Kerry, a teen mother, is frustrated because her 18 month old son, Jack, will not stop running in the house. Through her tears, Kerry explained to her Social Worker that Jack consistently refuses to listen to her although she tells him repeatedly to stop. Jack has already fallen several times while running in his socks, and according to Kerry, he still has not learned his lesson. The Social Worker advised Kerry to continue parenting Jack with patience, persistence, and a positive attitude. She reminds Kerry that Jack is naturally exploring as a toddler; just as Kerry explores as a teenager. As Kerry has shared this frustration several times, she finally made the connection that the social worker implied. As a teenager Kerry has admitted that she often doesn’t listen to her parents and that children sometimes test their boundaries; a lesson Kerry said she can relate to.
Fortunately, Kerry is a participant in the statewide Parent Linking Program (PLP), a program that helps teen parents finish their education but also become the best parents they can be for their children. PLP is a program for teen parents which is provided free of charge in high schools that includes a social worker who provides regular counseling to students like Kerry. All teen parents in PLP are encouraged to be more responsible and nurturing parents as they balance the responsibilities of being a student-parent. In PLP, Kerry’s Social Worker reminds her consistently of the positive outcomes she can continue experiencing if she avoids having another unintended pregnancy; specifically while she is still in high school.
May is Prevent Teen Pregnancy Month where national awareness and participation is encouraged in an effort to prevent unintended teen pregnancies. These efforts are especially important for those who live with and/or work with teens who are already parents. Over 700,000 teen pregnancies occur each year in the United States; most of them, 80%, are unintended pregnancies. Each year, the Parent Linking Program (PLP), of Prevent Child Abuse-NJ reminds over 200 teen parents to make plans for healthy family choices and avoid subsequent unintended pregnancies. Although teen pregnancy in New Jersey has declined, there are still 6,000 teen parents statewide who could use support in preventive efforts to avoid unintended pregnancies.
PLP, a School Based Youth Services Program funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, was created because it is a proven fact that children born to teen parents are at greater risk of being neglected and abused due to lack of knowledge, resources, and finances. In exchange for free child care, program participants are required to attend the weekly parenting and life skills workshops, in addition to the normal academic curriculum required for graduation. These components prevent present and future child abuse and neglect by enhancing the teenage parent’s self-esteem, knowledge of parenting and child development, and ability to meet financial responsibilities by helping the teen parent complete high school and delay repeat pregnancies.
Fortunately with the support of the parents/guardians of the teen parents and the support of PLP Coordinators (Social Workers, Directors, and Caregivers) 95% of the program’s participants do NOT have a second unintended pregnancy. Often in home visits, PLP Coordinators discuss with family members the importance of the consistent reminder of responsible family planning.
Most PLP participants express good intentions with their children despite their challenges. They are usually challenged with sacrificing their time, money, and even personal space (sharing bedrooms with their children). Participants are reminded that a repeat unintended pregnancy can add harmful stressors to the teen mother as well as her child. In addition, stress puts repeat births of teenagers more at risk of preterm and low-birth weight in comparison to their first births.
The Parent Linking Program’s 25 year history has proven that the program’s services can lead to powerful changes in the communities of New Jersey. 95% of the teen parents enrolled in Parent Linking Program have graduated high school and, 90% planned to attend college. Many of the PLP program alumni and current participants speak to their peers in school about their challenges and ways to avoid unintended pregnancies. Teen pregnancy prevention can be a communal effort sharing messages of responsibility in the homes, schools, cultural centers in every community. Fortunately, New Jersey is one of the lowest ranking states in teen pregnancy rates. In May, and every day, please remember that supporting a teen parent is increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes; high school and college degrees, greater job and life skills, and of course, happier and healthier children.
While PLP has trained professionals counseling the teen parents, these professionals also encourage the parents and guardians of teen parents to talk about pregnancy prevention. If you are a parent, here are some tips to help you navigate the discussion on pregnancy prevention:
In May and throughout the year, spread the message to a teenager that avoiding an unintended pregnancy is a responsible decision.
Most people may not know that February is Dental Health Month. Well, now you know. If you are the type of person that is meticulous about oral care, GREAT!!! But, if you aren’t, after reading this you might want to run to your dentist’s office.
