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Thank you, Donna!

One of my favorite traditions at Thanksgiving is when people share what they are thankful for that year. Although Thanksgiving is a few days away, I would like to dedicate this month’s issue of ACT’s community impACT e-newsletter to one of our most favorite partners – Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker.

I remember the first time I met Donna nearly four years ago. She came to our offices alone – a very rare occurrence to meet her without staff in tow. What I remember the most is her smile. She has one of those smiles that is infectious. As I shared the history of the Children’s Trust and the relationship we have with the First Lady, her smile grew tenfold.

For 20 years, it has been a tradition for Alaska’s First Lady to be ACT’s honorary chair. Donna’s affinity for the mission of ACT provided the opportunity to serve as a champion for the safety and well-being of Alaska’s children.

Donna has had a lifelong commitment to children. As a mother and grandmother, she knows firsthand how important it is to ensure children grow up in safe, stable and nurturing environments. She even took a year away from her law career to be a caseworker for the Office of Children Services. To have the opportunity to partner with a statewide organization with a mission to prevent child abuse and neglect made that infectious smile grow.

For the past four years, Donna has been a beacon of hope for us all. Her passion and her voice to raise awareness and commitment to ensuring Alaska children and families thrive was present in everything she did.

When it comes to children, Donna never said no. She volunteered hundreds of hours with programs striving to support children and families. She has slept out in freezing temperatures to raise awareness and funding for homeless youth. She has written numerous op-eds asking Alaskans to join her in protecting and investing in Alaska’s most precious resource. She has taken time to sit with children and read stories. Each year, she joins Operation Santa ensuring children and families in rural Alaska have an amazing holiday. And the list goes on and on.

As a partner of ACT, Donna was always willing to lend a hand in helping us work towards achieving our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect. Annually, Donna hosted a gathering at the Governor’s house on behalf of ACT. She helped us raise resources that support our various programs. She kicked off our annual National Child Abuse Prevention Month rally. She visited ACT grant recipients across the state to learn how communities are working to protect children and what barriers they face day-to-day.

Although her time as Alaska’s First Lady is coming to a close, we know this is not the end of her work to help build safe, stable and nurturing environments for Alaska’s children. On behalf of all the children and families in Alaska, thank you to First Lady Donna Walker for being a champion for kids.

Trevor Storrs, President and CEO, Alaska Children’s Trust

Support ACT While You Shop

Did you know you can support Alaska Children’s Trust simply by shopping at Amazon, swiping your Fred Meyer Rewards card, or by purchasing ACT merchandise? It’s quick, simple – and can make a big difference! Here’s how:

  1. Start your shopping at AmazonSmile. Through AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know – same products, same prices, same service. All you have to do is start your shopping at AmazonSmile!
  2. Scan your rewards card at Fred Meyer. You can support ACT just by shopping at Fred Meyer with your rewards card! Fred Meyer donates $2.6 million each year to the local schools, community organizations and nonprofits of your choice. All you have to do is link your rewards card to ACT and scan it every time you shop at Fred Meyer. Learn more and link your reward card to ACT on the Fred Meyer community rewards webpage.
  3. Show off your ACT swag. You can show your support of Alaska Children’s Trust – and of Alaska’s kids – by purchasing heirloom birth certificates, marriage certificates and license plates. All proceeds benefit our mission to prevent child abuse and neglect. Explore the options on our website.

Be part of the movement to strengthen Alaska’s families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Support Alaska Children’s Trust through AmazonSmile and the Fred Meyer Rewards program, by ordering a personalized license plate, or by purchasing an heirloom birth or marriage certificate for yourself or as a gift. And, of course, you can always make an online gift to support Alaska’s children.

However you choose to show your support, remember that together we can prevent child abuse and neglect!

Heart Gallery Features Foster Kids Seeking Forever Homes

By Dawn Paulson, Family Coach Supervisor

Who do you call when making a major life decision? Who do you spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with? Who do you call to celebrate milestones in life with? For most people it is family. For children in foster care who are waiting for an adoptive family, it is no one.

In the state of Alaska there are over 150 children in foster care whose parental rights have been terminated and they are waiting for an adoptive family to choose them. Without an adoptive family, these children will age out of the system and be on their own.

The statistics for aged out foster youth are staggering: only 50 percent will graduate high school, 40 percent will experience homelessness, 30 percent will be incarcerated and 25 percent will report substance use and abuse. The Heart Gallery of Alaska is the only recruiting of its kind in the state of Alaska for these youth.

