This month as we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Blue Bow Campaign, we’re highlighting a handful of sponsors and committee members to learn what the month means to them and why it’s so crucial.

We recently heard from Lesley Schwartz, LCSW – Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Project Director at the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development for her thoughts on this very important month:

Why is Child Abuse Prevention Month so important? Why is it so meaningful to you? 

Child Abuse Prevention month is important because it brings the issue of child abuse and more importantly how to prevent it to the public. Child Abuse Prevention month is important to me because as a former home visitor and current administrator of home visiting programs, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the impact that prevention can play in changing the life trajectory of children and families. Home visiting is a parent support program with a strong evidence base for promoting positive outcomes for families. It is recognized as a leading strategy for the prevention of child abuse.

What is your approach to preventing child abuse? How are you helping to prevent it? 

As the State Administrator for The Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Program (MIECHV), my approach to preventing child abuse is to do my best to support Home Visiting Professionals who are truly on the front lines of preventing abuse to the very youngest infant and toddlers in our state.  If I can make decisions that makes their jobs easier and gives them the attention, credit resources they deserve then I believe I am doing my part. Home visiting is rooted in prevention, working with families before babies are born is at the pinnacle of prevention. Home Visitors support families to bring their new babies into loving homes and with secure attachments setting the stage for healthy lives free of abuse and neglect.

What trends/changes have you seen regarding child abuse over the years? What is making a difference in moving the needle? 

A positive trend that I have seen regarding child abuse over the years is the increased attention to the effectiveness of home visiting as in intervention for reducing child abuse and neglect. Home visiting has seen increased interest both nationally with the MIECHV grant and in the state with Governor Pritzker’s commitment to increase home visiting slots over the next five years. It is the expertise of home visiting professionals and their relationships with families that is making the difference in moving the needle. Home visiting program have been shown to support healthy child development, school readiness, family self-sufficiency and positive parenting practices. All of this contributes to the reduction of abuse and neglect.

What do you want people to know about preventing child abuse? 

Child abuse is a complicated issue expounded by factors such as poverty, addictions, and mental health issues but prevention programs like home visiting have proven time and time again that they work in stopping the cycle of abuse.

How can others help make a difference? 

Support local organizations that provide support to families in your community.

What do you do to recognize the month? What does the blue bow mean to you? 

I have a blue bow pin that I get out every year and wear throughout the month. As a former Children’s Home & Aid employee, Blue Bow and the events that occur throughout the month bring back memories and feelings of community, hope, and togetherness.

About 700 families statewide participate in Children’s Home & Aid’s Home Visiting Program. Thank you to advocates like Lesley who continue spreading the word about the importance of home visiting and child abuse prevention.