Oral care starts before birth. For many of us, our oral history is directly related to that of our mother’s. So eating a nutritionally balanced diet during pregnancy is important and a great way to create a positive path towards good oral health. Secondly, when a child is born, just because their teeth aren’t usually visible doesn’t mean that you ignore oral health until the child starts teething. Parents should take the time to wipe out their baby’s mouth with a soft washcloth and tap water after each feeding. For those of you who are asking why tap water and not spring water – tap water contains Fluoride, the same main ingredient used in toothpastes. Another benefit of wiping out a baby’s mouth is that this prevents thrush, white patches that develop over time because of yeast build up in a baby’s mouth usually found in breast milk or formula. Once your child’s teeth start to grow, you should use a kid’s soft toothbrush to brush away the bacteria that forms from milk or baby food. This is also the time to start familiarizing your child with the dentist. A baby’s first dental visit should take place by their first birthday.
As a child grows, it is beneficial to lead by example. If you want your child to brush their teeth, you can start by having them watch you as you brush your teeth. Your “mini-me” is going to want to emulate everything you do so make sure you set a good example. You can start the process by having your child pick out a toothbrush they like. This way, they will be excited to brush their teeth. In addition, choosing a toothpaste that tastes good to your child and singing a song will also make it easier to get them to incorporate brushing into their daily routine. Tooth time will feel less like a chore and more like a fun activity for your child. As a parent or guardian, you will still need to assist your child through the oral care process because until a child is about 8 years old, they may not know how to or understand the importance of flossing. To get them to floss on their own in the future, you may want to show your child how it’s done while facing a mirror or show them an animated video.
Now that you have established an oral care routine with your child you can add a fluoride rinse to your regimen. Fluoride rinses, such as Listerine, aide in washing away bacteria and promotes fresh breath. The added fluoride also helps to strengthen teeth to reduce the risk of cavities and gingivitis. For children you may want to use an alcohol-free rinse in order to avoid the harshness of traditional fluoride rinses.
We at Prevent Child Abuse-NJ are providing this informational blog to ensure that you, the parent, who serves as your child’s first and most important teacher, have the tools to ensure your child continues to have a happy, safe and healthy childhood. Since these are such important reasons to visit the dentist regularly, why not start the tradition of family dentist visits with your child.
Remember to brush twice a day, floss once a day, replace your toothbrush once every three to four months and have a dental check-up twice a year.
Check out the following websites for more information:
Now that you have all the tools for a successful oral health routine, it’s time to use them. Go and make a dentist appointment for you and your family. Make February 1st dental health day.
Recently, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released a report that finds that our youngest children –those younger than age 3 — were far more likely to die from child abuse and spend longer times in foster care than older children. The report is a valuable wake-up call that raises public awareness about the high levels of stress for parents with young children and a number of long-standing weaknesses in the foster care system. The report calls for better training of child welfare workers and special attention to the special issues of babies and toddlers.
Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey supports these excellent recommendations and while they may be necessary, they are not sufficient to fully address the challenge of child maltreatment that lies before us.
Child maltreatment – most notably physical abuse and neglect – happens to younger children in all settings for many of the same reasons it happens in the foster care system: younger children can present some of the most difficult challenges for parents because their communication skills are limited and their behavior can be trying even for the most stable and successful parents. And many parents lack sufficient knowledge about healthy child development to be a positive parent.
Federal statistics and NJ show that the highest rate of maltreatment happens to children under age 4 and the 80% of all fatalities from abuse occur to children younger than.
So certainly, ongoing reforms are needed in the foster care system to reduce the risk of child abuse for our youngest children.
But maybe more importantly, we have the opportunity to PREVENT these tragedies from occurring before a foster placement becomes necessary and before a child becomes a victim.
Improving the training of child welfare workers can be helpful, but strengthening proven prevention programs like home visitation would yield better results. Although home visitation programs have been expanded, we are only able to serve a small percentage of families in high-risk situations. We should also consider requiring foster parents to participate in home visitation programs to more closely monitor the stress level in this new temporary family setting, which would provide added education and support to prevent a tragedy.
