Erie News Now: Child Abuse Prevention Month: Celebrating Advocates & Raising Awareness

“It is written in the fabled Maasai warriors of the African tribe of Kenya, that they have a traditional greeting,” said Angela Liddle, President and CEO of PA Family Support Alliance.

“The greeting is ‘Casserian Engeri’. And the greeting translates to, ‘Are the children well?”

April is child abuse prevention month.

Riddle shared the translation for this greeting at an awards ceremony the organization hosted in the State Capitol. Four women received the PA Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids Award today.

“Its not a kids job to keep kids safe. Its an adults job to keep kids safe,” said Crystal Long, one of the recipients. She works as a forensic interviewer and child abuse prevention educator in Adams County. “I consider it a privilege that I can teach and empower kids to know that abuse is not okay, and to stand up for themselves if they are experiencing abuse.”

In 2022, there were 4,992 substantiated child abuse cases.

In the same year, there were 60 deaths.

“Protecting children starts with supporting families,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, Pennsylvania’s Human Services Secretary.

Most child abuse cases stem from neglect. Most parents do not want to hurt their child; but may be overwhelmed with life circumstances.

“Whether that’s issues with mental health, or inadequate housing, or food insecurity or not enough income,” said Liddle. “Or sometimes its as basic as they need parenting education and support.”

Experts today emphasized child abuse is preventable. Some of that prevention can be supported with changes in the state systems, like child and youth service offices in all 67 counties.

“Without properly addressing the child welfare workforce crisis, I fear the system will implode,” said Lisa Wilcox, an award recipient and Director of Sullivan County’s Child and Youth Services.

“I ask you to join me in achieving solutions. Valuing the child welfare workforce, not condemning them,” said Wilcox. “Taking away the barriers to best practice. Updating regulations. Addressing the lack of services and support for children with complex needs.”

Other preventions can exist in how local organizations frame services and access for those families that need support.

“That we have clear messages about where people can go for help in their communities,” said Liddle. “and that our communities are really opening and welcome so there’s not judgment with that.”

Finally, on an individual basis, anyone can learn how to identify and report child abuse.

“Recognize the signs of abuse, react responsibly if a child discloses, and respond appropriately to the child as not to make them feel they are at fault,” said Long.

Liddle encourages everyone to connect with child and family support services in your community to learn about specific programs and needs in your area. Anyone can also visit the PA Family Support Alliance website, and find resources there; like their Front Porch Project.

“It helps community members learn how to safely intervene when a child in their midst is not safe, whether that’s in public or that’s in your neighborhood,” said Liddle. “So there are concrete skills you can learn about that.”

If you or a family you know is struggling to care for your children- it’s okay to ask for help. A few local organizations are Family Services of NWPA, Center for Family Services, and Family Services of Warren County.

Preventing child abuse starts with accountability and an open hand.

From Erie News Now, April 2,2024

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