Child abuse is a heavy topic often loaded with frightening statistics and even more frightening images. The thing is, many of the things we do in our communities every day, from volunteering to donating to charities, already go a long way toward avoiding the worst-case scenarios. Naeshia McDowell, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia’s Training and Helpline Coordinator, offers some insight into what parents and non-parents alike can do to help children in their community. “It’s Child Abuse Prevention Month,” she says, “this is a great time to celebrate the good things our communities do to promote healthy child development and help prevent child abuse.”
33n: When you talk about communities working together to prevent child abuse, what do you mean?
Naeshia McDowell: A few years ago, Prevent Child Abuse America surveyed adults across the country and found 97% of adults have said they would take action on behalf of children, but they don’t know how. The kicker is, most people are already involved in prevention and just don’t know it.
For instance: 70 percent of those surveyed mentor children or parents in some capacity, 80 percent donate to child or family serving organizations, and 77% advocate for children and families. However, people don’t realize these actions help prevent child maltreatment. So during the month of April, and really every month, we work hard to help people understand that it’s possible to do the things they love — cooking, making art or music, reading, or playing sports — and simultaneously help families and their community thrive.
These things may seem small, but they can make a big difference in a child’s life — and a parent’s as well.
33n: Prevent Child Abuse Georgia has an interactive map of resources for parents and children. What was your goal when creating this map, and how do you hope it helps communities overall?
NM: The 1-800-CHILDREN Resource Map contains more than 3,000 local and statewide programs designed to assist and support families. Our biggest goal is to give parents, caregivers, and professionals access to supportive resources in their communities. To that end, everything from health care providers to educational centers are available on the map, in addition to places like the Boys & Girls Club that people may think of more readily in terms of children’s resources. Parenting is not easy. Serving families is not easy. This interactive map is a virtual resource guide for parents and professionals alike!
The map allows users to locate the same resources a specialist would offer over the phone on our 1-800-CHILDREN Helpline. While we encourage individuals with complex questions to contact the 1-800-CHILDREN helpline, this is a great option for those quickly looking for a service, opportunity or resource in their area.
33n: What should people do if they know of a service that isn’t on the resource map?
NM: We rely heavily on community members and statewide partners to share organizations with us so we can add those resources and services to the database. The map is only as good as the resources in it, and we always accept new submissions. If someone is interested in adding an organization, they can visit pcageorgiahelpline.org and click on “Add Your Resource.” If an organization would like to promote the helpline in their community, they can visit the same site to download our marketing toolkit. It includes news content and accompanying images, web banners, social media content and many other useful tools.
33n: What other organizations have you worked with in adding resources to the map?
NM: We had the pleasure of partnering with the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) to have their early learning programs, head start, pre-k and quality rated programs layered onto the map! This is exciting because it allows users to see where these early learning programs are located in relation to their address or a resource they are searching for.
33n: What else do you want people to understand about preventing child abuse?
NM: We encourage communities to seek training opportunities to broaden their knowledge of child abuse prevention. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia offers Mandated Reporter training for professionals that work with children. We also work with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy to offer child sexual abuse prevention training. They are the state lead for the Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training.
While sharing cryptic photos of abused children and jarring statistics may get people’s attention and evoke emotions, the ultimate goal is to put out a call to action that relates to everyone whether they have children or not.