Dear Editor:

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana recognizes the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. The theme of this year’s awareness and impact campaign is “Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together.”

Decatur County 4 Kids is the prevent child abuse council in Decatur County.

We can build healthier, safer, and thriving communities if we take the same approach to raising families that we do to tending a community garden on a shared piece of land. Too often, our society thinks of raising healthy children as a parent or caregiver’s responsibility alone. In reality, we all benefit when groups of people work together to collectively care for children, who grow up to become successful, contributing adults.

Throughout Child Abuse Prevention Month, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, its parent organization, and other chapters, affiliates, and supporting organizations are using the community garden metaphor to reinforce the message that “Every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root.”

“Research shows that positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “By preventing child abuse and neglect we aim to holistically improve the lives of all families and the communities they live in.”

This is the second year that CAP Month has taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed the world permanently, and prevention professionals are still working to understand the pandemic’s repercussions for incidents of child abuse and neglect. According to the Department of Child Services, Decatur County Department of Child Services assessed 487 reports of abuse and/or neglect in 2020. They found 77 of those reports to be substantiated, which is approximately 16%.

The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new childcare and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing.

Prevent Child Abuse America, in close partnership with its nationwide chapter network, supports the expansion of evidence-based home visiting programs, such as Healthy Families America, to help families cope with stress and trauma. The organization also advocates for expanding family-friendly policies, like paid sick and family leave, to help reduce stress on parents and caregivers.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana recommends the following ways that people everywhere can dig in and help raise awareness and impact virtually during this year’s CAP Month:

Contact legislators to let them know that you and your community support family-friendly policies, such as paid sick and family leave, that help reduce stress on parents and caregivers.

Follow Prevent Child Abuse Indiana and Decatur County 4 Kids on social media and share our posts throughout the month of April. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Use the hashtags #GrowingBetterTogether and #CAPMonth to signify your commitment to helping children, families, and entire communities to thrive.

Make a tax-deductible donation and help build a virtual pinwheel garden.

Create a pinwheel garden at your place of residence or place of employment

For more ways to get involved in CAP Month, visit preventchildabuse.org/GrowingBetterTogether2021.

Leann Porter, Decatur County 4 Kids Chairperson

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