(Editor's note: Marsha Croasmun, coordinator of the Family Resource Center/Starting Points Center at the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families, is providing columns to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. She noted that her office represents and services both Wetzel and Tyler counties for Parents as Teachers.)
In the past, Child Abuse Prevention Month was a very sad time, as communities everywhere memorialized children who died from abuse and neglect and highlighted dramatic statistics and photographs that emphasized the horrors of abuse.
While these events were very successful at raising awareness of the problem and getting media attention, they were not successful at catalyzing the kind of community and political support needed to prevent child abuse from happening in the first place. This was supported by research conducted by Prevent Child Abuse America and the Frameworks Institute that showed the necessity of changing the message to a more positive, proactive approach designed to engage communities and promote solutions.
Positive outcomes that we seek for children and families are all products of effective communication. We want to engage communities in creating a cultural climate where children are valued and families strengthened.
Communities that have adopted this new messaging have found that it is successful at beginning a new dialogue about the prevention, rather than the problem, of child abuse and neglect. It is also inspiring individuals and groups who once thought that preventing child abuse was impossible to take more active roles in their communities.
We all want what is best for our children, and as a community we all can come together to provide this. Knowledge and understanding of child development is the first step, and an ongoing process. It is important that every member of our community consider what they can do to improve our collective well-being. Whether it is volunteering, making donations, or advocating for family-friendly policies, everyone can take their turn in making a difference.
For more information on statewide events that are going on for child abuse prevention go to www.preventchildabusewv.org. You may also contact the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families at 304-455-2468.