April marks the time to 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.

Maureen Blaha was the executive director of the National Runaway Safeline for 18 years, the national communications system designated by the United States federal government for runaway and homeless youth, their parents and families, and teens in crisis. In the 1990s she was director of the Parents Care & Share program at Children’s Home & Aid. Maureen also has a long history with our Blue Bow Committee – she was a co-founder of the Blue Bow Campaign along with Sue Walton back in 1994 and last year Maureen was the recipient of the Walton Blue Bow Award. Maureen shared her thoughts on this very important month:

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

It provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the problem and solutions to help end child abuse in a way that engages all sectors of society.

The month is meaningful to me as I had the opportunity along with Sue Walton, and many others, to launch a campaign that captured the heart and souls of parents, children, businesses, government officials, teachers, caregivers, policy and law makers, churches, as well as the media and others more than 25 years ago, and this campaign continues to this day. I am proud of this creative idea and honor those that keep it going.

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

Supporting and educating parents is the most important cog in the wheel to end child abuse. I am a good listener and don’t pass judgment when people share their struggles and offer support when I’m able.

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

My fear is that the rates of abuse haven’t changed dramatically, but I hope I’m wrong. The child abuse prevention month model works for other societal challenges such as a campaign to end youth homelessness practiced in Illinois and other states in November.

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

When we all work together we can impact the prevalence of child abuse. I wish for the day when all families are holistically supported in a manner that empowers them to be the nurturing parents they want to be.

How can others help make a difference?

Listen, support, don’t judge, be kind and offer a helping hand up.

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

Typically I celebrate the month by attending the Fourth Presbyterian celebration. Although not religious, I thank God and my lucky stars for the loving family that raised me. The Blue Bow symbolizes hope to me.