By ALLISON MIRIANI
Capital News Service
LANSING — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but a year-round protection effort is really the goal, Allegan County advocates say.
Chris West, the prevention education coordinator for the Allegan County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Council, said devoting a month to awareness may not accomplish all that’s intended.
“We have a lot of things every month — Alcohol Awareness month, Child Safety month É but yes, I do think it is a good thing,” West said. “How effective it is, personally I’m not sure. People see a month of this and a month of that and it may not mean as much.”
Gov. John Engler, who last year declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, said he did not intend the awareness to start and end in April.
“We’re not looking to raise awareness for one month out of the year,” Engler said. “Initiatives like Child Abuse Prevention Month help raise people’s awareness of the need for and availability of prevention services and supports that protect children and nurture families throughout the year.”
A major occurrence coinciding with the Child Abuse Prevention Month was a large donation to the Children’s Trust Fund. The CTF began in 1982 as an independent unit of state government to provide education awareness and funding of programs to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
The organization received a gift of $30,000 from Michigan Meijer stores and the Kimberly-Clark Co. Pam Posthumus, of Alto, chair of the CTF and wife of Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, accepted the donation on April 9.
“With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, this donation couldn’t have come at a more fitting time,” Posthumus said. “These funds will go to child abuse programs in local communities across the state to help more Michigan children and raise awareness about this crime.”
The Allegan County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Council is one local agency of the CTF that may benefit. It offers many presentations in pre-school and elementary schools and prepares announcements for the media to help raise awareness throughout the year.
The Michigan Children’s Charter, a partnership with the CTF, also does not do anything specific for the month, but has been working with the current legislative appropriations. Two funds provide money to help prevent abuse. There was talk about cutting these funds with the new budget, said Michael Foley, executive director of Michigan Children’s Charter.
“We have been advocating for these resources,” Foley said. “There was the possibility of severe cuts to some funding.”
Foley said the charter realized it must take an active part in state government to ensure that money would stay available for programs devoted to child abuse prevention.
“We have really worked hard with the Legislature and to create programs to help decrease the amount of child abuse and neglect,” Foley said.
In 2000, Michigan had 26,888 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect, according to Foley. There were 10,655 children living out of their home in foster care or other settings because of abuse and neglect, Foley said.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By ALLISON MIRIANI