The foster care system is a result of our most fundamental failure to prevent child abuse. Our first priority should be to strengthen our efforts to prevent child abuse from ever happening. Research about prevention programs shows they save lives, improve a child’s long-term health outcomes and success, and save taxpayers money by preventing the downstream costs of foster care, law enforcement, health care, treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, incarceration and unemployment.
Anytime there is a case of child abuse, we need to back up from the crime and ask, “What could have been done to prevent this from ever happening?” In addition to helpful recommendation by ACNJ about reforms in the child welfare systems, there are many valuable opportunities to do better to prevent child abuse in NJ.
We recognize the extraordinary challenges and stresses facing parents in our State. The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, followed by an early Nor’easter, caused millions of New Jersey residents to lose access to the basic necessities – food, shelter, clothing, water and electricity. These unprecedented events came on top of other forms of devastation related to the economic downturn that caused many to lose their homes, jobs, and security for their families.
With Jerry Sandusky’s sentencing now complete there will be a temptation for our country to close the book on this story and focus on other concerns that impact us, such as job creation, the economy, and ensuring our national security. But to do so would be to ignore another concern that impacts all of us: the on-going responsibility of adults to ensure that all children have the opportunity to lead healthy lives. To neglect this lesson is to dismiss the reality of the adverse consequences on our communities when a child is abused.
This sentence must not be the end of something; but the beginning of something new. As a nation, we can learn from this tragedy and make the individual and collective commitment that we will ensure the safety of children we think are in danger, we will support community organizations that work tirelessly to help families in need, and we will make the commitment of good stewardship to our children’s development.
As upsetting, and tragic, as this event has been, it has also increased awareness about how we can prevent sexual abuse by understanding the ways predators groom children; and how sexual abuse is less a tale of “stranger danger,” and more about the potential danger to children who are betrayed by a trusted adult or peer acquaintance.
Because of this event the norm of silence about child sexual abuse is beginning to become a more open and honest discussion about what it takes to ensure healthy child development. Institutions in communities across the nation are refining how they deal with situations like this and how they can prevent them from ever occurring again.
Given this, we challenge all adults to see today’s sentence as a call to action, and a moment where they can pledge to do what’s necessary to prevent child sexual abuse in their own communities by:
“From a tragedy such as this, hope can emerge, and the future health of not just our nation’s children and their families, but the nation itself can be addressed,” said James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America. “Today is a new day, and while we will not forget what brought us here, it can be the start of something healthy and positive. We hope you will join us, because what could be more important than the health and happiness of our children and their families…. Nothing I can think of.”
ABOUT PREVENT CHILD ABUSE NEW JERSEY
Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, incorporated in 1979 as the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, works in all twenty-one counties of the state to eliminate child abuse and neglect in all of its forms for all of New Jersey’s children. All of the organization’s work is research-based and built around nationally-recognized models. The nonprofit coordinates a full spectrum of family support programs including home visitation services, parent education groups, initiatives that promote parental involvement in a child’s education, and programs for highly vulnerable families.
When Cramer Elementary School in Camden announced its new name, it was clear that it just wasn’t just any three words added to the schools namesake — there was a message being sent to the school community. “Cramer College Preparatory Lab School” was renamed as such so everyone knew that these students were being prepared to be college bound. Along with a new name came new leadership as first year assistant principal, Dr. Marvin Gantt, fully understands the importance of family engagement during Cramer’s new focus of creating nothing less than educated and prepared future college students.
Though Dr. Gantt was new to the NJPIRC partnership and Action Team model, he was one of the first school administrators to reach out to us in order to get started on this year’s plan. With the help of the parent coordinator, Ms. Nilsa Cruz, they did not miss a step as they recruited new parents for the 2010-11 Action Team and scheduled the NJPIRC Refresher Training within the first two weeks of school. Shortly after their initial training, Cramer School submitted their action plan stating exactly how they would engage parents during the school year to increase student achievement. In addition to reading and math workshops to assist parents in helping their children learn, the Action Team has also planned monthly parent support workshops with topics that include “Allergy and Asthma Awareness,” “Parent Child Communication,” and “Nutrition for Optimal Learning.”
With parents being engaged at this level, there is no doubt that the students of Cramer College Preparatory Lab School will be equipped for success at the secondary level and beyond.