The Heart Gallery of Alaska utilizes the power of media to capture the individuality of children waiting in foster care in order to advocate for their adoption. Each child listed on the Heart Gallery of Alaska has chosen to be featured and is legally available for adoption.

This gallery does not show every child awaiting a home, but serves as a compelling representation of the many Alaskan children who are looking for forever families. Through the Heart Gallery of Alaska, a loving family can inquire and learn more about children awaiting adoption, and children featured on the gallery are encouraged to express what they are looking for in a forever family.

Beacon Hill operates the Heart Gallery of Alaska and is a privately funded nonprofit based in Anchorage and operating across the state. They work with professional volunteer media teams to showcase Alaska’s beautiful children. Because of this, many of these children have and will find permanent, loving homes.

In 2017, the first full year of Heart Gallery of Alaska, 30 children had chosen to be on the gallery, six were adopted, one found a legal guardian, 14 were matched with potential pre-adoptive families, and two aged out of foster care.

So far in 2018, there are 39 children listed on the gallery with 24 of them matched with potential pre-adoptive families and five finalized adoptions! An exciting victory is a sibling set of five who were listed on the Heart Gallery in December 2017 and were matched with a family March 2018 and continue to do well! Heart Gallery of Alaska works at finding children forever families!

Beacon Hill’s Heart Gallery of Alaska was selected from 2,000 nonprofits from across the country as one of the top 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist. A 10-day voting period in August brought a fierce competition with supporters from across Alaska and the country participating by voting daily. The top 40 winners of $25,000 will be announced September 25.

Dawn Paulson Family Coach Supervisor

Dawn Paulson, Family Coach Supervisor

The CrossFit community is rallying around the Heart Gallery of Alaska by holding an upcoming event: The Reliance Games. CrossFit Grizzly at the MTA Sports Center is hosting a CrossFit competition event to raise funds for the Heart Gallery of Alaska during Adoption Awareness Month. The event will be held November 11 at the MTA Sports Center and they have an exciting goal of raising $50,000. Check out the Facebook event, or register as a volunteer or competitor.

View the children on the Heart Gallery at www.heartgalleryak.com.

“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”

– National Adoption Center

ACT Grants $149,952 to Support the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect

ACTAlaska Children’s Trust (ACT) recently awarded 15 grants totaling $149,952 to organizations across the state. The funds will support a number of programs from United Way’s 211 support line, to parenting classes in Nome, to the teen homeless shelter, Covenant House. Other grantees include:

“These investments empower communities at the local level to reduce trauma and build resiliency for the child, family and community,” said Trevor Storrs, ACT’s president and CEO. “These 15 organizations are helping to create safe, stable and nurturing communities for Alaskan children and families.”

ACT provides funding to organizations across the state in four core focus areas related to child abuse prevention: primary prevention programs, collection and dissemination of quality data, advocacy and community building, and positive social norming.

For a complete list of grant awards, please visit the ACT website.

Anchorage needs a youth fire-setting prevention and intervention program

By Dein Bruce, Firefighter, Anchorage Fire Department

If you have been reading the local news, or browsing social media, you may have heard about one or two playground fires. With all the issues Anchorage is facing it might seem like a small blip on the radar, but I am here to tell you it isn’t. The consequences of youth fire setting can be tragic and costly. Nationally, in a typical year, fires set by children and youth claim the lives of approximately 300 people and destroy more than $300 million worth of property. Tragically, children are the predominant victims of these fires, accounting for 85 of every 100 lives lost.

Currently, Anchorage has no intervention and prevention program.

Without intervention, there is an 80 percent chance that a child who has started one fire will start another within the year. Most children are fascinated with fire, but those children who misuse matches and lighters are putting themselves and those around them in great danger. Some children experiment with fire out of curiosity and have easy access to ignition materials. Unfortunately, children do not understand the devastating consequences of fire. Adolescents may experiment with fire and or pressure-building devices demonstrating thrill-seeking behavior. Unfortunately, there is a wealth of information on the internet that will teach them how to build devices and set complex fires. But those same videos do not show many of the tragic consequences that come after.

There are also children and youth who experiment with fire because they are experiencing a crisis in their life. The crisis could be a result of various types of childhood traumas such as moving, a loved ones’ death, divorce or bullying. Unable to express their emotions, these children may turn to the misuse of fire. These children can benefit from learning how to deal with their emotions in a more constructive and positive manner, one that does not include fire setting. Regardless of the motivation behind fire-setting behavior, most children and youth are ideal candidates for a youth fire-setting intervention program.

