On April 1st at the State House, Governor Shumlin proclaimed April to be Child Abuse Prevention Month in Vermont. Our beautiful state has much to recommend it as an outstanding place to raise children. We have many small schools with small classes and research tells us that this is beneficial especially for young children. We have many outstanding prevention focused organizations offering home visitation, parenting programs and support services for youth at risk. We have seen a decline in child abuse and neglect that is the envy of most other states in our nation. In point of fact we have declined 60% in child sexual abuse over the last 24 years.
That said, one child who is abused, will always be one child too many. We have very few instances of severe physical abuse but as we recently, collectively experienced, one precious child is one too many.
So what can we do for parents who struggle with drug abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and the legacy of child abuse within their family? We can offer support, a compassionate ear to listen while holding one another accountable. After all, children cannot protect themselves nor can they raise themselves or their siblings without negative, sometimes lifelong consequences.
We can support the organizations and programs in our communities that help parents and families heal and make tough but loving decisions when tough love for grown-ups is required. We can care about those on the front lines of investigation who make critical decisions that they too must live with.
In our small and unique state we are all in it together. Let us make this Child Abuse Prevention Month matter. Do one thing to make a difference in your community. Volunteer, talk with someone you care about and worry about, write a check to an organization dedicated to helping children, youth and families, or simply share an understanding smile with a harried parent at the grocery store.
Your empathy, energy, caring or dollars will matter. I guarantee it will.
Linda E Johnson, Executive Director
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont