Fighting Child Abuse & Neglect: 2023 in Review
It’s hard to believe another year is winding down, and that we’re just days away from 2024. For the team at Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, the mission for 2023 was the same as every year: provide education, support, and training programs to make Pennsylvania safe for children. To that end, we got our voice out there on a number of issues to better protect Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens. Here are some highlights from our 2023 advocacy efforts:
Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids Awards
Every April, PFSA observes and promotes National Child Abuse Prevention Month, as we are committed to creating an environment where Pennsylvania’s children can live and thrive free from abuse and neglect. One of our priorities is to call attention to the problem of child abuse and how to prevent it because – if we know better, we can do better. And knowing how to do better starts with education and information.
For the week of April 1-7, the Capitol was lit up in blue — the official color of Natural Child Abuse Prevention Month — as were the Walnut and Market Street bridges in downtown Harrisburg.
On April 4, our team joined volunteers, local and state lawmakers and officials and child advocates for our annual blue flag planting and Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids award ceremony. We planted 5,036 blue flags — each representing one substantiated case of child abuse in 2021 — and 58 black flags to signify every child who died due to abuse in that year.
Four Pennsylvanians were honored as Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids during a ceremony emceed by WITF’s Scott Lamar. This recognition and award is given to individuals due to their exceptional contributions to preventing child abuse and neglect throughout Pennsylvania. The 2023 Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids winners were:
- Jessica Crouse, Community Educator, Over the Rainbow Children’s Advocacy Center, Franklin County
- Michelle McDyre, Director of Prevention and Outreach, Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, Montgomery County
- Christina Roland, Retired Director of Intake Services, Cumberland County Children and Youth Services, Cumberland County
- Charles Streightiff, Chief of Police, Huntingdon Borough Police Department, Huntingdon County
Positive Approaches Journal
Positive Approaches Journal is a collaboration by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, to provide recent research and resources for individuals with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities. PFSA was asked to contribute an article to its latest edition, focusing on suicide risk and prevention.
Angela Liddle, PFSA President and CEO, authored “Suicide, Self-Harm & Risk-Taking: The Tragic Dangers that Social Media Poses to Children.” The article provides guidelines for parents and families to ensure digital safety for their children, discusses what parents and families can do to ensure their children remain safe, healthy, and protected in this digital era and how parents can make Family Digital Wellness a habit. And speaking of Family Digital Wellness …
Promoting Family Digital Wellness
Ang authored an opinion article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on how parents can help their children resist social media. “If we don’t like how our children use these technologies, then let us first examine our own behaviors to set a better example,” Ang wrote. “The technology is here for good, and while it may make parenting difficult at times, we can make sure the users of tomorrow are better equipped than we were when we started using social media.”
This followed another opinion for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on how all of us must practice digital diligence to protect kids on social media. “Legislation is critical to protecting our children, but it won’t provide a comprehensive solution,” Ang wrote. “Kids and teens have for ages been able to circumvent parental controls to access technologies and content deemed ‘taboo’ by adults and governments. Training and diligence will be crucial to ensure children and teens use digital technologies in safe, healthy and constructive ways.”
What’s Coming in 2024?
We’ll continue to advocate for Family Digital Wellness and protecting kids online. Children are also becoming the face of the opioid epidemic, as a brilliant Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigative report revealed. Ang talked to Deb Erdley about the issue and was quoted in an article from the series.
We also see 2024 being a year for helping grandparents who are raising their grandchildren to access additional legal and financial resources, which the (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker recently reported on and quoted Haven Evans, our program director.
All of this is to say that 2024 is shaping up to be a busy one, and we’re excited to fight like hell to protect children from abuse and neglect.