Now more than ever, prevention matters.
Welcome to April. As I normally do in April, I want to focus on the fact that it is National Child Abuse Awareness Month—but this year, under these extraordinary circumstances, the designation takes on an even greater and more urgent significance.
We know that, under the best of circumstances, it is challenging to protect the most vulnerable among us. We know how much coordination, communication, and collaboration it takes among our team members, within our communities, and with the children and families we serve to help them make the journey from victim to survivor to thriver. When the system works as intended, it is seamless.
But we also know that these are far from the best of circumstances. Suddenly, our eyes on children, our mandated reporters like teachers, health care professionals, and even family members, friends, and neighbors, have been cut off, with little or no access to those most at risk. As with every other aspect of this global pandemic, the situation is unprecedented. There is no prior example to follow, no playbook from which to draw.
Despite this, however, I have not been discouraged. If I know anything about the membership of this organization, it is that our members can be counted upon to rise to the occasion, to show unparalleled dedication and creativity and thoughtfulness in the ways in which you continue to reach out to children and families, and the ways in which you have—already, in just a matter of days—figured out how to pivot to using telehealth and tele-forensic interviews and tele-whatever else you can. The collaboration at every level—local, regional, and national—has been remarkable, with Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) and multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) from all over the nation reaching out to one another to give advice, support, ideas, and encouragement.
Please share your work with your communities. Now, more than ever, during this National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we need our communities to know that we are still here, we are still working to protect children, and we still need their help to do so. Use this opportunity to remind your communities that, beyond what the stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules mean for the adult world and for the economy, the impact on children—particularly those who are at-risk—is going to be, in a word, unprecedented. Let’s engage our communities now to be aware and be on the lookout, and let’s help everyone make sure that we are all working to prevent child abuse during this month in particular.
In the meantime, please stay safe. Stay inside, help flatten the curve, but be out in your communities virtually as much as you can for the sake of the children and families you serve.
Wishing you all a healthy and safe April,
Teresa Huizar is executive director of National Children’s Alliance.