We have just finished the month of April, which is Child Abuse Awareness month. As we think about abuse and neglect I think everyone reading this blog understands the importance of protecting children and the dangers of abuse and neglect. I could list some very alarming statistics in regards to the impact (both immediate and long term) that abuse and neglect has on a child but would rather focus on the importance of what we do every day at Crittenton Centers to protect and nurture children and families
I oftentimes walk through the building to interact with the children and see how staff is doing. In an effort to help you understand the importance of the work we do I want to share with you a collection of observations that I have experienced as I’ve walked through the building in recent weeks.
As I leave my office I hear a staff member talking with a group of individuals from CAT thanking them for their donation of diapers and formula saying, “yes it seems that we can never have too many of these kinds of items.” She thanks them and directs their attention to the timeline of our history as they begin a tour of the Agency. There are so many generous people in the Peoria area that support our efforts through these kinds of donations and it would be impossible to do what we do without them.
As I continue on my journey through the building I step into the Crisis Nursery to see a staff member talking with a mother who is very anxious as she expressed her frustration and concern. She talked about going through some very challenging and difficult circumstances. The staff member very calmly talked this young mother through what she was experiencing while instilling a sense of hope. In all of the haste to bring her child to the Crisis Nursery she forgot to bring clothes, diapers and formula. The staff indicated that is nothing to worry about as they can provide those kinds of items. Through this interaction the staff member was able to help this mother see how she would benefit from the parenting classes and additional support. In this moment the staff relieved much of the immediate stress while connecting this young mother to parenting classes and other resources that will help her manage her life situations more effectively thus decreasing the risk for abuse and neglect.
The next stop was the outdoor play court which happens to be one of my all-time favorite places in the building and with the weather improving the children love being outside. As I walked across the play court I noticed one of the children experiencing some sort of difficulty but also see a teacher lovingly listening to them. The teacher was attentive and using the time to help the child with whatever was going on. I am grateful for teachers that not only see the educational needs of the children but also see the importance of the social and emotional needs of the children. Through this comprehensive approach the children benefit as well as begin learning how to manage difficulties.
After leaving the outdoor play court I came inside to stop in one of the classrooms. As I entered I could see all of the children huddled together around their teacher as she was reading to them. The children were engaged and asking questions . . . learning takes place every day. The teachers are very diligent in their efforts to expose the children to a variety of experiences to promote learning. In an effort to promote learning we provide books for parents to read to their children at home. Research indicates that the better the reading skills of children the more successful they are likely to be as they enter school. The reading between the children and parents also promotes bonding in relationships which is a predictor of future success.
As I head back to my office I walk by the MP Room which is being used to conduct a parenting group. I stop and look in to see a room full of moms and dads actively engaged in the discussion that is taking place. These groups offer parents the opportunity to learn and practice skills as well as receive support from each other as they grapple with the various challenges that come with parenting. I have come to a conclusion in regards to the parents we work with through these groups. For the most part they desire to be effective parents but oftentimes haven’t been provided with the best example. The parenting groups provide opportunities to learn and be encouraged in their efforts.
The core of what we do at Crittenton Centers is about prevention but I also tend to look at what we do as preparation. We partner every day with the children and families as well as with the community to prepare the children and families for the best future possible. Strong families build strong communities.
Written by Jeff Gress, President & CEO of Crittenton Centers