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.
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.
As you have no doubt read in our weekly recaps throughout April (one / two / three / four), Child Abuse Prevention Month 2011 was a fantastic success. We received so many stories from across the state, and could not have asked for a better community to work with. The response was overwhelming — our website received a whopping 63,000 hits during the month of April, the best we have ever seen.
One thing that folks have been asking about is our Pinwheel Contest. We are finally ready to announce that the winner is…
Congrats to the Cape May Healthy Families-TIP program! The photo of little Sophia Giuliano epitomizes everything about a safe, happy, healthy, and nurtured childhood. Check out our full press release announcing the winner, and be sure to enter next year!
We have one last tidbit from the month to share with everyone. This great story comes to us from Robins’ Nest in Glassboro, whose commitment to children gained the attention of Mayor Leo McCabe!
Robins’ Nest Makes a Difference in the Lives of Children and Families
Glassboro, NJ – Robins’ Nest is supporting our community’s children and families by promoting positive childhood outcomes and ensuring that every child benefits from a happy, healthy and safe childhood. April was Child Abuse Prevention Month and in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey for the Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign Robins’ Nest offered citizens, businesses and community groups an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children.
Pinwheels remind us of carefree, happy childhoods and are a visible symbol of the kind of childhood every child deserves. Child abuse can be prevented and we all have an important part in making that happen. When we work together to promote nurturing parent-child interactions, teach discipline that is safe and age-appropriate, and foster early learning opportunities, we actually support child development and healthy family relationships – the very actions that help and are proven to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Anthony DiFabio, Chief Executive Officer of Robins’ Nest said, “While we will never waiver in our efforts to support and nurture those whose lives have been inextricably altered by child abuse, we as an agency and society can and must do more to prevent the abuse from ever happening.”
In New Jersey, too many children are exposed to intensive stress like child abuse and neglect. These exposures can be devastating to child development. This is where prevention is so critical.
Mayor Leo McCabe presented a proclamation to Robins’ Nest in support of this effort, declaring April 2011 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Doesn’t every child deserve to grow up in a healthy and safe environment?
About Robins’ Nest Inc.
Robins’ Nest is a private, nonprofit 501(C) (3), children’s services organization dedicated to ensure the safety of children and enhance their well-being in a family setting. This is accomplished through a wide array of quality, community-based residential and in-home services, which encourage and empower children to become responsible members of the community. The agency employs over 225 therapists, clinicians, psychotherapists, nurses, and other staff to administer over 40 programs to over 7400 children and families annually. Robins’ Nest serves the seven counties of Southern New Jersey through its main campus in Glassboro, N.J., and satellite offices in Egg Harbor Township, Elmer, Mullica Hill, Salem City and Vineland.
For more information on Robins’ Nest Inc., please visit www.robinsnestinc.org.
Photo: Mayor Leo McCabe of Glassboro (left) presents a Proclamation to Anthony DiFabio, Chief Executive Officer of Robins’ Nest, in front of the pinwheel garden in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Once again we extend an enormous “Thank You!” to everyone who participated in Child Abuse Prevention Month this past April. We look forward to working with you throughout the entire rest of the year and beyond!
The first week of Child Abuse Prevention Month 2011 has New Jersey off to a great start! Pictures, events, and stories are pouring in to us, so we wanted to share back some of what you all are doing out there along with us.
New Brunswick was gracious enough to fly our Child Abuse Prevention Month banner above George and Church Street, letting all New Jersians know that it is their turn to make a difference in the lives of children.
Mile Square Early Learning Center in Hoboken sent us this fantastic image of a pinwheel display with banners:
The Kappa Delta Sorority at TCNJ held their Shamrock ‘N Run 5k back at the end of March at Mercer County park, and sent along the following pictures:
We can’t wait to get your pictures and stories! Drop us a line at email@example.com so we can promote all the great things happening throughout the state. Any picture you send also gets you entered into our “Pinwheel Contest” — you can win a coffee & donut breakfast as well as a $100 gift certificate toward next year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month materials!
This past weekend, one of the latest Facebook trends picked up traction in the New Jersey area: switching your user profile picture to that of a cartoon character. You would often see the image change accompanied by something resembling the following message:
In support of child abuse prevention, change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood. Until Monday, December 6th, there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. Join the fight against child abuse, and invite your friends to do the same!
