Every April, our organization observes and promotes National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is our fundamental mission to create an environment where Pennsylvania’s children can live and thrive free from abuse and neglect. That is why it is one of our priorities to call as much attention to the issue of child abuse and how to prevent it – as the adage goes, if we know better, we do better. And, knowing better starts with education and information.
During April, we normally host a large ceremony in the Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg with hundreds of attendees present, and it is there where we recognize our Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids—individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect Pennsylvania’s children from abuse and neglect. We also recognize the children who have been abused, passed away as a result from abuse, and we take the time encourage all attendees to pay attention to the warning signs of abuse. While the topic is a serious and emotional one, our annual ceremony is designed to be celebratory because it truly does take a village and community members working together to protect children.
While this April was far from normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we did create a month-long virtual awareness campaign. We wanted to bring awareness to child abuse prevention even though we were not able to be together in-person. Throughout April, you will see us recognize five Blue Ribbons for Safe Champions Kids on our website and social media pages with video messages, as well as stories about them in the media. Our Blue Ribbons Champions are:
- Lauren Burkert Lazzari, Johnstown | Parent Educator at Beginnings, Inc.
Lauren works with families to build a sense of community and connects them with resources they might need. She serves as an in-home visitor, educates families on child sexual abuse prevention, and works with them through the reporting process.
- Jeanine Rasky, Jeanette | System Integration Director at Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services (newly retired)
Jeanine worked to help fight child abuse for more than 20 years as she developed the county’s Youth Support Partner Unit that encourages the hiring of young adults who had personal experience being in the child welfare system.
- Casey Stokes-Rodriguez, Harrisburg | Licensed Social Worker at Harrisburg School District
Casey serves as a School Culture, Climate, and Trauma Resource Specialist and works with high school students, their families, and faculty members to support interventions and address individual needs.
- Leslie Holt, Malvern | Founder and Program Director of A Child’s Light (Chester County)
Leslie is a highly experienced Victim Advocate who specializes in working with children and teenagers who are victims of sexual assault. She connects them and their parents with mental health professionals who specialize in quality, trauma-informed therapy.
- Lisa Gartner | former investigative journalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer (currently investigative editor at the San Francisco Chronicle)
Lisa investigated and wrote about the abuse accusations at Glenn Mills School. Through Lisa’s work, a spotlight was placed on a dark societal issue, resulting in longer term systemic change.
Towards that end, we also held our traditional flag planting ceremony along the grounds of the Capitol as a way to usher in April. We are also hosting virtual webinars and asked elected officials to help us in our efforts to draw attention to National Child Abuse Prevention Month by recording special video messages which we will debut on our social media pages. The virtual webinars we are hosting are called Spotlight Speaker Series and feature live teachings and presentations from renowned child abuse prevention experts, like Victor Vieth, Erin Merryn, Joseph Robinson Jr., LaCrisha Rose, and William J. Zee.
Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, Department of Human Services Deputy Secretary Jonathan Rubin, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega, Second Lady Gisele Fetterman, State Senators Judy Ward and Maria Collett and State Representatives Sheryl Delozier and Pamela DeLissio were all eager to lend their voice and position to call attention to this issue. You can watch these videos here on our Facebook page as we debut the throughout the month.
Additionally, we are thankful for the commitment from one of our leading sponsors, PSECU, for its continued support of our work and helping to protect children. For a conversation between our President and CEO Angela Liddle, and PSECU Chief Member Experience Officer Barb Bowker, watch here.
While the month of April helps us spark a conversation around preventing child abuse, the work to keep children safe from abuse and neglect requires each of us to remain vigilant every day. There is much work to be done and we must continue to do it together. We strive to empower every Pennsylvanian to take an active role in preventing abuse, strengthening our communities and families, and we encourage everyone to learn about child abuse prevention. If you suspect that a child in your life is being abused or neglected, please report it. You can remain anonymous. To make a confidential report, call ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s 24/7 reporting hotline at 800-932-0313. For more information on recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect, click here.