OPED: Join our mission to protect children
T.S. Elliott famously described April as the cruelest month. For child victims of abuse and neglect, that description is only partially apt. This month, PA Family Support Alliance marks the national observance of Child Abuse Prevention by planting 4,416 blue ribbon flags near our State Capitol in Harrisburg. Each one represents a child in PA harmed by abuse. We add 46 black flags to this year’s display, the equivalent of two classrooms of children lost forever to the cruel senselessness and violence of abuse.
But we cannot allow our anger or grief over child abuse to metastasize into paralysis. Instead, we encourage you to join us in our mission to protect children. Here are some simple steps you can take: Wear blue clothing or a blue ribbon in April and shine a blue light in your homes and businesses. These small acts honor child victims and help to cast out darkness and bring a beacon of light to children living in the shadows of our society.
Yes, our April demonstrations reflect the cruelty of abuse but they also awaken the call to action for each of us to become vigilant in protecting children. In fact, we draw strength from the examples set by our 2018 PA Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids Award winners whom we honor in April. They are professionals working in the field of child welfare, volunteers enriching children’s lives in their communities, and one journalist who exposes weaknesses in our safety net for children.
Chester County Deputy District Attorney Megan King prosecutes those who would harm children, including the very people who should be protecting them — their family members. Nurse Jen Spry of Philadelphia was a victim of child sex trafficking. Now, she teaches teens how to protect themselves from abusers and online predators.
Darryl Gibbs of Ephrata lost his daughter to Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of a former caregiver. He turned his sorrow into advocacy to raise awareness of prevention to save more babies. Joyce Seitz of York has volunteered for 17 years to help parents in her community who sometimes just need someone to listen to them during stressful times raising children. And reporter Jo Ciavaglia in Bucks County is relentless in covering the shortcomings in our child welfare system and seeking solutions that will better protect our children.
These are just five of the individuals in this commonwealth who heed the call to stand up for kids. They bring voice to the voiceless and they are to be commended.
But the reality is that the heart of a champion for children beats in each of us. Listen to it. Observe our billboards across the state this month with the message, “Learn How to #ProtectPAKids.” Allow April to awaken your kindness for children. We can help you. Visit pa-fsa.org or call us at (800) 448-4906. Because every child needs a champion.
— Angela Liddle is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.