The news isn’t all bleak. Members of the Anchorage School District, Anchorage Police Department, State of Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice, Alaska State Fire Marshal’s Office, various members of Alaska’s mental health community, and my organization, the Anchorage Fire Department, are in the process of creating a program here in Anchorage. The program will cover a multi-jurisdictional work group that will start to educate and redirect youth that are involved in the misuse of fire.

A child can be referred to the program in several ways: a parent/guardian, teacher, the fire department, police department, or the court system. A private assessment followed by classes on the safe and proper use of fire are offered to the child and parent free of charge. An intervention specialist will work with the child to determine the motivation of their misuse of fire. If a recommendation to a mental health clinician is needed, for issues beyond curiosity, the interventionist will work with the guardian to find the appropriate resources. A follow-up evaluation after the educational program will allow the interventionist to provide continued support to the family.

Here are five things parents, guardians and caregivers need to know about fire setting right now:

  1. Fire fascination and misuse is common among children.
  2. It is usually the result of curiosity and modeled behavior.
  3. Children lack the understanding of the risks and consequences of fire.
  4. Fires set by children can be very serious, even when there is no intent to do harm.
  5. Early intervention, by trained professionals, is key to stopping this dangerous behavior.
Dien Bruce

Dein Bruce is a firefighter with the Anchorage Fire Department. 

As most home fires set by children are started with lighters or matches, it is critical to keep fire tools and liquid accelerants out of reach of their reach. Two out of five home fires set by children begin in the bedroom. The leading items first ignited by home fire-misuse were mattresses and bedding, which accounted for 24 percent of child-set home structure fires. Monitor a child’s play time to make certain that fire misuse is not part of the day’s events. Set rules that youth are not to possess or use matches or lighters without direct adult supervision. Lastly, make certain the smoke detectors in your home are in good working order and have fresh batteries every six months.

We are all in this together. Help us keep our children, youth, community and pocketbook safe from the devastating loss of fire.

 

Vote for Kids in 2018 Election

People vote in voting boothBy Andrew Cutting, Program Fellow at Alaska Children’s Trust

Children are an essential part of all of our lives and our communities. They are our future. And in four months, Alaskans will be asked to make one of the most important decisions that will have the greatest impact on our children and families.

On November 6, the election polls will open and we will decide who will represent us as governor, and in the Alaska State Legislature and the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. The individuals elected into office will have the opportunity to make and influence decisions that will determine if our children and families prosper or fail.

Today, Alaska families from Ketchikan to Hooper Bay, Unalaska to Valdez, Gambell to Fort Yukon and everywhere in between are struggling. They are struggling to ensure the next meal is on the table, tanks are filled with heating fuel, next month’s rent is paid, or ensuring their children are safe as they work multiple jobs. The most recent National Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Alaska ranks 46 out of 50 for child well-being. Last year we ranked 38th and 27th four years ago.

Alaskans stand together – we all strive to ensure children and families don’t struggle. Children are our most valuable resource. The more our families struggle, the greater the cost to our state. As we move into the 2018 campaign season you will hear lots of candidates, some old and familiar, some new and unfamiliar, share their vision and plans for our state. We will have the opportunity and responsibility to confirm that the candidates’ primary focus is to ensure children and families prosper, no matter who the candidate is, which party they identify with, no matter their gender, age or where they live.

Voices for Alaska’s Children, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, is launching a statewide campaign to amplify the voice of children and families – Vote for Kids. Vote for Kids is a statewide campaign that looks to elevate child and family issues to the forefront of the political conversation and encourage people to actively engage candidates to explore how they will ensure Alaska children and families thrive.

While an improved national economy has resulted in more positive trends in other parts of the country, that’s not yet true in Alaska. The lived experiences of children and families in our state are not improving and the statistics bear this truth out in detail. Fourteen percent of Alaska’s children live below the poverty line and 28 percent live in homes with a high housing cost burden. Test scores showed only 28 percent of fourth-graders are proficient readers and 29 percent of eighth-graders are completing math proficiently. According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, only 30 percent of kindergarteners were ready to start school when they arrived.

These grim numbers point us toward action. The 2018 elections present a critical opportunity to engage and educate candidates on issues that affect children across Alaska. But children can’t vote, they don’t have unions, they don’t have lobbyists, and they don’t buy advertising on their interests and priorities. However, they do have YOU.

