All I have ever wanted to do is help people, especially children. I very clearly remember the day when I was getting ready to go to college that my dad turned to me and said, “Please don’t be a social worker. They have an incredibly thankless job and don’t get paid very well.”
So of course, I went to college and promptly got my Master’s in Social Work. My first real social work job was in child welfare. Those social workers that you see in the movies and on television that clearly are overworked and under paid? That is a child welfare worker. During that time, I was exposed to the worst that humanity has to offer. The awful things that we as adults can do to our most vulnerable little people is heartbreaking. And let me tell you it never gets easier to hear the stories of horrors of child abuse.
I hear on a regular basis “I don’t know how you do your job.” Or “your job is so hard.” What is it that Dr. Seuss says? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better.” I care a whole awful lot about children and families, and while being a social worker can be challenging, if I can make even the smallest difference, if I can make the world a little brighter for even just one child then my time on this planet will have been worth it.
We all want to make a difference in the life of a child, but becoming a social worker is not in the cards for everyone (believe me my days working in foster care were numbered). That is exactly what Child Abuse Prevention Month is all about. April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Kansas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America outlines three simple actions that anyone can take to play a part in preventing child abuse.
Mentor a child or parent.
As a new parent, there were countless times that I turned to friends and family for support and advice. Unfortunately, not all new parents have a positive support system to provide words of encouragement or support. Can you imagine not having a village to turn to? If you have a desire to get involved in mentoring talk with your faith community or other local organizations such as KCSL, Treehouse, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to name a few about how you can volunteer.
Advocate for policies that support children and families.
Advocacy can often seem very intimidating, but it really doesn’t need to be. If you have ever taken to social media to share information on an issue that is important to you, you are an advocate. Other ways to advocate for issues that benefit children and families are; write a letter to the editor, attend a town hall meeting and share your opinion, or write your local elected official and let them know what policies and programs you support. Our policy makers want to hear about what is important to their constituents so it is vital that we as adults advocate for programs that will support healthy development for children because if we don’t who will?
Donate time or money to children-serving organizations.
Obviously providing programming to support families can be costly, so making a monetary donation if you have the ability would be welcomed by any organization, but money is not the only way to make a meaningful donation. Volunteering and giving of your time can be just as vital to an organization. Consider volunteering for a program, joining a child friendly organizations board, or getting involved on a committee. Here’s a list of great agencies right here in Wichita serving our families.
We can all play a part in preventing child abuse and neglect in our community and these are just a few of the ways to get involved, but if you ever suspect abuse or neglect the most important thing that you can do is report it. Reporting abuse may feel incredibly uncomfortable, but you may be the only person stepping in to keep that child safe. To report abuse or neglect contact your local law enforcement or if you live in the state of Kansas call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 1-800-922-5330.
Our children are our vulnerable population and as Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Let’s make sure we are measuring up.