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April 2012: National Child Abuse Prevention Month

This month’s newsletter wraps up April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The articles featured in this issue present information on a new national initiative as well as resources on child abuse prevention that are available to parents, educators, youth and the criminal justice community. The first article, “National Child Abuse Prevention Month,” speaks about the significance of community forums and other events and outlines three concrete steps citizens can take to get involved. The second article, “Cyber Safety: Prevention and Awareness for Parents, Youth and Law Enforcement,” reminds us that cybercrime is alive and well on the Internet and offers specific tips to help parents, teens, and young children stay ahead of predators and out of harm’s way. Finally, “Are You One With Courage?” describes a new national campaign to break the silence surrounding child abuse and challenges citizens to show their courage by learning about and reporting abuse when it’s suspected.

All of the articles featured in this issue share a common goal – to put an end to child abuse through community education and awareness. Prevention is the key that will keep our children safe. If you like what you read, please sign up to receive MECP’s monthly newsletter at www.mecptraining.org, where you can also check out previous issues.


National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Provided by the National Children’s Alliance

Many researchers believe nearly five children in America die every day – some 2,500 a year – from abuse and neglect. And every year, during the month of April, communities across the country come together to focus on this startling issue and on the need for widespread prevention and public awareness campaigns to reduce the number of children who, sadly, are victims of abuse.

In 1983, Congress declared April to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since that time, communities across our nation have taken this opportunity to raise awareness about the issues surrounding child maltreatment and abuse through city and state proclamations, recognition ceremonies, educational forums and other tributes that pay respect both to the children who have been lost at the hands of abuse and to the children who are forced to endure this crime in secrecy each and every day. April is a time to look back and acknowledge the children who have suffered, and to remember the losses sustained throughout our communities because of that suffering. It is also a time for communities to imagine a future where children will no longer have to live in fear.

Although the topic of child abuse comes to the forefront every April, it is important to remember that thousands of children experience abuse and neglect every day of the year. These children are in need of intervention services year-round – and children’s advocacy centers play an integral role in providing these services.

Based on a model of multidisciplinary collaboration, children’s advocacy centers bring together professionals from the law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical, mental health and victim advocacy fields to provide comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to child victims of abuse. In 2011, children’s advocacy centers served more than 279,000 child victims of abuse and their non-offending family members.

As the accrediting body for children’s advocacy centers, the National Children’s Alliance ensures that communities across the country are equipped to respond effectively to child abuse cases by providing a larger network of agencies committed to protecting our children. By sharing best practices and instilling standards for accreditation, the National Children’s Alliance can better serve those in need and better educate industry professionals on best practices for abuse intervention and prevention.

Despite the best efforts of the National Children’s Alliance and its more than 750 member agencies and multidisciplinary teams, child abuse remains a pervasive problem in our country. During the month of April, we as a society must leverage the attention being brought to this issue through the media and other community-driven events to inspire change. The victory against child abuse will only be won when we as a nation unite in the effort to work on behalf of our children.

One goal of National Child Abuse Prevention Month is to inform citizens of the many ways they can get involved in the fight against child abuse:

  • Get educated. Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse, because every person can become the one person with courage to step up for our country’s children and report abuse when suspected. Visit www.OneWithCourage.org to learn the signs of abuse.
  • Support your local children’s advocacy center. Although government funding provides some support to this cause, every children’s advocacy center can benefit from both financial and in-kind donations to help the programs and services it provides to child victims of abuse. Please visit www.nationalchildrensalliance.org to determine how you can support your local center.
  • Spread the word. By breaking the silence surrounding child abuse, we can open the doors on this crime of secrecy. Our children deserve a voice, and every adult can help shed light on the epidemic that has been overlooked for far too long.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month helps the child advocacy industry bring public awareness to this issue at the local and national levels. It is only after we establish informed, empowered communities that we can eradicate child abuse and protect our country’s children from a future of living in fear.


Cyber Safety: Prevention and Awareness for Parents, Youth and Law Enforcement

By Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Frank Kardasz, Ed.D.

Disturbing incidents involving offenders in cyberspace are featured regularly in the news. Young people are lured by bullies, molesters, predators and contraband image producers who befriend minors for the purpose of victimizing them. Parents are often caught by surprise when they learn of these crimes. Meanwhile, law enforcement must keep up with the growing number of offenders who use computers and the Internet to perpetrate their offenses.

Because of the plague cybercrime has become, children, teens, parents and law enforcement must remain alert to the threats and guard against complacency. The standard advice – to keep the family computer where everyone can see it – is no longer enough. Mobile devices, interactive gaming, and wireless Internet access in public places provide ever-increasing opportunities for offenders to cyber-stalk and then groom unsuspecting victims.