We simply cannot keep going down the same path. As we look to our future, we know that we want the best for children. We know that families are what makes Alaska a wonderful place to live. Now is the time to pull together as neighbors and as communities and have meaningful conversation about our future to ensure every child has the chance to succeed.

The successful candidates in the upcoming elections will be in a unique position to make public policies that impact the future well-being and success of Alaska’s children and families. As advocates for children, we must make sure their voices are heard. It is up to us to make sure candidates are informed on the issues that impact the well-being of children and our future, and that our friends and families are informed too.

As candidates talk about what they see for our future, it’s helpful to direct the conversation to issues related to children and families. Attend local candidate forums and ask questions related to key issues causing children and families to struggle. Directly reach out to candidates and ask them for their perspective on the key issues children and families face each day. Together, we can ensure the 2018 election is focused on developing and investing in the future of our state – our children.

We challenge you to engage with Vote for Kids! Sign up for more information and be the voice for children and families.

Andrew_headshot

Andrew Cutting is a program fellow at Alaska Children’s Trust.

Welcoming our Newest Team Member!

Julia Martinez, Vice President of Philanthropy & External Affairs

julia.martinez

Julia Martinez

Julia Martinez will join Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) this July as Vice President of Philanthropy and External Relations. ACT is excited to add Julia to our team. She brings more than 20 years of development, nonprofit management, communications and public relations experience and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).

She returns to her home state of Alaska after serving as the Director of Advancement for the American School of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for the past six years. As their first-ever Director, she launched comprehensive programs in strategic communications and marketing, fundraising/development, community relations and alumni relations.

Previously, Julia was at the University of Alaska Anchorage, most recently serving as Senior Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. A CFRE since 2008, Julia earned her Masters of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University Purdue University Indiana (IUPUI), holds a MBA from the University of Denver, a BSBA degree in marketing from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and teaching credential from the University of Houston, Texas.

Julia has proudly called Alaska home since 2000 and is excited to be returning to her state. Her passions include spending quality time with her four grown children and two young grandchildren, hiking, reading, cooking, travel and volunteering on nonprofit boards. She believes Alaska’s children are our greatest treasure and future, and looks forward to contributing to the work of ACT to build stronger and safer communities.

Let’s Give Child Hunger a Summer Vacation

By Dr. Theresa Dulski and Cara Durr

Girl with appleWhen the academic year ends, more than 18 million children across the country, including more than 58,000 children here in Alaska, lose access to free and reduced-price school meals they depend on for nourishment. Many kids can’t wait for summer vacation, but for some, summer can be a time of hunger and worry.

Buying and accessing healthy food can be difficult for many families. A recent study from Feeding America found that food insecurity rates among households with children are substantially higher than those found in the general population. With already overextended budgets, many low-income families must choose between paying for food and paying for other needs such as medical care and housing.

Adequate nutrition is a vital component to the health and well-being of children, but approximately 20 percent of Alaskan children live in food-insecure households.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who face food insecurity are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and be hospitalized more frequently. Without access to adequate meals, children in low-income families often turn to cheap, calorie-dense foods with little nutritious value. As a result, many of these children struggle with obesity. Access to proper nutrition for children not only helps improve their current health, but also sets the stage for healthy eating habits as adults.

Food insecurity can impact more than physical health. A lack of adequate nourishment can also affect a child’s development, behavior and school performance. Children with increased food insecurity over the summer may also experience a loss of learning opportunities. Research from Dr. Karl Alexander and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University showed that this can lead to the “summer slide,” with children from lower income families returning to school further behind in academics.

A critical resource for many families is the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals and snacks to children at approved community sites while school is out of session. Free summer meals can help families save money and stretch their summer food budgets, while giving their kids a chance to eat a nutritious meal in a safe and engaging environment.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is another critical resource during the summer, serving about 38,000 children in Alaska last year. SNAP doesn’t just make sure that thousands of children in Alaska and across the country have enough to eat year-round; the program has lifelong benefits. Children who have access to SNAP in their early years are less likely to be obese or develop conditions like heart disease later in life.

Summer meal programs and SNAP help Alaskan children and families fill the summer meal gap when school is out.

Hunger and food insecurity affect a large number of children in Alaska, particularly during the summer months. Assuring access to healthy nutrition year-round is one important way to help promote the health and well-being of children in our community. Together we can create a future where no child is hungry – whether they are in school or out – by ensuring they have access to programs like SNAP and the Summer Food Service Program to fill their bellies during the summer.

Need help this summer?

