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“I think that might be child abuse. What do I do?”

4 things you can do to help prevent abuse and neglect

By Trevor Storrs, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Trust

Most of us have observed an interaction between a child and a parent that leaves an uneasy feeling in your stomach. It was on the line of being potentially abusive. I was faced with such a situation not that long ago. I was at the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon when I witnessed a dad at his wits end and his son who was struggling. The situation was escalating and I was getting that uneasy feeling in my stomach. What do you do?

Each year, thousands of Alaska children experience or are at risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect. It cannot simply be removed with one swift action or policy. Rather, it is the accumulation of individual decisions, moments, and actions that can truly prevent child abuse and neglect.

As a witness of these potentially negative interactions between a child and a parent, we have the opportunity to be an active – versus passive – bystander. Our culture has conditioned us to believe that it is not our business, nor our responsibility, to intervene between a parent and their child. Many times, this culture is correct. But when we witness both the parent and the child struggling, and when this struggle seems to be leading to potential abuse or neglect, it is our responsibility to extend a helping hand – just as we would offer assistance when witnessing an accident.

In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, here are four ways you can be an active bystander and help prevent child abuse and neglect.

  1. One of the easiest things you can do is distract. In general, no parent wants to abuse or neglect his or her child. Usually, several stressors have mounted over time and the current situation is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.” A distraction could be asking the adult in the store if they know where a product is located. Or compliment the parent on how cute his or her child is. Or do something silly that gets both parent and child to smile at you.
  1. Another technique is to delegate. Find others, such as a friend, staff member or other witness, who could help you intervene in the situation. You could speak to the parent as the other individual checks on the child. The more people intervening, the greater the impact.
  1. Sometimes you must delay your intervention. For many reasons, you may not be able to do something right in the moment. You may feel unsafe or you are unsure whether or not the situation requires intervention. You may just want to check in with the child later, if possible, or monitor from a far.
  1. The next technique is direct intervention. This involves stepping in and addressing the situation directly. Deciding when to intervene in a public space requires a quick calculation on the degree of risk. If safe, directly address the situation without being confrontational. This is important because most people become defensive when confronted. Instead, validate the parent’s stress and just offer them some help. You could say something like, “Kids can be really difficult. Is there anything I can do to help?”

No matter which intervention technique you utilize, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect. It can vary depending on the type of abuse or neglect. Check out www.reportchildabuse.alaska.gov for more information. And finally, if you suspect child abuse and neglect, call local authorities or make a report to the Office of Children’s Services (OCS).

That day in the grocery store, I realized my uneasiness was not just caused by what I was witnessing but it was also the natural fear of being an active bystander. Then I remembered a quote by Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Being an active bystander usually only takes a quick moment of one’s time and is a responsibility we all have as community members. So, I reached for an item that was next to the dad and commented on how cute his son was and how fun it can be to have kids – all done with a smile. The father and I shared a little laughter and you could feel the mood change in the air. If more of us become active bystanders, together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

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Take Action for Alaska’s Kids

Voices for Alaska’s Children Action Center

Voices FB profileA few weeks ago we announced the website for Voices for Alaska’s Children, a new grassroots, community movement that makes it easy for you to speak up on issues important to children and families in your community.

We hope you’ve had a chance to check out the new site. We especially want to be sure you’ve explored the Voices action center, where you can:

  • Find – and contact – your elected officials. Sometimes the hardest thing about speaking up is knowing who to speak to! The Voices action center makes it easy to get the ear of the right decision makers. You can not only find your local, state and federal representatives, but you can also contact them right from the website!
  • Get the inside scoop on proposed legislation, track existing bills and read up on the latest news related to children and families in Alaska.
  • Make your voice count by following tried-and-true advocacy tips and guidelines.

The Voices website is also the access point for KIDS COUNT, the premier source for data on child and family wellbeing both in Alaska and nationwide. Through our KIDS COUNT data center, you can:

  • Access data from the most trusted sources, find the most relevant statistics and compare your community with others.
  • Use intuitive visual tools to easily create customizable maps, graphs and tables.
  • Connect with data experts at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and throughout the KIDS COUNT grantee network.
  • Expand your reach through social media.
  • Encourage policies that support smart decisions about children and families.

Ready to raise your voice? Visit the Voices action center now and subscribe to our email list so we can keep you updated on news and ways you can get involved.

Want to support the work of Voices? Please consider making a donation to support our efforts.

