Mercy Foundation, along with 25 community agencies, has received a $194,529 grant from Mercy’s parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, to address child abuse prevention in Douglas County over the next two years.
The goals of the Up2UsNow Douglas County Child Abuse Prevention Coalition, formed in 2010, are to shift the community norm from intervention, or putting the pieces back together once child abuse occurs, to prevention, sparing the great social, emotional, and financial impacts of child abuse.
The Up2UsNow coalition applies the best-practice model of providing wrap-around services for at-risk families and children. By aligning social service agencies, law enforcement, courts, education, and medical care, our community can better meet needs of children and families and reduce child abuse.
Up2UsNow is developing an agency information exchange network to enable high-risk families the opportunity for prevention services, education and other identified assistance before the crisis of child abuse occurs.
Up2UsNow also brings Strong Kids/Strong Teens and Love is Not Abuse lessons to 12 Douglas County rural school districts, taught by the Mercy Foundation Healthy Kids Outreach Program.
This education gives students the skills needed for healthy relationships, resiliency, empathy, and violence prevention.
A seventh-grade student, when asked what he learned, stated, “How much people can hurt not only physically but mentally. Think about what you are going to do before we do it so we don’t hurt someone . . . Things like calling people names or spreading rumors about people can hurt them more than you think.”
Our Up2UsNow Youth Media Project brings the youth voice forward to create powerful social and traditional media messaging. Countywide teens are first mentored in violence prevention and technical media production, and then use those skills to create videos for YouTube and for local television PSAs. Teen participants show a remarkable increase in knowledge of child abuse topics, and their videos pass that knowledge on to the community.
One teen participant reported, “I had no idea that child abuse happened in my community and in my school. My eyes have been opened, and now I want to work in social services after college to help make a change in the world.”
The Up2UsNow Legislative Committee has successfully been involved in changing the legal definition of a domestic violence victim to include children who are present at the time of the domestic abuse. This change opens up additional resources to the child for healing, safety and security. Other legislation to further protect children from violence is also being addressed.
Healthy Start/Healthy Families, whose work addresses multiple risk factors for child abuse by increasing family support, community connections, health care and understanding child developmental stages, has been able to serve 25 additional high-risk families with newborns since receiving additional funding from the Up2UsNow Child Abuse Prevention Coalition. Healthy Start/Healthy Families services are a primary prevention effort in Douglas County.
The rate of incidents of reported abuse and threat of harm in Douglas County has decreased since the formation of the Up2UsNow Child Abuse Prevention Coalition. While these numbers are yet small, they represent a shift that is likely to take up to 15 years to fully achieve with a long-standing community concern such as child abuse.
Children First for Oregon reported:
In 2009, 124 cases of abuse and neglect.
In 2010, 247 cases of abuse and neglect, an increase of 100 percent over the prior year.
In 2011, 227 cases of abuse and neglect (Douglas C.A.R.E.S. reported), an 8 percent decrease since the 2010 inception of the Up2UsNow Child Abuse Prevention Coalition.
Children First for Oregon also reported:
In 2009, 271 overall cases of abuse, neglect and threat of harm.
In 2010, 361 overall cases of abuse, neglect, and threat of harm, a 75 percent increase over the prior year.
In 2011, 406 overall cases of abuse, neglect and threat of harm, a 12 percent increase, far less than the 75 percent increase of the prior year.
It is in the best interest of all Douglas County citizens to eliminate child abuse and its horrible impacts. We each have a part to play whether large or small. The work of the Up2UsNow Child Abuse Prevention Coalition is making Douglas County a safer place for children and families.
Pam Spettel is the grants coordinator for Mercy Foundation and is a founding member of Up2UsNow Child Abuse Prevention Coalition. She wrote this column on behalf of the coalition, which represents various local agencies and organizations including law enforcement, social services and government agencies. Spettel may be reached at PamelaFrank@catholichealth.net or 541-643-8310.