  • Parents can find summer meal programs in their community by calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY, by dialing 2-1-1, by texting ‘FOOD’ to 877-877, or by visiting fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.
  • Food Bank of Alaska’s Outreach team can help families apply for SNAP. Visit alaskasnap.com for more information, or call 1-844-222-3119 or email snap@foodbankofalaska.orgfor application assistance.
  • For a current Anchorage food pantry and meal program calendar, visit Food Bank of Alaska’s website. The calendar is updated monthly, and can always be found at foodbankofalaska.org  →  Find Help → Find a Pantry. To find a food pantry or meal program in other areas of the state, call 2-1-1.

 

Dr. Theresa Dulski is a pediatrician, and a member of American Academy of Pediatrics. Cara Durr is the director of public engagement for Food Bank of Alaska. A version of this blog post was originally printed in the Alaska Dispatch News’ opinion section.

Straight Shooter: Talking to Kids About Gun Safety

Mother and son

By an Alaska mom

I grew up in a house without guns. My family didn’t own guns, we didn’t shoot guns, we didn’t even really talk about guns. Ironically, when I got married, I joined a family of subsistence hunters, sport shooters and gun collectors.

While I am still not entirely comfortable around guns, I respect the fact that we live in a state where guns are tightly interwoven in the lifestyles, cultures and traditions of many Alaskans.

While I don’t eat meat, I respect the fact that, like many families in Alaska, my in-laws fill their freezer each year with moose they have brought home from successful hunting trips.

And while it makes me nervous, I respect the fact that my son wants to learn to shoot safely – and that my husband and father-in-law want to pass their knowledge down to him.

So while we each have differing experiences, attitudes and opinions about guns, one thing we can all agree on is the importance of gun safety. And that starts with talking to our kids.

Even if there is not a gun in your household, your children are likely to come into contact with one at some point, so it is important to talk to them about guns and gun safety.

Depending on the age of your child, questions you may want to discuss together include:

  • How should a gun be treated?
  • Do any of your friends have access to a gun at home?
  • Have any of your friends talked about using a gun?
  • Have you ever had a friend show you – or try to show you – a gun?
  • What would you do if you saw a gun at school or at a friend’s house?
  • When you see guns being used in TV shows and movies, do you think it’s realistic? Do you think there were other ways the characters could have handled the situation?

This is a conversation that needs to continue and evolve as your kids get older, make new friends and experience different situations.

Now that my son is of an age where he is spending time with friends and family without my supervision, I know I can’t control every person and situation he comes in contact with. I believe the best way I can protect him is to prepare him with the information he needs to make good decisions.

So what does my son need to know? Here are some kid-focused tips, based on information from KidsHealth.org, that parents can share with their children. (Please know that these tips are just focused on basic gun safety – the topic of gun violence, how to address that and how to talk to our kids about it is a huge and important issue worthy of its own article.)

If your family has a gun at home:

  • All guns should be stored in a secure gun safe. You are not allowed access to the safe until you are an adult and know how to handle a gun.
  • When you have friends over, don’t show them where the gun or gun safe is kept.
  • Never get the gun out or handle a gun unless a parent or another responsible adult is with you and says it’s OK.

When you’re at a friend’s house:

  • If you see a gun somewhere, stop what you’re doing. Do not touch the gun, even if it looks like a toy. Leave the area where the gun is. Tell an adult right away.
  • If a friend wants to show you a gun, say “no” and leave or call your parent for a ride. Tell your parent right away what happened. Don’t worry about getting your friend into trouble — you will be helping to keep him or her safe.

If someone is carrying a gun:

  • If someone tells you they have a gun or shows you a gun, get away from the person quickly and quietly. Tell an adult you trust immediately. If you can’t find a teacher, parent, coach or other adult, call 911. Don’t feel that you’re being a tattletale if you tell an adult that someone has a gun. Remember, you may save a life!

If you’re using a gun for hunting or target practice:

  • Never get the gun out when you are alone. Only use the gun with a parent or a responsible adult there and only if you have their permission.
  • Always assume a gun is loaded.
  • Neverpoint a gun at someone, even if you think it is unloaded. Always point a gun toward the ground until ready to use.

Of course, there are also things we as adults need to do to keep our kids safe. For example:

  • If you have a gun at home, store it unloaded and locked up in a gun safe. Lock up bullets separately from the gun. Only responsible adults should know how to unlock the gun safe.
  • Before your child goes over to a friend or family member’s house for the first time, you may want to consider asking if there are guns in the house and if they are locked up and stored out of reach. Although the question may be uncomfortable, it could end up saving your child’s life.
  • If your child is going to be using a gun for hunting or target practice, make sure they have been taught by a responsible adult how a gun works and how to use it safely. Taking a gun safety class is a great family activity.

