Efforts to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse began with a strong start today as thousands across the country joined together to wear blue in support of positive childhood experiences. Video messages from elected officials sharing their public support for building protective factors in our every day lives, as well as policy have also started to pour in. Many Colorado legislators joined the collective efforts throughout Colorado by helping to create the short PSA below to launch this month’s public awareness campaign “Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together”. Rep. Judy Amabile also shared a moving tribute on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives today, recorded below.
These are the legislators who’ve spoken out in support of the campaign so far:
Rep. Judy Amabile,
House District 13
Rep. Leslie Herod,
House District 08
Rep. Yadira Caraveo
House District 31
Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez
House District 04
Rep. Colin Larson
House District 22
Sen. Chris Hansen
Senate District 31
Sen. Don Coram
Senate District 06
Sen. Joann Ginal
Senate District 14
Sen. Brittany Pettersen
Senate District 22
Senate District 29
Look for additional messages from local county commissioners, city officials, as well as more Colorado legislators, with the hastag #GrowingBetterTogether as the month rolls on.
As the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), Illuminate Colorado has already given away more than 30,000 free Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities is calling on an additional 10,000 Coloradans to claim their FREE pinwheels and plant them in their front yards and neighborhoods as part of a national movement to recognize the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, and all year-long.
“We can build healthier, safer and thriving communities if we take the same approach to raising families that we do to tending a community garden on a shared piece of land. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado.
Throughout the month of April, Illuminate and other PCAA chapters, as well as local supporters in more than 150 cities in Colorado, are planting pinwheels and using this community garden metaphor to reinforce the message that “every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root.” Planting a pinwheel represents the bright childhoods we all want for children.
Illuminate Colorado was also proud to join the Colorado Department Governor Jared Polis and Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services for a virtual launch of Child Abuse Prevention Month featuring four Colorado families sharing stories of parental resilience while parenting in the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has added stressors for parents and caregivers, requiring them to adjust to new norms while staying strong in the face of stress. Families are building and maintaining positive relationships with people they can call on for help and need access to the resources they need in order to thrive,” said Barnes.
“Research shows that positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “By preventing child abuse and neglect we aim to holistically improve the lives of all families and the communities they live in.”
The Coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed the world and prevention professionals are still working to understand the pandemic’s repercussions for incidents of child maltreatment to reduce adversity in childhood. The pandemic experience has had a consequential impact on an entire generation of children, sadly some more than others. Too many of our children have likely experienced at least one adverse childhood experience by now. Communities must nurture them going forward to heal.
The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new child care and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing.
But few news reports since the COVID-19 pandemic began have focused on issues related to child abuse beyond the volume reports of child abuse, with an Associated Press analysis released this week highlighting a national total decrease of 18 percent in both total reports and investigations. Media coverage has overlooked the importance of protective factors that help buffer families from the negative consequences of exposure to risks, like isolation, unemployment, substance use and mental illness, by reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person parenting responds to the risk.
Families get overloaded with stress or risks and, like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors and community leaders know how to lighten the load by increasing the following protective factors, that is how tragedy can be avoided.
Having the Pinwheels Conversation
Far too many people, parents and professionals alike, don’t know how to prevent child abuse. Research has shown five Protective Factors have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
“It is time to have a different conversation about helping families upstream. There is more than one narrative connected to child abuse prevention than whether or not reports are down or up, in fact there are at least five different stories to tell. If there is a child at home or in your neighborhood then every day, you have a responsibility to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy and we all have a responsibility to help you grow a better tomorrow,” continued Woodard.
When we increase these five protective factors for all families, we strengthen families, prevent child abuse and build brighter childhoods.
So this April, during child abuse prevention month, the hope is at least 10,000 more people will plant a pinwheel. And, by the end of the month, with 40,000 pinwheels planted in front yards and neighborhoods throughout the state, more people will know how to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.
Growing A Better Tomorrow, Together
Communities have a BIG influence in families’ lives. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities.
Every day, you can plant seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.
Visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org to get involved, enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest and learn more about how to strengthen your family and the families in your community.
Illuminate recommends the following ways that people everywhere can dig in and help raise awareness and impact virtually during child abuse month:
- Enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest. Submit a pinwheels photo for a chance to win a grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit serving children and families! Photos with the most votes on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 1:00 pm (MTN) win the opportunity to select a Colorado nonprofit serving children and families to receive grants of $1,000, $300 and $200. See the campaign website for official rules.
- Join a FREE two-hour interactive virtual introductory course to learn how to “bring the protective factors to life” at home, work and in your community. Offered April 19, from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and April 21 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Get inspired to move from knowledge to action in your community.
- April 8 is World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse — every survivor and their loved ones need access to services for healing and resilience. Together, we can reach a tipping point in Colorado where children grow up happy, healthy and safe in communities that prevent children from experiencing sexual abuse. If enough adults in a community take a FREE two-hour interactive online training then, together, we can create a new standard of child safety in your community and throughout Colorado. Visit TipColorado.org to help your county reach the tipping point.
- Join PCAA, sorority partners at Kappa Delta and Sigma Delta Tau and Illuminate in a Digital Advocacy Day. Contact your elected officials and spread the word about policy change that’s vital to the well-being of children and their families. Visit IlluminateColorado.org/2021policy for a guide to what policies and legislation in Colorado build protective factors.
- Use the hashtag #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community, find other ways to get involved and signify your commitment to helping children, families and entire communities to thrive. Illuminate Colorado is by no means the only organization in Colorado working to strengthen families or raise awareness during this time. Look for pinwheels in your community to begin to pop up soon as a sign of a family-friendly organization or home committed to planting the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.