In the work of keeping kids safe, the world has changed.
A decade ago, when children were discovered to be in abusive home situations, the focus of social service agencies was to remove the children immediately, putting them into foster care and returning them to their parents after investigation, counseling and various processes that were meant to ensure safety.
These methods are still used to stop to child abuse, but they don’t prevent it. In North Carolina, that takes hundreds of partner agencies statewide and thousands of people who are now taking a more strategic approach, based on evidence and outcomes.
Now, it’s more about supporting and strengthening families to be more resilient and positive under the pressures of unemployment, illness or poverty. In a significant shift, now it’s all about keeping families together and helping them work through their challenges by building skills and mobilizing support agencies to help. The approach is to build resilience for parents to help them manage the pressures of raising healthy, secure kids.
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Positive parenting is the most important protective factor in helping children become self-sufficient adults who contribute to their community.
Sharon Hirsch, president/CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
Durham’s Sharon Hirsch has just taken the helm as president/CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, a statewide nonprofit based in Raleigh. Before her previous job, running NC Donate Life, the state’s organ donation network, for more than four years, Hirsh was employed for several years at Durham’s Department of Social Services. The change in approach, she says, has been remarkably effective.
“We focus on strengthening families because studies show that positive parenting is the most important protective factor in helping children become self-sufficient adults who contribute to their community,” she says.
As a leader for the agency, Hirsch’s goal is to create a statewide culture in which every family and community fosters safe, stable and nurturing relationships for children. From individuals to the General Assembly, all North Carolinians play a role in helping children grow up to be self- sufficient adults, says Hirsch.
The primary role of Prevent Child Abuse NC is to provide training, coaching and mentoring for professionals who work on the front lines with struggling families.
Andrea Matute, an Incredible Years (IY) Parenting Program facilitator, is one of those professionals. The ongoing support is critical for effective delivery of evidence-based parenting programs, she says. Matute has seen the impact her increased knowledge has had on the families she serves.
Matute says the training supports her work just as she supports parents who struggle to cope with their circumstances. “When I go to training, it strengthens me and it helps my co-facilitator, and then it helps the participants and the families of the participants, which is the focus,” she says.
Last year, 79 percent of the participants in IY classes reported decreased use of harsh discipline after attending the program.
Many parents become overwhelmed when conflict and stress combine with factors we’re all familiar with – sleep deprivation and economic pressure. Without models of parenting that include positive solutions, parents can be overstressed and isolated – a formula for violent outbursts.
Rate of abuse has dropped
With training, support and practice, parents learn how to “turn down the temperature” when conflict arises with stubborn toddlers and how to set reasonable expectations for their older kids. Program participants learn that adolescence can be a time that’s filled with situations that can seem overly dramatic to kids, but that require attention and patience all the same.
Last year in North Carolina, more than 120,000 children were referred to a human services agency for suspicion of child abuse. According to Duke University’s Center for Children and Family Policy, a “system of care” model, coordinated services of multiple agencies, is best for protecting children.
Ten years ago the number of referrals was just over 113,500, but the population of the state was 8.7 million. Now the state’s population is 9.5 million, so the rate has dropped.
Prevent Child Abuse NC says it welcomes donations to help build a growing network of people who can step in to help families stay together, work together and grow together to push that rate down even more.
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
3716 National Drive, No. 118
Raleigh, NC 27612
Contact: Sasha Zabavin, 919-829-8009
Description: Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina supports the development of safe, stable, nurturing relationships for children in their families and communities to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Volunteers needed: We are currently looking for volunteers who would like to help us with the following:
▪ Office assistance – Assisting with public awareness campaign materials, order fulfillment for Child Abuse Prevention Month, fundraising and public awareness mailings, general office help.
▪ Fundraising event planning – Our signature fundraising event, The Pinwheel Prom, will be held in April. We are looking for volunteers interested in helping with the planning and on the night of the event.
▪ Public awareness events – Come out and help us plant pinwheels in local communities. The pinwheel is the symbol of child abuse and neglect prevention and PCANC and our partners plant pinwheels to create awareness and conversation about the important role all adults play in prevention.
▪ Committees – Our Operations Committee is in need of volunteers who havehuman resources, financial, or operations experience; our External Relations Committee is in need of volunteers who have public relations, marketing, journalism, and communications experience; and our Program and Policy Committee is in need of volunteers who have legislative advocacy and policy experience or human services nonprofit program experience.
▪ Professional – Are you a photographer, graphic designer, or writer? We are looking for people who want to donate time to help us create public awareness materials.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Ginny Liverance at email@example.com or call 919-829-8009.