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Posts tagged ‘child abuse’

Free Screening of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope”

Alaska has one of the top five rates of child abuse in the United States. Without treatment, sexual and physical abuse and witnessing domestic violence or neglect can cause serious health and social problems that last into adulthood.

Join Providence Alaska Foundation, Alaska CARES and Alaska Children’s Trust for a free screening of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” a documentary that chronicles the movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge neuroscience to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.

The free screening will take place Thursday, August 10 at 49th State Brewery Heritage Theatre at 717 W. 3rd Ave. in Anchorage. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the screening begins at 6 p.m. A panel discussion will follow.

Please RSVP to 907-212-2554 by August 3.

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Alaska CARES: Coming Together to Help Kids Heal After Abuse

By Bryant Skinner, Alaska CARES Manager

Bryant Skinner head shot

Bryant Skinner, Alaska CARES

According to the Child Welfare League of America, Alaska consistently has one of the top five rates of child abuse in the United States. In Alaska last year, at least 8,000 children were physically or sexually abused, and this represents only reported cases[i].

Adverse childhood experiences like these cause toxic levels of stress that can strain and weaken children’s health and development, and can lead to lifelong social, emotional and cognitive impairments. Often these impairments result in the adoption of high-risk behaviors, disease, disability and social problems. In fact, children experiencing trauma are 49 percent more likely as adults to be unemployed and 92 percent more likely to earn less than $20,000 annually. Child trauma contributes to 60 percent experiencing frequent mental distress into adulthood. Additionally, the impacts of repeated adverse experiences can even lead to early death.

The statistics are grim, but we don’t have to let our children become statistics. Studies show that doing just two simple things can help children grow and thrive:

  1. First, we can invest in primary prevention models that reduce children’s exposure to trauma, or sustained, severe adversity.
  2. Second, we can support early intervention that helps children heal when traumas are experienced, and support children developing resiliency through positive, healthy, supportive relationships.

Alaska CARES is one program that specializes in the second strategy. Alaska CARES is a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), a comprehensive, child-centered program based in a facility where victim-advocate, law enforcement, child protection, tribal health, forensic medicine, and mental health professionals are co-located and work together in cases of child abuse.

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In the old model of care, kids making a report of harm would have to go to several adult-centered locations to tell their story over and over, which was counterproductive to the child’s healing. The benefit of the CAC model is that it brings all those services together under one roof in a secure environment, designed for the privacy and dignity of young patients. Together, the multi-disciplinary team at Alaska CARES makes sure children feel safe and supported as they come forward to courageously tell their story.

One such child, we’ll call her Kimi, literally illustrates the healing power of early intervention.

Kimi was just 8 years old when she was the victim of sexual abuse by her neighbor. At the time she experienced the abuse she knew something was wrong and worked up the courage to tell the perpetrator “NO,” and then left the room. But her little sister was left with the offender. She found the courage to tell someone about the abuse and an appointment was set for her to be evaluated at Alaska CARES.

angerIt was determined during her visit that seeing a mental health therapist at Alaska CARES would be essential to starting the healing process. The first picture Kimi created (right) was completed during the first two weeks of her therapy. “Anger, Hurt, Sad, Guilt, Nervous, Scared” were the words Kimi used for this painting. She used all of the colors that she didn’t like as she began to process the trauma she experienced. 

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“Guilt” was how Kimi described her painting after six months of therapy (left). Yet, her therapist noted that she was much more present in her session and no longer withdrawn! Although these colors look dark, they were colors that she actually liked and she placed an X to represent “Danger” or “Do not enter,” similar to a poison bottle. She labeled this drawing “Guilt,” which was significant in her progress toward being able to identify and resolve the more specific emotion relating to leaving her sister behind with the abuser.

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After one year of care at Alaska CARES, “Peace” was what Kimi called this painting (right). Kimi, her sister and her family were able to work through many emotions and develop tools to manage their feelings and build resiliency. Because Kimi was brave and disclosed the incident, her offender was held accountable for his actions. The care she received in her healing journey helped change the trajectory of Kimi’s life, her sister’s life and the health and resiliency of their entire family.

The issue of child abuse is a moral, social and human issue that impacts our entire community. The earlier the intervention, the better the intervention, and the more likely it is that we can help kids like Kimi as they grow up into adulthood. Alaska CARES demonstrates what is possible when professionals, community members and government agencies work together to support children.

If you would like more information about Alaska CARES, or if you know someone who might be helped by the services of Alaska CARES, visit their website.

[i] http://alaska.providence.org/locations/c/cares/abusefacts

Program Offers Safety Net to Families in Crisis

By Charity Carmody, Board President, Beacon Hill

By ensuring parents retain full legal and parental rights, this program allows families to reach out for help without fear.

beacon-hill-pic-stone-familyWe believe a large percentage of child abuse is preventable. There is something we can do. According to both national and state statistics, reports of neglect are far more prevalent than physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Neglect makes up 60 percent or more of all reports of harm. Neglect often occurs when parents are in crisis due to homelessness, unemployment, addiction, and most prevalent – social isolation.

By and large, social isolation is the primary cause of child maltreatment. Most of us have someone to call if we need help or are at a breaking point. Unfortunately, many families do not have that support and will resort to placing their children with people they do not know well, leaving them alone, or simply not tending to their needs the way they should. At Beacon Hill, we propose to prevent child abuse by creating a safety net for families in crisis before abuse begins.

Beacon Hill, a current recipient of an Alaska Children’s Trust community-based child abuse and neglect prevention grant, launched this safety net in the form of Safe Families for Children Alaska in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. Nationally, Safe Families for Children operates in over 75 locations and is in many other countries. Our first volunteers began hosting children in crisis in January of 2016. Since then, Safe Families for Children Alaska has hosted 13 children. These children did not have to go into foster care as a result of being placed with Safe Families.

Safe Families for Children is community-based and volunteer driven. Upon a parent’s call to our helpline the family goes through an intake process to determine if Safe Families is right for their situation. If Safe Families is an appropriate service, the family is matched with a fully trained and certified “host family” in their community.

Prior to being approved to serve, host families undergo all of the state-mandated background checks, training, and receive a home assessment. The decision to place is entirely voluntary on the part of the child’s family.

A trademark of Safe Families is that the parents retain full legal and parental rights throughout the entire placement process. This voluntary nature is key for the success of Safe Families for Children. It first and foremost decreases the likelihood of perpetuated abuse, often seen in the foster care system. Also, by eliminating the parents’ fear of losing their children, it gives the parents a chance to build a trust relationship with the host family, which often grows into a lasting friendship.

As opposed to foster care, Safe Families is intended to prevent abuse or neglect. By dividing a family in crisis, more harm than help can often result. The families supported by the Safe Families program have no current involvement with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS), nor have their problems risen to the level that would require OCS involvement.

Since these families retain full legal parental rights at all times, Safe Families cannot be viewed through the same lens as foster care. At its most basic level, Safe Families creates the type of relationships that naturally exist in families and communities. Safe Families provides these same relationships for individuals and families who lack the strong, stable communities most of us take for granted.

Finally there is a way for families to ask for help and not feel shame. Finally we can give a family a safety net created by their neighbors and not the government. Finally Alaska has a way to prevent child abuse by helping the parents as well as the children. charity-blue-standing

It’s time to change the way we structure our communities and keep our children safe. To get involved, go to www.beaconhillak.com.

Charity Carmody is the president of Beacon Hill. A local business owner, she first became a foster parent in 1997.