Children’s Home & Aid teams understand that being a parent is one of the toughest jobs there is. Our parenting support groups, such as Parents Care & Share, provide a setting to take a break, to feel safe to talk about painful issues, to laugh over our mistakes, and to learn from others.
As Children’s Home & Aid takes the time to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is important to remember this year’s theme, “Thriving Children and Families: Prevention with Purpose” as it aligns with our renewed commitment to centering families and providing the support to heal.
Ernestine Brown, Parents Care & Share Regional Coordinator, has worked with and supported parents in need for years – and applies this year’s theme of prevention to her work every day.
“Who better than us to spearhead a child abuse prevention campaign?” said Ernestine. “After all, Parents Care & Share is a child abuse prevention program that focus on aiding parents before issues become larger social problems.”
Ernestine works with about 25 different groups through Parents Care & Share. These groups can range from supporting expectant parents, providing resources for foster parents and grandparents raising grandchildren, as well as father-focused parenting tools. Parents Care & Share staff work to match up parents with the specific groups that best fit their individual needs.
“Every parent is different,” Ernestine explained.
During these group sessions, parents are encouraged to connect with one another and share their stories. These groups stress the importance of knowing and recognizing risk factors. Stress, financial instability, and mental health issues can affect parenting. As Ernestine said, “For a child to thrive, their parent needs to thrive.”
These groups once met weekly at various locations throughout Illinois, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Parents Care & Share began operating virtually. Ernestine shared that during the pandemic, the focus sharpened on mental health issues as parents have reached out to express feelings of isolation and other worries.
Ernestine and her team also stressed the realization that children have fewer eyes on them during the pandemic, making them more vulnerable to neglect or abuse.
Now more than ever, there is the need to address child abuse and its root causes. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, child abuse cases are on the rise.
Public health emergencies can increase the risk for child abuse and neglect due to increased stressors, such as a lack of financial and social supports. According to the Washington Post, child abuse hotline calls severely decreased during the pandemic compared to 2019, due to children not being in school. There was also an increase in hospitalizations – many of the cases that are surfacing often involve children with more severe injuries.
“As Children’s Home & Aid employees, we are mandated reporters, but I want every person to feel like they are a mandated reporter as well. If you see something, speak up.” – Ernestine Brown, Parents Care & Share Regional Coordinator
If you are interested in joining a Children’s Home & Aid parenting or counseling program, visit: https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/parenting/
To learn more about National Child Abuse Prevention Month, our Blue Bow Campaign, events, and more, visit: childrenshomeandaid.org/bluebow/