Meet Child Abuse Prevention Advocate, Dr. Melissa Merrick
This month as we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Blue Bow Campaign, we’re highlighting a handful of sponsors and committee members to learn what the month means to them and why it’s so crucial.
We recently heard from Dr. Melissa Merrick, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, for her thoughts on this very important month:
April is Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month, a time to act collectively to raise awareness and commitment for preventing child abuse and neglect before it begins by empowering people across the nation to play a role in making great childhoods happen. And our efforts this year are as vital as ever. As we are physically distancing ourselves, we must stay socially and emotionally connected to our loved ones, support systems, and communities if we are to truly strengthen families and protect children. Throughout this unforgettable/historic virtual implementation of CAP Month 2020, we’re reinforcing the message that “Everyone can make great childhoods happen—especially you, especially now!”
You don’t have to be a movie star or a professional athlete…all you need is a desire to make a difference. For example, a gallerist in Brooklyn, New York, is hosting a virtual art exhibition and has commissioned a limited edition artwork to raise awareness and funds for child abuse prevention. She is just one of the many people across the country who are taking small but significant steps to ensure the safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that enable children, families, and entire communities to thrive…and you can too!
Equally important is recognizing that the time to act is now. The outbreak of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has changed our world dramatically—and rapidly. Although the risk to our children’s physical health from the outbreak itself appears to be low, the risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is actually quite high. School and workplace closings can increase stress in parents’ lives, resulting from loss of income due to lack of paid leave; an unexpected or irregular need for child care; and even food insecurity, when school meal programs become unavailable. Additionally, an unintended consequence of social distancing is isolation, which contradicts science proving that social and emotional connectedness and support are protective of mental health and positive discipline strategies.
We all want what’s best for our children—for them to be safe, healthy, and happy. In fact, we want this for our children more than even for ourselves. Unfortunately, we don’t always share these same hopes and commitments to action for everybody’s children, let alone children and families in other communities and neighborhoods beyond our own. While we are flattening the curve of this global pandemic, we are seeing true public health in action. We are acting collectively to improve the entire public’s health, yet we have simultaneously exposed the gross inequities in our systems that give rise to the urgent public health crisis that is child abuse and neglect and other forms of adversity that plague our families, communities, and society at large.
At Prevent Child Abuse America, in close partnership with our nationwide chapter network, we work every day to ensure healthy, thriving children and families. One way we do this is by supporting the expansion of evidence-based home visiting programs, such as Healthy Families America, so we can help families cope with stress and trauma. Another way is to support expanding family friendly policies, like paid sick and family leave, to help reduce stress on our parents and caregivers.
Help us advance these programs and policies by participating in our nationwide digital advocacy day, on Tuesday, April 28, when we’ll be empowering people across the country to contact their members of Congress to take action on the Child Abuse and Treatment Act or special coronavirus-related legislation. This is a perfect way to get involved even if you’re working or learning from home and social distancing. Visit www.preventchildabuse.org/yesyou to learn more about Digital Advocacy Day, as well as a wide range of fun, engaging, and empowering virtual activities occurring throughout CAP Month.
Together, we can prevent child abuse, America…because childhood lasts a lifetime.