Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Rez

This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month which I’m very aware of having served in the early 1980’s on the founding board of the Crisis Nursery of Champaign County in Illinois. It has been a very successful venture in the county and serves as an “Island of Safety” for abused children.

April is a month to search for solutions to help prevent child abuse, most cases are preventable. Abuse occurs in all socioeconomic levels of society and often happens when parents find themselves in stressful situations and lack effective coping skills. Raising children is tough enough under the best of circumstances which few families are lucky enough to have. Conditions such as job loss, divorce, poverty and addiction – and the stress and isolation that accompany these problems can lead to abuse. Creating communities that value and support families in raising their children and providing them with access to early childhood programs and good schools, reliable and affordable childcare, parent education and support services such as maternal mental health or addiction services and having goals of safe neighborhoods and affordable housing helps create healthy families which prevents abuse and lessens the isolation of stressed families.

A child’s early years are very important for their development and a healthy start in life lessens the chance for problems later on. Adverse childhood experiences can lead to an increased likelihood of criminal behavior, substance abuse, health problems such as heart disease and obesity, and increased likelihood of risky behavior such as smoking. Children need to live in a healthy environment.  Information obtained here and here.
There are effective strategies to strengthen families found on the Child Welfare Government site page and Prevent Child Abuse America. Check them out to understand what we can do to help lessen the risk of child abuse.

Sew For Kids wants to help the Wanblee  youth by providing resources -educational and basic needs to give children the chance to grow up in a healthy, loving environment. Abuse and neglect issues are being addressed on the Rez but not quickly enough. Living in poverty is stressful enough but living on the Rez can be very isolating as the nearest town can be miles away and many people lack transportation or money to pay someone for a ride. Many moms are single, living in crowded housing conditions where up to 20 people may live in a 3 bedroom home due to a severe housing shortage. Many are living without utilities for at least part of the month. Most parents lack resources such as adequate food, diapers, school supplies, etc.  They lack centers where children can participate in healthy activities and their schools are crumbling and suffering from limited funding that supports many after school functions.  Activities are available only for special occasions and sorely need expanding.
The few support services that are available for families and moms are located in Pine Ridge, too far to travel for a lot of those needing the services. Finding good medical care on the Rez is almost impossible, there are few jobs and high rates of alcohol and drug abuse.  The high school dropout rate is about 70% so it’s easy to understand why so many people lack parenting skills and the understanding of child development.
All of these problems increase the likelihood that someone will abuse their children.  Sew For Kids is trying to address these issues by working with respected members of local Rez communities and help them find needed resources so parents can keep their children clothed, warm and fed. Developing a permanent family closet could be a possible solution to meet their basic needs. Providing books and other educational materials to children and their parents could help kids by encouraging learning at an earlier age and could help parents learn about parenting, pregnancy, nutrition, maybe even influence them to return to school and get their GED.

Sew For Kids wants to help provide resources to the newly refurbished Kennedy Center in Wanblee where families can come together for fellowship, receive healthy meals and participate in fun activities which would help relieve some of the stress most families face every day.  Plans are being developed to have the center open on a more regular basis if funds and resources can be found. Another group working alongside us is interested in refurbishing a closed school youth center which would ensure that activities for children could be planned most days and keep kids off the streets in a supervised and safe environment. Developing a mother/child support center would be a dream come true but nothing is on the horizon as yet due to resources and funding issues.

Please support our efforts in Wanblee. There are many areas where you can make a difference and change the lives and the community for the better.
Thanks from Sew for Kids for your support. Next blog -back to sewing !

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