April 1st marks the start of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month is a time to recognize that we all have a role in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in our communities. The Illinois Blue Bow Committee, run by Children’s Home & Aid and a partnership of social and community service organizations, has annually hosted dozens of events throughout the month of April—the Nation’s Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since 1989, the National Blue Bow Campaign has existed to raise awareness of child abuse and prevention.

Year after year, the Blue Bow Committee and our partners have worked tirelessly to raise awareness. One largely impactful member of this committee is Tracey Steele, Cook County Sheriff’s Office Special Projects Coordinator, who has also been a Blue Bow Committee Member for nearly 15 years.

“Tracey has been a wonderful inspiration to me and for the whole Blue Bow effort for years now,” says Earl Kloppmann, Children’s Home & Aid Program Manager of Parents Care & Share. He leads the Blue Bow Campaign each April and believes we can always do more to raise awareness. “The Blue Bow Campaign is incredibly important because the public may not know how serious of a problem child abuse and neglect is in Illinois. At Parents Care & Share, we work hard to let parents and caregivers know they are not alone. We do everything we can at Children’s Home & Aid to ensure every child and every family are thriving,” Earl continued.

Tracey represents the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, but much of the work she does is on her own time as a private citizen. Tracey first became involved with Blue Bow and Children’s Home & Aid in 2006 when Tom Dart was first appointed as the new Cook County Sheriff. She worked in the Executive Office when Sheriff Dart asked Tracey take over the Special Project’s Office. As soon as Tracey began attending Children’s Home & Aid’s Blue Bow meetings, she became extremely passionate about it and wanted to know what she could do to contribute even more. “It’s about sharing positivity and volunteer opportunities within the community,” Tracey explains.

When it comes to raising awareness and telling others about the Blue Bow Campaign, Tracey does everything from passing out flyers, to tying blue bows on trees in her community, sharing information on social media, and even has gone skydiving, bungee jumping & wing-walking to raise awareness!  She is an adventurer that believes in cross-promotion!

Tracey truly understands the message of this campaign – supporting families through resources and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect. “It’s about letting parents know they are not alone, parents often feel very isolated,” Tracey shares.

When it comes to passing on the message of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Tracey says it can be simple to inform others and get them involved, whether it’s at a local event, a church, or in the workplace.

“People may not fully realize the scope of how many people can know this information – we all have connections whether who may want to help and can do something,” Tracey added.

Although tackling the problem of child abuse and neglect can seem intimidating, Tracey says everyone can do their part by keeping others informed and motivated. “Everyone can be an catalyst  of change. You don’t need to be in the child welfare field to help, we can all do something to play our part and be advocates,” Tracey reassured.  She believes a global approach is key and easily share the message with your local habitats and to every person you know. “Many people have very wide spectrum of participation it’s always worth it to ask.  Each person can be a conduit of care,” Tracy continued.

Children’s Home & Aid works to strengthen families, some of them stretched to the breaking point, and provides coaching and guidance to parents who had little family support themselves but want to do better by their own children. Programs such as doula and home visiting and Parents Care & Share parenting support groups shore up families, reducing the risk of abuse and neglect.   Parents Care & Share support groups, many of which are facilitated by a parent with support from Children’s Home & Aid staff, provide  a place to take a break from the hard job of parenting, to feel safe to talk about painful issues, to laugh over mistakes, and to learn from—and give support to—other parents.

Although we will not be able to hold the usual Blue Bow events this year, our work still continues to promote awareness of child abuse prevention through social media!  We encourage everyone to follow, reshare, and tag us in your own Blue Bow posts throughout April!