So whether you are a sharpshooter or don’t know a single thing about guns, here are three common steps we can all take to keep our kids safe:

  • Talk with our kids.
  • Prepare them with information to help them make good decisions.
  • Take appropriate safety precautions.

Find more information at https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/gun-safety.html.

Why Teaching Our Kids “Stranger Danger” is Not Enough

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

Blank Danger And Hazard Triangle Warning Sign Isolated MacroKeeping children safe is a common thread that binds us all together, no matter our differences. April, being Child Abuse Prevention Month, is a good time to remind ourselves of this bond.

Over the past year, our headlines have been filled with national and local events that challenged this common thread. Whether it was the thousands of stories of the #MeToo movement, the trial of the U.S. Olympic team doctor Dr. Larry Nassar, the family in California that held their 13 children captive, the inaccurate information about Prop 1 in Anchorage, or any one of the many stories of Alaska children being harmed by a trusted adult.

Each of these stories spurred conversations about child abuse and neglect online, in the paper, or at the watercooler. And each of those conversations usually ended with a similar question, “How do we protect our children?” 

For many, our quick answer is to teach the old adage, “Stranger Danger.” But when we look at who is hurting our children, the data gives a very different answer. Nationally, approximately 90 percent of sexually abused children knew their perpetrator.[1]

That number is even higher in Alaska. According to the 2016 Crime in Alaska Supplemental Report: Felony Level Sex Offenses, 96 percent of the victims in Alaska between the ages of 11 – 17 years old knew the suspect.[2] The report further shows that 74 percent of sex offenses occurred in a residence. That means these abusers are trusted friends, family, teachers, coaches and religious leaders.

We need to ensure we provide the right information and tools so our children know what to do not only when a stranger approaches them inappropriately – but when a trusted adult does as well. Parents are encouraged to:

Engage in direct dialogue with your children.

  • Ensure that your young children know the proper words for their body parts and understand that there are certain parts of their body that are private.
  • Answer questions your children have about their bodies honestly, and make sure they know that they can talk to you about anything that is bothering them.
  • When your children are older, have conversations about healthy sexuality and what respectful romantic relationships look like.

Teach children about secrets.

  • Make sure your children understand what a secret is, and what kinds of secrets are OK to keep, like birthday presents, and what kinds are not.
  • Ensure children know that no adult should ever tell them to keep a secret from you.

Talk about their rights.

  • Talk about when is it okay for a child to say no to an adult, even if that adult is a relative or trusted friend.
  • Let them know that they don’t have to hug someone if they don’t feel comfortable. It is OK to give a handshake, a high five, or a fist bump.

Learn about and advocate for institutional policies.

  • Inquire about the policies for background checks with the care providers you use, such as babysitters and childcare or afterschool program staff.

It’s important to know that you don’t have to be a parent to help tackle this issue. By knowing and recognizing the warning signs of child sexual abuse, you can help protect children in your community. Warning signs of child sexual abuse include:

  • Inappropriate knowledge of sexual behavior for their age level
  • Sexually explicit drawings
  • Highly sexualized play (e.g., simulated intercourse with toys, pets or other children)
  • A child being fearful of a specific person or place
  • A decrease in academic performance

If you suspect abuse, it is critical that you make a report to the authorities by calling the Alaska report line at 800-478-4444.

Most importantly, when a child shares a story about an inappropriate encounter, believe them. Many victims recount the time they tried to share their story with an adult, and the adult made an excuse for the perpetrator or ignored it completely. It is important to validate the child and notify the appropriate authorities to ensure the validity of the information is investigated appropriately.

All of these stories, media reports and discussions have brought more light to an issue that has plagued our communities for way too long. Due to the nature of the topic, it can be very difficult for a victim to step forward and share their story, just as it is difficult for a community member to intervene. But the more we all acknowledge and accept these responsibilities, the greater chance we have to change the current trend. As the old proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

[1]Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R., Turner, H., & Hamby, S. L. (2005). The victimization of children and youth: A comprehensive, national survey. Child Maltreatment, 10, 5-25

[2]2016 Crime in Alaska Supplemental Report: Felony Level Sex Offenses, prepared by Christen L Spears and Kathryn Monfreda.