Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hi ghostly parents and protectors!

Yes, it is that time of year, I’m sure you all know, because like those of us here at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) with kids, you’ve probably been readying costumes; and like all of us, with or without little trick-or-treaters at home, preparing jack-o-lanterns and candy as well!

But in our preparations, we would be remiss if we didn’t stop and take a few moments to give you some safety tips to keep your ghosts, goblins and (yes I know I’m out of touch with the latest and greatest costumes) trick-or-treaters safe on this scariest of nights out and about.  So here are MBF’s top safety rules:
  • Light and Bright Saves the Night - so your child can be seen – which increases their safety factor tremendously – if it’s a dark costume, put glow in the dark paint or tape on, or carry a glow stick.
  • Off the Beaten Path Means Deal with Parents’ Wrath – parents/caregivers should be with kids while out trick or treating, if possible (even with older kids,  and if it’s not cool… just hang back a little and give them some space, but at least you can watch out for them from a distance).  If for some reason you’re not going to be with the kids, let them know they are to stick to main roads and not deviate from the path or there will be consequences.  Better yet, sit down together and devise a map of their route with homes they will visit so that if needed, you can trace their path and easily find them.  Kids should not deviate from the agreed upon route or take shortcuts.
  • Safety Rules are Valuable Tools!  Teach your kids the 5 Speak Up Be Safe Safety Rules to help keep them safe  safe, review our Safety Rules online at and teach them to your kids.  Make sure they understand not to go into homes or cars with people – even people they may know to get more or special candy, teach them about “tricks” and “bribes” and teach them to stay with their group’s adults and other kids to be safe!  But on Halloween night, other safety rules are just as important so make sure you remind your kids of basic safety rules like look for cars before you cross the street, stay on the sidewalk, walk, don’t run, don’t walk in between cars, etc… You may think your child remembers the rules they’ve been taught, but on a night as important as Halloween where they’re focused on racking up as much candy as legally allowed, they may need a reminder of the safety rules!
  • Become a Stranger Danger Roving Ranger! – Okay, I know, with that one you’re thinking I’ve lost my mind… but I haven’t really.  More than 50,000 children are abducted each year in non-family related cases, so it is a real danger and on a night when so many kids are out and about in the streets, a predator could have easy access to a child who is lost or not paying attention, who wanders away from their “group,” or simply doesn’t follow the rules and goes inside with someone to get some “special candy.” So not only do we as adults need to look out for our own children, we should also be on alert for anything suspicious with any other child as well.  Let’s all work together on Halloween and watch out for all kids – Let’s all Speak Up and Keep Florida’s Children Safe!
Now go out there and have a Safe and Happy Halloween.  From All of US at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children – We wish you Treats, Treats and more Treats, No Tricking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


So here we are, mid-way through National Bullying Prevention Month and instead of answering a question for you, I’m the one asking the question this time.  What are you doing to prevent or stop bullying?  Let me tell you some things I’ve learned recently that others are doing:
·        Facebook and Time Warner are joining forces to address cyberbullying: Facebook and Time Warner join forces
·        CBS recently aired an hour long special about the state of bullying in US schools that was quite an eye opener: Bullying: Words Can Kill
·        Sesame Street is even getting involved with younger kids with a new video and antibullying activities: Sesame Street: Stop Bullying
·        Philadelphia Eagles’ Player DeSean Jackson is working with a LA based non-profit to create an antibullying curriculum: DeSean Jackson - Antibullying Curriculum

And that’s just a small sample.  Call me a fish out of water, but in St. Augustine, FL this weekend, a generous group, led by Your Jacksonville Area Lexus Dealers, sponsored the annual El Pescado Billfish Tournament where anglers were fishing to raise money for the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. to implement our Speak Up Be Safe™ safety and child abuse prevention program.  The goal is to teach all 1st through 5th grade students in the state of Florida by the year 2015 to get involved and stop bullying!  So that’s what a great group of anglers did this weekend, that was their contribution to National Bullying Prevention Month… Fishing to Stop Bullying!

But does prevention work? Let’s look at the numbers… okay with the caveat these are just my rudimentary calculations, and remember I’m a social worker, not a math major, but consider for a moment that the state of Florida currently houses 102,319 prisoners at a cost of 19,469 each year.*  Because we know many bullies grow up to commit crimes, it is not unreasonable to think at least 15% of prisoners were childhood bullies (it’s probably higher, but I’m trying to be conservative here.)  We know the total Florida spends annually to house inmates is $1,992,048,611 and we can probably say that 15% of that is spent on prisoners who were childhood bullies. That would be $298,807,292.

In other words, conservatively speaking, Florida is spending almost $300 million a year to incarcerate childhood bullies that might not otherwise have turned to crime if we could have stopped them from bullying others and cared for them in the ways they needed as children before they turned to criminal behaviors. 

Would $300 million be better spent on prevention (or even a fraction of that money)?  Speak Up Be Safe™ can be offered to every elementary school student in the state of Florida for right around $1.00 per child per year, or $1.5 million, saving the state millions of dollars annually!

But more than that, saving the children… countless hours of suffering, countless physical and emotional wounds, long-term damage and consequences that impact society financially and socially for decades to come.

We are failing our children, and we must do better.  This weekend a group of anglers and sponsors stepped up by Fishing to Stop Bullying.  Now let me ask you – What are you going to do with the remainder of National Bullying Prevention Month to turn the tide for Florida’s children?