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Purple ribbon campaign marks Child Abuse Prevention Month

by Kelly Waterhouse

GUELPH - October is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario, marked throughout the province’s Children’s Aid Societies by a Purple Ribbon Campaign.

On Oct. 5, Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge and Wellington County Warden Chris White joined Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County at Guelph city hall to launch the Guelph-Wellington campaign.

Daniel Moore, executive director of Family and Children’s Services addressed everyone by reminding them of the purpose of the campaign.

“We are committed to working with all members of our community to ensure that children and youth are living in safe and caring environments,” said Moore.

The Purple Ribbon campaign began in 1992. Its goal is to increase public awareness that it is everyone’s legal, ongoing responsibility within a community to report suspected child abuse. The goal is also to provide information on how to report the information and who to contact. 

But the campaign also seeks to reduce some of the fear associated with taking difficult steps to report abuse by educating the public on the role Family and Children’s Services plays in protecting children and helping their families.

“We are an agency that has quite a lot of power and authority in the community,” said Moore. “There will always be a certain stigma because we have that authority.  But I want our message to be “How can I help?”

The group responds to over 3,000 calls from the community pertaining to a child’s welfare. The issues relate to suspicion or witnessing of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or conditions of neglect.

When that call is made, it is the front-line support workers, such as Liz Green, who get involved to assess the situation and help the child, and in turn, help the family.

“I talk about a collective responsibility,” said Green. “Once people hear that we really do try to approach families from a strength focus, because we know that children are best cared for by the people that love them, and that is usually their own families, they understand that it is my job to help the families do that.”

Moore explains that in cases where the children are removed from their home, the goal is to make these short periods of care, with the focus always being to help the family help themselves. “Well over 90% of our work is to help keep children safe, with their parents, and help their parents get the support they need.

Citing issues such as poverty, mental illness and isolation, Moore explained the organization helps provide assessments, crisis intervention, positive parenting programs, counseling and peer support groups, and have access to local community services.

“We have to be part of a bigger solution, working with our community partners, to help the parents get their needs met,” said Moore. “Building on the families strengths is what we do, and helping them build on them too.”

Green, who feels that Guelph and Wellington County has many supportive community partnerships, said, “It’s my job to help the families get to the resources they need by helping to facilitate, making it easy and accessible.”

But she wants people to realize that the issues of the bigger urban centers are no less prevalent here. “We have more isolation in this community, so the issues are less noticeable,” said Green. “Poverty looks different in the country.”

Knowing where to call is one of the issues the Purple Ribbon campaign hopes to teach. Knowing when to call is equally as important. It is a legal obligation for everyone to report suspected child abuse. Green encourages people to consider how they would feel if their own child needed help. “It’s a gut feeling. Use your instincts. You know when something is wrong,” she says.

Green wants people to understand her approach to how she deals with each case. “It’s not about blame for me,” she said. “It’s about how best we can help the family. Most people want to do their best by their family. The bottom line is keeping the children safe and keeping them with the people who love them, whenever we can.”

Moore and Green hope that the Purple Ribbon campaign will encourage people in the community to understand that Family and Children’s Services wants to protect children, not break-up families, but they need the support of the public to do this kind of work.

“I’ve seen the positive changes and I get to see the other side, when families have got the help they need and they’ve come through it together,” said Green. “It is a privilege to be a part of it.”

To learn more about the work the organization, or issues of child abuse and neglect, how to recognize it and what happens when people call to report a suspected case, visit www.fcsgw.org or call 1-800-265-8300.

 

 

October 14, 2011

 
 

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