Child Abuse Prevention Month

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Today’s blog post comes to us from our Children’s Counselor, Jennifer King:

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In the children’s counseling program at Safe Passage we provide therapy and counseling for children who witness domestic violence and whose parents are victims of domestic violence, but we also provide services to children who are themselves victims of violence. Did you know that according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) 1 in 15 children in the United States were exposed to intimate partner violence, a total of more than 5 million children, in just one year? Research has shown that witnessing domestic violence can be a traumatic event for children. In the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey (ACES) done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to domestic violence was found to be one of the 10 childhood experiences that can be a precursor to negative health outcomes in the future.

 

Another hard truth is that, in addition to the trauma of witnessing intimate partner violence, it is in many cases associated with other forms of violence. 1 in 3 children who witnessed domestic violence are also child abuse victims (according to the NCADV). Safe Passage counselors know this from our work with child clients. Often children are referred to us for counseling who are displaying behaviors that are concerning to their parents and teachers, such as aggression, nightmares, excessive crying, or clinging to parents. It can be helpful for parents to know that many of these behaviors are common among children who have experienced trauma. It is even more helpful to know that the effects of child abuse and other childhood trauma can be alleviated through developing a trusting relationship with a counselor. Children’s counselors at Safe Passage are Master’s-level counselors who are certified in trauma treatment. Talk therapies can be used with some children and adolescents, but more often expressive therapies are used to meet children at their level and make therapy as non-threatening and enjoyable as possible. Our counselors use play therapy techniques to assist children with expressing their feelings, experiencing healthy boundaries and limits and making choices about therapy activities in order to increase their sense of safety and control. Play is the natural language of children and while playing children can explore feelings that they are unable to describe using only words.

 

In our trauma training and working with clients we have learned that the most important part of any therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Children’s counselors at Safe Passage work very hard to create an environment for children where they can have fun while always feeling safe and valued.  As one of the foremost experts on trauma treatment, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk said, “being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” At Safe Passage our goal is to provide these safe connections in order to help children heal from trauma and abuse.

 

If you suspect a child you know is being abused, you can report that abuse in Illinois by calling 1-800-25ABUSE. Let parents, families, and children know that there is help and support available at Safe Passage by calling 815-756-5228 or call us yourself to learn more about our services.  Together, we CAN end child abuse for good.

CASA

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As we’ve posted previously on our blog, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  We are so grateful for our amazing children’s counselors, our prevention specialists who do education in the schools, and our caseworkers who work tirelessly for parents and children in our care.   We are also incredibly grateful for our community partners who do incredibly important work ensuring the safety and support of at-risk children.  One of those partners, CASA DeKalb County, is guest-blogging today, sharing a personal story about the critical work they do:

My name is Anna*. I am 8 years old. When I was 6, I was living in a motel room with one bed in DeKalb with my mom, her boyfriend and my half-brothers. I slept on the floor. It was cold. My mom and her boyfriend used drugs. They argued a lot.

My CASA advocate came to our motel room. She reported our living conditions to the judge.

I live with a foster family now. I have my own room. I have my first bed. I have my own blanket. I am warm at night.

*Name changed for confidentiality

Anna’s story is one of many that are involved in the juvenile abuse and neglect court every week in DeKalb County. In fact, every 13 hours in DeKalb County there is a new case of child abuse or neglect reported. On average, there are about 200 children who, through no fault of their own, are involved in the juvenile court system each year. Anna and these other children in DeKalb County are victims of child abuse or neglect. CASA works with these children as their voice in court, speaking on behalf of their best interests and making recommendations for the children.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) DeKalb County’s mission is to advocate for and serve as the voice for abused and neglected children. CASA is appointed as the guardian ad litem (GAL) in 100% of cases in the DeKalb County juvenile abuse and neglect court. In the role of GAL, CASA volunteer advocates gather information about the child’s situation and provides that information to the judge so he/she can make informed decisions on behalf of the child. The goal for each case is for the child to be placed in a safe, permanent home as soon as possible, preferably back in their own home when that is safe.

CASA plays a unique role in child abuse prevention, which is especially remembered during the month of April, as it is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Through advocacy in the courtroom, CASA helps ensure that a child is placed in a safe, permanent home where there is less chance of any recurrence of abuse or neglect. CASA advocates monitor a child’s case to verify that parents attend the services they need, such as counseling or parenting classes, to correct the conditions that led to the case to come into court. For children like Anna in the story above, CASA advocates draw attention to unsafe or unhealthy conditions in which a child is living so the judge can place the child in a better home environment. CASA also works in the community to draw attention to child abuse and neglect through speaking engagements with local service clubs and the use of social media and online marketing to spread awareness. This April, CASA is posting “Myth vs. Fact” on their Facebook page to help dismantle some of the common myths regarding child abuse or neglect.

While child abuse prevention is something talked about in the community during the month of April, the children CASA serves live these experiences each and every day. These children need to have their voices and their stories heard. Together as a community we can work to continue speaking up for these children, bringing us closer to a time when all children have the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.

To find out more about CASA and their work with abused and neglected children, visit http://www.casadekalb.org.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

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We’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but did you know it is also Child Abuse Prevention Month?  Read our article in DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle to learn how we are working with our community partners to prevent child abuse and support child survivors. (LINK TO ARTICLE)

Our Erin’s Law education is a critical component of child abuse prevention.  We are in the schools in our county helping kids learn about body safety, body autonomy, and their rights to safe and healthy relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about our services for children and teens, visit our website (www.safepassagedv.org) or call us at 815.756.5228.