Internet crimes against children occur in many ways in cyberspace. Unwary teens are sometimes groomed by smooth-talking predators in chat rooms and social networks where offenders feign empathy with teenage angst while quietly hiding their true intent. In addition, unlawful images continue to poison the Internet. The shape-shifting criminal community of traffickers in contraband images re-invent themselves each year, finding new and even more nefarious ways to produce, traffic, and sell images depicting the sexual exploitation of minors.

Constant vigilance is the key to protecting young people from cybercrime. Here are some tips for parents, young people and law enforcement to help prevent Internet crime:

  • Parents: Although children and teens will cry “privacy violation!” whenever you examine text messages and chat conversations, the discomfort you feel during these tense exchanges are nothing when compared to the devastating pain of learning that your child has become a crime victim. Parents, parents, parents are an important defense against Internet predators!
  • Teens: Before you post a picture, send a text or chat with a stranger, imagine that every image and every message will be seen and read by everyone you know – including your parents, friends and teachers. Think, think, think before you post, text or chat!
  • Children: Every day is Halloween on the Internet. People are not always who they appear to be. The bad guys lie, steal and cheat. They pretend to be your friend – but they are not. When you feel uncomfortable: Tell, tell, tell your parents, guardians and authority figures!
  • Law enforcement: Investigating crimes against children is emotionally challenging, but among the most critical of all law enforcement duties. Dedicated enforcement efforts are crucial for protecting the public and improving safety in cyberspace. Your reactive and proactive investigations keep some offenders running scared and reluctant to act. Your educational efforts keep the public informed and wary. Keep, keep, keep on policing!

Offenses involving the Internet will persist. Continued vigilance, public education and enforcement are essential to deter and apprehend the offenders who prowl cyberspace. Parents, teens, children and law enforcement must be relentless in their practice of cyber safety to prevent more disturbing incidents from occurring.


Are You One With Courage?

Provided by the National Children’s Alliance

Courage is a word we typically associate with soldiers, firefighters, police officers and others fighting on the frontlines to keep all of us safe from harm. But courage can also be ascribed to those who push fear, stigma and discomfort aside to talk about that which society keeps in the shadows. These individuals are courageous because their actions – combating secrecy by communicating openly about child abuse – protect us from harm, especially the most vulnerable among us.

In an effort to break the silence, the National Children’s Alliance has coordinated the launch of the One With Courage campaign across the country. One With Courage is the first-ever national public awareness initiative centered on the courage it takes to talk about child abuse, learn the signs of abuse and report abuse when it’s suspected.

Serving as a resource for the general public, as well as child advocacy and other child protective services professionals, the One With Courage campaign provides detailed information on how to identify the signs of child abuse, how to report suspected abuse and how to establish an open dialogue about child abuse outside of the industry.

More than 20 states have launched a One With Courage campaign, which includes public service announcements, advertisements, educational forums and other grassroots efforts, helping to communicate a consistent message nationwide. As national sponsor of this campaign, the National Children’s Alliance encourages everyone to use the resources available through One With Courage to make a difference.

For more information about One With Courage and how to launch a public awareness campaign in your locality, visit www.OneWithCourage.org.

Be the one with courage to stand up for our country’s children and report abuse when suspected.


Request Training and Technical Assistance from the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program

MECP strives to increase awareness and provide juvenile justice practitioners with training and technical assistance opportunities. MECP provides specialized training and technical assistance to local, state and tribal law enforcement, nonprofit organizations and juvenile justice practitioners. For National Child Abuse Prevention Month, MECP can provide consultants, training programs and other support to help you address child abuse prevention and awareness issues in your community.

For more information, contact MECP at 1-888-347-5610 or [email protected] .To submit a request for training and technical assistance, please complete a training and technical assistance form.


MECP’s Training Center

MECP launched a new online training center, which will provide juvenile justice agencies and organizations an opportunity to publicize their training and technical assistance events on our calendar. OJJDP providers and other constituents are encouraged to submit information about their juvenile justice-related events.

To submit a request to have your event advertised through the MECP Training Center, please click here.


Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Webinar

On April 18, 2012, the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program hosted a webinar on the topic Preventing Child Sexual Abuse within Child-Serving Organizations, as part of April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Panelists on the webinar included representatives from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Canadian Centre for Child Protection, and the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Slides from the webinar are available for viewing.


A Look at MECP’s Webinar Series: Third Wednesdays @ 2:00 p.m. EDT

Please stay tuned for our next MECP monthly webinar on May 16, 2012, which will be held in recognition of National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, 2012. The webinar will be on the connections between the missing child and sex trafficking. For more information on the event and registration, please visit here.


2012 National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest

We are pleased to announce this year’s National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest Winner is Elisa M., from Las Vegas, Nev. For more information on this annual content, held in conjunction with National Missing Children’ Day, please visit our poster contest resource page.

For more information on training and technical assistance, upcoming web events, recent publications and research, upcoming National Missing Children’s Day activities including poster contest updates, and more, please contact MECP on our website, www.mecptraining.org, at 1-888-347-5610 or at [email protected]