By Serra Muscatello
NEW ULM - An effort continues to be made in Brown County to prevent child abuse and neglect with all of the work being done by a committee called Families Together.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Cathedral High School senior Kristin Standing helps St. Anthony first grader Isiah Rieser tie a blue ribbon around a tree near the sidewalk next to Holy Trinity Middle School in New Ulm.
One of the projects that Families Together supports is giving blue ribbons across the county in recognition of April's Child Abuse Prevention month.
In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse had its early beginnings with a Virginia grandmother named Bonnie W. Finney. She made a tribute to her grandson who had died as a result of child abuse. Finney tied a blue ribbon to her car's antenna as a way to remember him and also to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse.
"My grandchildren had suffered and battled so much throughout their young lives that it sickened me," Finney wrote. "My life was turned into physical and mental chaos. My efforts to understand became a plea to stop abusing children. I tied a blue ribbon on my van antenna to make people wonder. Why blue? I intend never to forget the battered, bruised bodies of my grandchildren. Blue serves as a constant reminder to me to fight for protection for our children."
What is child abuse and neglect?
Child abuse and neglect often take place in the home and come from a person the child knows well such as a parent, relative, babysitter or friend of the family. There are four major types of child abuse: including neglect (failure to provide for a child's basic needs), physical abuse (physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or otherwise harming a child), sexual abuse (any situation where a child is used for sexual gratification. This may include indecent exposure, fondling, rape, or commercial exploitation through prostitution or pornography.) and emotional abuse (any pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth, including constant criticism, threats and rejection).
By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by strengthening families and communities. Research shows that there are five important factors present in healthy families and promoting these factors is among the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. They are:
* nurturing and attachment,
* knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development,
* parental resilience,
* social connections, and
* concrete supports for parents
Information taken from www.childwelfare.gov/preventing
The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across America, and many people wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse. In other communities, fundraisers are held to support prevention activities and treatment facilities for victims. Candlelight vigils are also held as a remembrance.
LeAnn Miheve, who teaches senior religion classes for New Ulm Area Catholic Schools at Cathedral High School, said every fall their senior students are paired up with a first grade student at St. Anthony Elementary School.
"It gives them a chance to be responsible for a little person," said Miheve. "Throughout the year, senors and first graders do things together. The senior is someone they can look up to."
Her class tackles social justice issues in the Springtime. One of the activities the seniors do with their first grade friends is to create awareness by tying blue ribbons on the trees near the schools.
Miheve said that most recently, the focus has shifted toward a more positive message of celebrating "blue ribbon" individuals, organizations, and communities who have done much to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Betty Uehling, who is the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) director and also serves as the chair of Families Together, said "We try to do things throughout the county to prevent child abuse. We try to make opportunities for families to spend quality time together."
Last year's Daddy-Daughter Dance held in New Ulm was a successful event for Families Together.
"We had just a fantastic response last year (with the dance)," said Uehling., "By building relationships (between parents and children) when kids are young, we're hoping those strong relationships will carry over to the difficult teen years."
This year's Daddy-Daughter Dance will be held April 17. Something new this year will be the "His and Her Ho-Down" in May which is geared for mothers and their sons.
Another project done this past year by Families Together was distributing cocoa packets in November to all children in K-6 in Brown County.
"Two cocoa packets were sent out with every elementary child in Brown County to provide an opportunity for parents to talk with their child," said Uehling.
Another activity sponsored by Families Together was a musical performance by Mr. Jim.
"We always try to have activities at low or no cost because we don't want income to be a barrier," said Uehling.
Another important project Families Together helps with is supporting the Universal Home Visiting Program through Public Health, which is a newborn home health program. Families Together helps by purchasing a curriculum for the program.
"It's giving parents the knowledge, resources and support that they need to be the best parents they can be," said Uehling.
She said they will be losing funding $5,000 in funding from the State of Minnesota for the coming year.
"I am so sad that the state is eliminating the child abuse prevention dollars," said Uehling.
Uehling said that if someone suspects a child is being abused to contact Brown County Family Services at 507-359-6500, and they will be put in touch with someone who will listen to their concerns.