We are excited about this year’s partnering schools and will be sharing the accomplishments of other partners as they continue to create a culture of family engagement to increase student achievement in New Jersey! When Parents Believe… Students Achieve!
For more information about NJPIRC partnering schools and what you can do to increase family engagement in your school, please visit www.njpirc.org.
Lanning Square Elementary School in Camden, NJ is truly gearing up and preparing themselves for a successful year immersed with parent engagement. Looking to build on strides taken last year, their Family Engagement Action Team began with the NJPIRC Refresher Training where they reflected on last year’s efforts and discussed enhancements for the 2010-11 school year.
They also hosted the “Taking the Lead” workshop during their Back to School night reaching over 50 parents and collected feedback using the “Are We Family Friendly” survey for parents. Principal Katrina McCombs remains very dedicated and enthusiastic about increasing Family Engagement throughout the school and is working diligently with staff and parents to create effective home school partnerships. NJPIRC will support their efforts by providing them with at least $1,000.00 in funding and intense technical assistance with executing their action plan. The team is now in the process of recruiting more parent support and forming committees for upcoming initiatives.
We are excited about this year’s partnership with Lanning Square and will be sharing their accomplishments as they continue to create a culture of family engagement to increase student achievement in Camden, NJ! When Parents Believe… Students Achieve!
For more information about NJPIRC partnering schools and what you can do to increase family engagement in your school please visit www.NJPIRC.org.
The following article was written by Carl Shaw of the New Jersey State Parent Information and Resource Center. Carl is an expert on parent involvement, and a father himself. We also recorded a podcast with Carl on this same subject, so please enjoy the complementary audio material.
There are many faces of great fathers and father figures across our nation, all of whom should be celebrated and applauded on their day of recognition this Sunday!
From single or divorced fathers, to grandfathers, uncles, coaches, teachers and community leaders… there is one thing that all father figures can give their children: the gift of time!
Children who have positive and guided experiences with both their maternal and paternal figures lead more happy, healthy and productive adult lives. Even when a child is cared for by capable and nurturing mothers, we find that fathers may bring a different and necessary dynamic to their child’s development:
Every parent – male or female – is unique in their approach to caregiving. Varying interactions and styles, when they are healthy and positive, complement strong development for both young boys and girls. Sometimes we need to put extra effort in to reminding the men in our life how important their influence and time really is… and this Sunday is the perfect time to do so!
Here are a few ways to share quality father time with your family and children:
Childhood memories last a lifetime and childhood influences are the blueprint for the lives our children will lead as adults. As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, let us also reflect on ways that we can incorporate quality father time into the lives of our children and families to create a better tomorrow for everyone!
Happy Father’s Day!
Many New Jersey schools are experiencing a rough period of time. Local districts seem pressured to lower budgets, raise test scores and navigate through changing federal policies. Even with these challenges, it brings a smile to our collective faces to see Newark Public Schools still finding time to recognize parents and community members who are making a positive difference in the most important part of the education system — our children!
On May 26th, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dale Talbert and Regional Parent Coordinator Beverly Evans hosted the “Parent Volunteers’ Recognition Awards Program” to acknowledge parents and community members who have given their time to support students and school staff throughout the school year. Carl Shaw, Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Parent Information and Resource Center (NJPIRC) here at Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, was also invited to the event and received the “Community Service Award” for his role in helping to set up and enhance parent resource areas in four Newark schools.
After receiving the award, Mr. Shaw used the platform to reiterate the importance of parental awareness and engagement to boost academic achievement for all students. I asked Mr. Shaw what his single, biggest piece of advice would be for parents with regard to their child’s education:
The biggest piece of advice I would give parents regarding their child’s education is to get very familiar with the school community and become an active part of it! The school community includes teachers/staff, school leaders, district leaders, other parents, and even other students! School-aged children spend an average of 7 hours per day in school so it is imperative to get to know the people who are sharing this time with your children!
We want to extend a huge “Congratulations!” to Mr. Shaw, and encourage you all to learn more about what he is doing for parental involvement here in New Jersey. You can find more information about the New Jersey State Parent Information and Resource Center (NJPIRC), a program of Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, and the schools with NJPIRC Parent Resource Areas at www.njpirc.org.