Because even the littlest voices deserve to be heard.

 

Giving Thanks for Pick. Click. Give.

(Get inspired to help us reach our goal!)

We are giving thanks for our Pick. Click. Give. donors who gave $5,225 to support our mission to prevent child abuse and neglect this year!

We ended the campaign $775 short of our goal, but we have hope that we can reach $6,000 in donations. While the PFD application period has ended, supporters can still add or change a Pick. Click. Give. contribution until August 31.

Get inspired to give! Read these stories about what you are supporting when you Pick. Click. Give. to Alaska Children’s Trust:

Here’s what you can do to help us reach our goal (we are so close!):

  • Visit pfd.alaska.gov.
  • Click the “add or change a Pick. Click. Give. donation” button on the right side of the page.
  • Log in to your account.
  • Make your Pick. Click. Give. donation to Alaska Children’s Trust!

Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect!

Science Action Club Builds STEM Identity Among Youth

20170227_102025_resizedTwenty youth at Bristol Bay 4-H Club stealthily maneuver in the outdoors, keeping their eyes to the sky – they’re on the lookout for birds. These youth are citizen scientists, actively counting birds and documenting their findings in an online platform where professional scientists and ornithologists use the submitted data for research.

The following week, the youth explore how oil spills can affect birds. Comparing two feathers – one dipped in water, the other dipped in oil – the youth discover that the feather dipped in oil will not dry, and investigate environmental solutions to cleaning oil from feathers.

“My favorite activity was seeing what happens to feathers in oil,” says Jacob Belleque. “I was surprised. I thought the oil would come out of the feathers, but it didn’t.”

This is Science Action Club – a curriculum designed to engage middle school youth in authentic, hands-on science during afterschool.20170228_170918_resized

Programs such as Science Action Club address a real need to engage more youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a young age. Alaska employers say STEM jobs are going unfulfilled because students are graduating from high school without the requisite skills. And in college, too few entering freshman see themselves as scientists, mathematicians, technical experts and engineers. Many youth, especially girls and other underrepresented groups, see STEM as something “other” people do – not something they can pursue.

Science Action Club is helping to make STEM relevant, important and fun for all youth. And once students engage in hands-on science, they begin to reconfigure their beliefs about themselves and their abilities. The club has helped the youth at Bristol Bay 4-H Club understand that they are part of a larger community – the Citizen Scientist Community. This sense of belonging has led to increased levels of self-confidence and STEM identity among club members.

At the start of Science Action Club, many of the youth stated that they did not consider themselves to be scientists, but that opinion has changed over the course of the club. Youth talk about activities with their peers and influence them to join the club – and the learning doesn’t stop when the club lets out. Youth voluntarily track bird activity at home and seek out and share birding books with each other. Parents have noted that dinner discussions are very animated on club days.

And that’s possibly because Science Action Club doesn’t look like your typical science class.Dillingham SAC 2

Instead, it looks like engineering a device that prevents a raw egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height.

It looks like designing paper airplanes to fly across the room, mimicking the flight styles of owls and falcons.

And it looks like real-life experiments, such as dissecting owl pellets, as well as going on regular birding walks.

“I like Science Action Club because we can identify birds and study them to get to know them better,” says one club member.

STEM education creates critical thinkers and increases science literacy. Science Action Club is only one example of the impact of an engaging STEM curriculum in out-of-school time. And while the Science Action Club curriculum is portable and can easily be taken on the road to different communities, access for many young people is still a problem.

Dillingham SAC 3The Alaska Afterschool Network aims to address these barriers, especially in rural Alaska, by forming partnerships to provide high-quality programming opportunities in the state. The Science Action Club is an example of such a partnership. The Alaska Afterschool Network brought the Science Action Club curriculum to 15 program sites across Alaska in conjunction with the National Girls Collaborative Project and the California Academy of Sciences, with funding support from BP Alaska.

The Science Action Club is only a dent in the surface of creating greater access to high-quality STEM learning in out-of-school time. And even though the research is clear on the benefits of exposing students to STEM activities, both within and outside of school, funding can still be a challenge.

Without continued, intentional support of STEM learning in afterschool, students may not get the chance to discover a future career as an ornithologist, or may not choose to pursue a college degree in physics. Afterschool programs bring STEM alive for youth – and support and active partnerships are crucial to continue bringing opportunities to our youth.

To get involved in supporting important afterschool efforts like the Science Action Club, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Alaska Afterschool Network.