I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been met with shock when I tell someone where I work. The reaction is usually followed by the shaking of one’s head, a few words about how unforgivable it is to hurt a child, and then, out it comes: “C’mon, what can you REALLY do to prevent child abuse for THOSE parents?”
I feel lucky to be able to answer. Most of the time, people are already thinking about the latest headline of a child who was brutally beaten. Yes, that child needs help and needs to be safe and protected. And yes, we are helping to make that happen. For every child you read about there are ten more who have parents “on the edge” — just a reaction or two away from losing it and bruising their child with a slapping hand or slicing word. And yes, we are doing many important things — for the sake of these children — to help these families regain the ability to make different and better choices.
These parents on the edge could make stronger choices to be sure that their children are nurtured and healthy. They aren’t always sure what their child needs or how to help them learn or how to discipline them without losing control. We exist, at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, for the children of these families as much as we do for the children you see on headline news.
Preventing child abuse is about being certain that parents have what they need to be the strongest caregivers they can be. It means giving parents the places and the resources and the permission to learn about how to be mommies and daddies in the healthiest, most nurturing way. It means recognizing that money and child care are really, really big challenges when raising a child. It means that we — as educators, as neighbors, as health care providers, as voters — are committed to keeping families as far away from the edge as we can.
So when someone I know wonders “what can you REALLY do,” I tell them about my very own dark days, close to the edge. The mornings, running late for the bus after the fifth request to “get the shoes on,” just as my son thinks it’s funny to let the our indoor cats out to play. The temper tantrum in the middle of the supermarket when the jar of jelly gets hits the floor in front of a crowd. The day my son spits on his brother to get a reaction. I remind them how I’ve seen the edge lure other parents, too. My sister-in-law whose new baby girl cried every night, inconsolably, for 18 months. My friend whose son with Autism threw all of her colleagues cell phones into the swimming pool during a workplace picnic. My cousin raising two tween girls alone after their father left the state for a new lover.
What do WE do to prevent child abuse? We understand the challenges that mothers and fathers face. We teach caregivers about soothing colicky babies and remind parents how to safely manage their own stress. We develop support groups for parents where they can ask questions about how to discipline and learn about a child’s different stages of development. We help families find health care providers and identify resources for children who have special needs. We advocate for support that keeps single parents from being isolated. We teach decision-makers about what families needs. We let them know that children are really affected by their family’s stress around unemployment, finances, and lack of child care. We do the very things that create a caring community for families. And along the way… yes, we prevent child abuse, too.
The following is an entry in our “Guest Author” series on our official blog here at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey. Periodically, we will bring on leading members of the nonprofit world and its associated communities to discuss current trends, news, and best-practices. Our first guest post comes to us from Marion Conway, nonprofit consultant, and speaks to the benefits of social networking for nonprofit organizations here in New Jersey.
Nonprofits across the country are learning about the power of social media to build relationships with existing supporters, and to make new ones. Notice I said supporters – not donors. Social Media is used for so much more than fundraising, and in fact it can only be used effectively for fundraising once you have a solid presence and following. That takes time and energy – but guess what? – it can also be fun. The power of social media is its viral and interactive nature. It isn’t just about you getting your message out. It is about communicating with each other and others freely spreading your message.
Here are some ways a wide spectrum of New Jersey nonprofits are using social media.
Community Food Bank of NJ (@CommFoodBankNJ)
The Community Food Bank thanks volunteer groups for food drives and days. They promote their major fundraising event (“The Blue Jean Ball”) along with their association with the national level Feeding America, and let their client organizations know about grant opportunities. The Food Bank also educates about hunger, and particularly that in New Jersey.
NJ Symphony (@njsymphony)
The NJ Symphony is fairly new to Twitter, but they already have over 300 followers. They “tweet” often letting their followers know about their concerts that are coming up soon and reporting on lots of other arts activities in NJ.
Turtle Back Zoo (@turtlebackzoo)
The Turtle Back Zoo has almost 2300 followers and is included on 138 lists. The zoo tweets often about events and things to do at the zoo. They are frequently listed on other people’s “followfriday” lists where people post who they recommend following on Twitter. The zoo is diligent about thanking those who mention them and this certainly endears them so they are mentioned again and again… and so every time they tweet, almost 2300 people may see what they have to say. It’s enough to make you want to go to the zoo!
Wild New Jersey (@WildNewJersey)
Wild New Jersey with almost 1400 followers tweets often about environmental issues and provides lots of links to promote advocacy on a wide range of issues.
Jubilee Center of Hoboken (link)
The Jubilee Center reports frequently about all of the activities going on at the center. There are always great pictures that make you want to be there. They also post about fundraising events, both upcoming and pictures of straight from live events. They use Facebook to thank individuals and businesses helping them.
St. Benedict’s Prep, Newark (link)
Almost 1600 people “like” St. Benedict’s on Facebook and they do a great job of keeping alumni up-to-date on sports and other accomplishments. There are lots of short entries with something that would make an alum smile for a moment and think kindly with fond memories of their alma mater. They also recognize grants and say thank you. St. Benedict’s gets it – they don’t “fundraise” on Facebook, but they do a great job of building and maintaining relationships.
Geraldine Dodge Foundation (blog.grdodge.org)
The Dodge Foundation has an excellent blog with many contributors. They blog about the areas they support, including education, the arts and the environment. They also tweet when they have a new article; people like me retweet the link and before you know it their blog has a good size audience that appreciates the time they take to write such interesting articles.
YouTube is huge and is really a requirement, not an option, for reaching people under 30. It is under-used by nonprofits and has an incredible power potential for arts organizations, for advocacy and for educating on important topics. Every successful fundraiser will tell you about the importance of storytelling and YouTube is by far the best place online for storytelling.
Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey (youtube.com/pcanj)
PCA-NJ makes excellent use of YouTube with professional education and advocacy-oriented videos. They are taking advantage of the special benefits for nonprofits that YouTube offers with their own channel complete with “Donate Now” capability.
I could go on forever but I think you get the idea. My next workshop is on September 15th and if you would like to sponsor one, let me know. I write about a wide range of issues of interest to nonprofits at my blog at marionconwaynonprofitconsultant.blogspot.com. Follow me on Twitter @MarionConway and perhaps you would “like” my Facebook page.
The heat is on throughout the nation with temperatures well into the hundreds in parts of the country. While many often look forward to this time of year (sun, surf and swimming), the scorching temperatures can pose many risks for children, including overheating inside a car.
I have read many articles related to this topic and very often, this turns out to be a horrific accident on the part of a distracted parent who is trying to get somewhere quickly and forgets that the child is in the car. The other common case is a parent who thinks that “a few minutes” in the car while they run inside to pick up something will not cause harm.
According to Safe Kids USA, each year an average of 36 children die from hyperthermia after being left unattended in a vehicle. As hot as it is outside, within 10 minutes the inside temperature of a vehicle will be almost 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. After 30 minutes, the vehicle’s temperature will be 34 degrees hotter.
Prevention education is the best advice I can give. Here are some safety tips from us here at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey to prevent a tragedy like this from happening:
For more tips, check out my “Summer Safety Tips” episode of our podcast here at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey: