puppet show. Using a well-written, taped script called “Someone to Talk To,” the play teaches children the importance of telling someone if they have been abused or neglected. The JLWS puppet show also helps school counselors and social workers raise awareness of child abuse issues and identify children in need of help.
- The Junior League of Springfield, in response to local statistics on child abuse the League convened a summit to address the issue of child abuse in their community. The summit led to a partnership with the Burrell Behavioral Health, the City of Springfield, CoxHealth, Community Partnerships of the Ozarks, Missouri State University, St. John’s Health System, Springfield-Greene County Park Board and the United Way of the Ozarks to found a crisis nursery, Isabel’s House, to provide support to child abuse victims. Isabel’s House provides 24/7 residential care for children under 12 from troubled homes. Isabel’s House also provides respite, education, support and training services for families in crisis. The Junior League of Springfield’s work with Isabel’s House was recently was honored with the Association of Junior Leagues International’s JL Award for Community Development.
- The Junior League of Baton Rouge, in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, has provided a grant for pinwheels which will be planted on the grounds of local schools to raise awareness that everyone plays a part in preventing child abuse and neglect. JLBR volunteers will then speak to students about the purpose of the pinwheels, which are meant to symbolize happy, healthy and safe childhoods.