The trend was large enough to be briefly picked up by mainstream media outlets, but if your friends and family changed their images without passing along the accompanying message, you may have been left scratching your head.
As we often talk about with regard to Internet safety for children, it is important to know that anything you type online can and almost certainly will remain there indefinitely. While this is a concern, it simultaneously allows us to dig back and track down the original source for trends and campaigns like this.
The website Know Your Meme (warning: site content may be inappropriate for children) tentatively pins the original trend back to Facebook users in Greece and Cyprus, where the idea was to indeed switch out user images for cartoon characters, but with the goal simply being an innocent game to remove all actual human faces from Facebook for a few days.
As with most “memes” (think of them as exaggerated games of telephone that mutate and take on their own form with each passing day, with the “joke” being to get as many people to regurgitate it as possible), it transformed into an awareness campaign for child abuse prevention. Everything about the “game” remained the same from its Greek origins, except for that key point – assigning a genuine cause to it, albeit with an extremely loose connection.
That is one way in which social networking and media have really changed how our society reacts to and gets involved with campaigns. All it takes is one clever idea, a few friends to get it going, and anyone in the world can potentially change the way we view an issue. For that, we are thankful. Child abuse is a horrible crime, and one that we know can be prevented. We work every day with families, educators, and political leaders across the state to make sure that every child is safe, nurtured, and encouraged to learn. Prevention is the key to future success for these children.
And that is precisely why we would love to see all New Jerseyans get involved. There is so much more we can do. Changing your profile picture on Facebook is but one step along the way. The connection between a cartoon character and child abuse prevention is not a particularly strong one without the additional exposition (in fact, many users have been changing their profile pictures completely oblivious to the intentions of the larger movement), so we encourage everyone to broadcast the message loud and proud: child abuse CAN be prevented, and we can all be a part of that prevention. Simple things like reading to your child and learning how to manage temperaments throughout changing developmental stages can go a long way with creating that lifelong bond, and set the path to healthy relationships and successful parenting.
If you wish to join in and showcase your commitment to child abuse prevention, we recommend you think about some concrete ways that you can support the families around you. Visit our website and consider some of the ways we encourage families to get involved in their community. You might also consider changing your image to that of a pinwheel, which evokes memories of a carefree childhood. Each April, we celebrate Child Abuse Prevention Month and use the pinwheel as a symbol for these types of childhoods that we wish for and aim to create for everyone in New Jersey.
As a final note, it is expected that with any well-intentioned campaign on the Internet, there will be someone who wants to rain on the parade. There is a good chance that, if you have not already, you will see follow-up posts noting that the campaign was actually constructed by pedophiles to lure children into exposing their true identity (with the train of thought being that a child is more apt to go with an image of Spongebob than Betty Boop, showcasing their true age in the process). It is important to note that this, as we have seen by tracking down its original source, is absolutely false. There are far too many other ways in which an online predator would be looking for this type of information, and we know the ways in which they act and “groom” their potential victims – an area that Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey is actively participating in new research for additional preventative measures and programs.
If February is to be remembered for making plans for snow, then let us remember March as the month to make plans for pinwheels.
As we get ready for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we’re launching our “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign with a challenge from special friends. Child advocates Arthur and Debbie Roedel of the Monmouth Mobile Home Park in Monmouth Junction, NJ, have made already made a $5,000 gift as lead sponsor for this statewide campaign and are challenge urging citizens and communities in all 21 counties to follow their example.
“I’ve always believed that you get back what you put into your community. Our children are no different. I’m asking others to really think about the families living around them and make a commitment to the children in their neighborhoods,” explained Roedel. “If we can do this for our community, I can only imagine what all of New Jersey can do.”
We’ve made it easy for you to get involved by offering free online downloads, educational materials and pinwheel toolkits that allow individuals and groups to play a lead in the month’s activities. Visit www.preventchildabusenj.org/cap for all of these resources.
What will you do for Child Abuse Prevention Month? Organizations and businesses can plant pinwheel gardens in front of their buildings, individuals can wear pinwheel lapel pins, elected officials can issue proclamations for their towns, and communities can sign and display “promise cards” which offer ways they can support the families and children around them. Be sure to tell us about your activities by sharing photos and dates for your community’s events so that we can celebrate your commitment to children. We can’t wait to showcase them on the website and here on the blog!
Remember, IT’S YOUR TURN!