April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

During the month of April, many groups work to bring awareness to protect children as part of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
The Sunlight Children's Advocacy Rights Foundation and the Sunlight Child Advocacy Center (CAC) are taking part in the awareness efforts through several activities they have going on throughout the month, including placing blue pinwheels in the planters downtown as a visible reminder for people, as well as blue ribbons on Main and Central in El Dorado and blue ribbons on the police and fire vehicles.
"It's so important to get word out," said Suzi Thien, SCARF executive director.
She said it's those people who are close to children who need to be on the look out for signs of abuse.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013 an estimated 679,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect and just under 80 percent of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one ore more of the victim's parents. In 2014, the CAC served more than 135 families.
The CAC is celebrating its 8th year this year and they have done more than 1,000 interviews with kids during that time.
"You can tell by the number of interviews, we're helping where they need help," Thien said. "We know it's not going away, and we just want to be able to provide the best services we can."
Among those services is the new Sunlight Children's Home. The children's home opened in October, with them reaching their 100th child in March, including several babies right from the hospital.
Thien said the kids are at the children's home short term, with the average being three to five days.
She said they get children there of all ages and all emotional states.
They bond with the staff quickly, which creates one challenge of the job because they don't know what happens to the kids once they leave there.
The Sunlight Children's Home also offers respite services for South Central Mental Health, where a child can go there for an afternoon or weekend.
SCARF and the CAC have planned a lot of activities this month to bring awareness.
They have the blue ribbon campaign going on, which they have done before but on a limited basis.
This year the program have been expanded to Elk and Greenwood counties, where they are focusing on the smaller communities.
"These smaller communities don't have as much awareness or support," said Keri McWethy, CAC coordinator. "We're trying to reach out to them."
They made personal visits to many of the towns and mailed out more than 450 packets of information promoting awareness of child abuse to all of the businesses in a three-county area. These included information on child abuse signs and affects, parenting tips, ideas for campaign participation and information on how to participate in the CAC's sticker campaign.
The stickers read "There's no excuse for child abuse" and this campaign raised money by having people pay $5 for the sticker to wear on April 10, which was Wear Blue Day. Other options for fundraising include letting employees donate to wear jeans.
Thien said businesses were coming up with their own ideas on how to participate in the fund raising.
"It is a nice fundraiser," she said, "but the biggest thing is spreading awareness."
She said they want people to be on the lookout for signs of abuse in children.
Other methods for getting the word out include a public service announcement on the Butler radio station and Campus Edge, their television station, as well as putting slides on the El Dorado and Andover city TV channels and having a table of information out at various sites.
"We're spreading our area farther than we have in the past," Thien said.
"I think it's a good starter to the community prevention program we will have started by the end of the year," McWethy said.
Anyone wanting to take part or host an activity is asked to contact SCARF at sunlightcac@scarfks.org.

Ways to support SCARF's programs:
• donate needed items to the Sunlight Child Advocacy Center or the Sunshine Children's Home. Items are listed at www.scarfks.org
• Shop and Dillon's and scan your Plus Shopper's Card. To enroll, visit www.dillons.com/communityrewards, find your location and click enroll now. Sign into your online account then find and select the SCARF organization or enter number 71388
Child abuse signs and affects
Types of abuse
• Physical – shaking, beating, burning, failure to provide necessities of life
• Emotional – failure to provide warmth, attention, supervision, normal living experiences
• Verbal – constant verbal harassment and denigration of a child/
• Sexual – any act of sexual nature upon or with a child

Signs of abuse (physical)
• Bruises, welts, swelling
• Sprains or fractures
• Burns
• Laceration or abrasions
• Frequent physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches
• Fatigue
• Bed wetting

Signs of abuse (developmental)
• Failure to thrive socially or academically
• Speech disorder
• Delayed physical development
• Attachment issues, such as discomfort with physical contact
• Lags in physical, emotional or intellectual development
• Learning disorders

Signs of abuse (behavioral)
• Behavior extremes
• Withdrawn and/or overly sensitive behaviors
• Increased fear or avoidance of a specific person/situation
• Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
• Substance abuse
• Changes in eating and sleeping patterns

Tips to prevent child abuse
• keep the focus on adult responsibility
• know your children's friends and how they spend their time
• learn the signs of abuse
• let your children know they are loved
• take an active role in children's lives
• talk to children regularly about what they are doing
• trust your instincts and report abuse
If you suspect abuse or neglect of a child, call: 1-800-922-5330