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.”