Everyone can play a role in preventing child abuse. That’s the message of this year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month campaign in April: Be a Hero in the Eyes of a Child.
Through its Facebook page, @ChampaignCountyDJFS, the Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services (CCDJFS) is offering ways for local residents to participate in the campaign and help prevent child abuse and neglect in their day-to-day lives.
“It takes one simple act of kindness at a time,” says Sara Wright, CCDJFS social services administrator. “I see a mom I know at the store, and I tell her she’s doing a great job. Or maybe I know a family that could be struggling, maybe they have an illness. I could make a meal for them.
“These types of things are heroic acts. That’s what this campaign is about, those little acts of kindness that really help make kids safe, because it helps support families.”
Stacy Cox, director of CCDJFS, adds, “It takes a community to protect a child, or to raise a child. It’s really those simple acts that play into that community connectedness.”
Ways to Participate in Child Abuse Prevention Month
The Champaign County Board of Commissioners has proclaimed April “A Celebration of Family and Children Month, in tribute to concerned citizens, professionals and foster parents who work together in the cause of protecting our county’s children.”
In addition, CCDJFS is promoting Child Abuse Prevention Month with coloring sheets distributed to schools and libraries, as well as pizza box toppers and drink coasters at local restaurants with dine-in service.
2020 Child Abuse Statistics
In 2020, CCDJFS Child Protective Services completed 228 investigations/assessments of reports of child abuse or neglect. Thirty-five of the reports were substantiated or indicated as cases of abuse or neglect. The department served an average of 37 families, on an ongoing basis, per month, and 33 youth were in agency custody.
But the pandemic had an impact on reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, Wright said. “From March going into April 2020 we saw an over 60 percent decline in calls coming in. What that tells us, people weren’t seeing each other, and people weren’t seeing kids. Connectivity and connections matter” in helping to identify and prevent abuse.
Wright adds, “The more supported we can make people feel, the less we see the impact of hardships, like poverty and substance abuse, and the better that kids are going to be protected.”
The key message of the Be a Hero in the Eyes of a Child campaign, she said, is that “it’s the simple acts of kindness that make a huge difference. We know the numbers of abuse and neglect, because that’s what we track. But the numbers we don’t have is how much abuse and neglect was prevented by those simple acts that adults in the community are doing each and every day.”
UYC enjoys broad support – more needed
“The survey we conducted last month shows us just how many students say a youth center is essential to their future success and the outpouring of support from the community to fill our shelves demonstrates how many of us believe the UYC is absolutely essential,” said Justin T. Weller, the Lead Project Manager for the UYC.
When it opens, the youth center plans to offer programming Tuesdays and Thursdays from immediately after school until about 7:30 p.m. Students at both Urbana High School and Urbana Junior High indicated strong interest in “basic life skills” education, the UYC’s Homework & Study Assistance program, and hangout spaces.
The Urbana Youth Center is currently planning to open in early 2021 and is located at the former public library – 160 W. Market St. in downtown Urbana. To start serving students, a number of challenges still need to be addressed.
“The material donations from the community the last few weeks have truly been heartwarming. Right now, monetary contributions are needed to make sure we can fund our full lineup of programming through the summer of 2021. There are several great ways to donate like writing a check. If people wish to make a contribution using a debit or credit card, Facebook is the perfect place,” Weller said.
Facebook does not charge any processing fees or take a cut of any donations to verified 501(c)(3) organizations.
For those interested in supporting the project, Weller suggested people go to Facebook.com/UYcenter to donate. Checks should be made payable to “Urbana Youth Center” and mailed to 160 W. Market St., Urbana, OH 43078. Alternatively, people may call or text the youth center at (937) 772-4022.
“We need your help to open the Urbana Youth Center in January. Your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5, $500, or more. Every bit helps and regular monthly contributions help ensure the UYC will serve kids for years to come,” Weller said.
Weller encouraged people to visit UrbanaYouthCenter.org to learn more and explore ways to help.
The Urbana Youth Center is a project of the GrandWorks Foundation, a local not-for-profit organization championing several efforts to reach, restore and revive the community, according to the organization’s mission.
Submitted story & photos from Urbana Daily Citizen.