Friday, November 30, 2012

The Economic Relationship to Child Abuse

As Thanksgiving has passed, many of us are clearly aware we have a lot to be thankful for. Most of us spent the holiday enjoying time with friends and family and sharing memories over a nice meal. Yet many families did not eat on Thanksgiving, nor do they have food in their homes on a regular basis. According to national statistics, one in four children do not know where their next meal will come from.

Nearly one in six Americans currently live in poverty. It is devastating to the family on so many levels, and as research shows it is also a contributing factor to higher rates of child abuse and neglect. A study released at the end of 2011, in the midst of the current recession, showed a correlation between a depressed economy and higher rates of abuse.

Researchers noted an increase in shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, as well as other types of abuse and neglect. The increase makes sense if you consider the ecological model of abuse and the risk factors that contribute to abuse: stress, substance abuse, domestic violence, parental discord, unemployment, and poverty. Poverty is also one of the main underlying causes of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The takeaway for all of us should be to ask ourselves what we could do to help those families currently struggling. How can we offer a bit of extra support to either a family or to organizations in the community that support struggling families such as food banks or nonprofits that protect children? If we have a little bit extra (money or time), now is the time to step up and give a little bit extra to help families in need. It’s the right thing to do and it may help protect a child from maltreatment as well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Moving Forward with Gratitude!

So the election is over and based on the outcome, about half of you reading this are probably pleased with the results while the other half are not. Regardless of the outcome, it is time to put the election behind us and focus on the future, and on children.

Since it’s November and many people are sharing what they are thankful for, we thought it was a good time to express our gratitude as well. We are thankful that we have a strong team with a passion for protecting children.  We are thankful for our leaders and board that guide us in our mission, and our donors, sponsors, partners and other supporters who help us fulfill that mission every day. The mission of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children has not changed and we are adding school districts daily that are approving and implementing Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS).  We are thankful for the wonderful facilitators who have implemented SUBS and have given us excellent feedback about the program and about their students’ reactions.

We are also thankful that we are touching children’s lives every day in a positive way and protecting them from the many dangers they face in our society today.  We have learned recently from experts in the field at two very prominent national conferences, that our efforts to implement a comprehensive program in the schools to elementary children is right on track. We have learned that SUBS, a program that addresses multiple issues in one curriculum, such as bullying, cyberbullying and all forms of abuse, is now following the recommended approach to child safety and we have been on the right track since we began in 2009. 

And for every reader of our blog, we are thankful for you. We appreciate each and every person who shares the information on our blog and website with other kids, parents and school professionals to help us spread our message of prevention and protection!  We appreciate you all.

As we move into 2013, we look forward to some additions and making SUBS the best it can be. As always, we will strive to keep the program up to date and relevant and look forward to sharing evidence of the program’s effectiveness from research. We hope as you move into 2013, your New Year’s resolutions will include us. We hope you will follow our blog and Facebook page, help us get SUBS implemented in your school district and school if it is not already being offered, and will help us with some great new things on the horizon.  Stay tuned for some tips and ideas from your MBF team as 2013 unfolds!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let's Talk About "Talking to Kids"

Everywhere you turn it’s in the news nowadays… the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. On one hand it’s good – and I only mean good in the sense that people are finally taking notice. The media is reporting it, blogs are talking about it, society is hearing about it. But it’s also bad in that we are seeing for the first time in history how truly pervasive this crime really is.

My concern is the more we talk about, the more cases we list, the more perpetrators we expose – do we risk society becoming apathetic? I think some citizens and some parents will become more aware, enlightened and engaged, but I fear others will become desensitized and disengage.

I would rather accept that most of society knows this is a problem at this point and offer solutions. So today’s post is just that – a solution – at least part of the solution. The true solution to child sexual abuse and exploitation, as the entire Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) team learned recently at the Prevent Child Abuse America conference, is a multidimensional approach that encompasses many strategies and partners. One of those strategies is educating children.

So let’s talk today about talking to kids. If, as we always say, adults are responsible for keeping kids safe is true, why do we need to talk to kids? Because the child is the predator’s target and we can’t be with our kids 24/7. In other words, we can do the best we can to protect them, but if we don’t prepare them to protect themselves, a smart and manipulative predator might easily target and victimize them. So we need to empower and educate our children to help us keep them safe.

What do we talk to them about and when? There is no magic formula. The keys are to be available and to get over our own uncomfortable feelings about the topics we need to discuss. Topics which are many and varied – from basic body part names at the youngest of ages to safe use of social media at older ages. Sometimes as parents we get so busy that when our kids come to us we make them feel they are unimportant and we are too busy. Our goal should be to let them know we are always available to talk about anything. When kids know we are available, they are more likely to come to us with their questions and concerns, including questions about the more sensitive, scary or uncomfortable topics.

As adults, as parents, it is our responsibility to get over our own feelings of anxiety to protect our children. Even educated professionals are often uncomfortable talking to children about sex, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and pornography. These are truly uncomfortable topics – I get that. But there are two very good reasons we must talk to our kids anyway.

Studies reveal children know more than we think they do and at younger ages than we assume. A Symantec study revealed that the fourth most frequently searched term on the Internet for children 7 and under was “porn,” indicating they have heard the word somewhere and they want to know what it is. And if we don’t talk to our children… somebody else will. Interviews with predators have revealed they look for children who don’t have knowledge and are curious about sexual topics and they initiate intimate conversations with them. These initial contacts often lead to further, and often willing, sexual activity.

We must not kid ourselves into thinking that our child is not susceptible to these predators. Every child – even the best, most innocent and well-protected child needs to be educated with safety information in order to protect themselves.

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable thinking about having these discussions with your child MBF is here to help. The Monique Burr Foundation for Children has added a great resource to our website, “Discussing Sensitive Topics – A Parent Activity” to help parents who may be struggling to have these important conversations with their children. You can learn more about the age at which children are first exposed to these types of topics and the rates at which children are victimized and exploited in our country. Our resource about "Discussing Sensitive Topics" will help you understand the true risks and also help you better prepare to have these important but sometimes uncomfortable conversations with children. Let MBF help you look forward to important and potentially life saving conversations with your child. You will be empowering them with knowledge that will protect them from predators for years to come!