Local group brings attention to Blue Sunday

By Kaytlyn L. Sheldon

Special to the Herald Review

Five children a day die from abuse, with 80 percent of them younger than four years old.

Child abuse is a major problem. In fact, a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the U.S. alone, according to Childhelp.org.

Abuse robs children of the opportunity to develop healthy, trusting relationships with adults, contributes to low self-esteem, and impairs healthy psychosocial development. The effects of childhood abuse often last a lifetime.

Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crimes.

Thirty percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing this horrible cycle of abuse.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. All across Michigan, efforts are being made to raise awareness about the impact of child abuse and neglect.

The Meceola Children’s Council (MOCC) has joined the statewide effort in helping local children as well as promoting awareness in Mecosta and Osceola counties.

In observance o Child Abuse Prevention Month, the MOCC is encouraging the community to participate in the Blue Sunday initiative.

National Blue Sunday began over 15 years ago when 20 places of worship took time during their worship services on the last Sunday of April to pray for the victims of child abuse. They also prayed for those who serve and protect these children. This international effort has grown to include more than 2 million participants.

Blue Sunday will take place this Sunday, April 29, 2012.

“We encourage all faith based communities to get involved within their own originations and participate,” said Andi Strickler, director of the Meceola Children’s Council.

The event is named after the blue ‘memorial ribbons’ displayed on doors and worn on lapels in remembrance of the victims of child abuse and to show support for local prevention efforts.

The story of the blue ribbon began in 1989, when a Virginia grandmother received the devastating news that her grandson had died of injuries inflicted by his parents. In an expression of grief and outrage, this grandmother did something that has given us a symbol. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van as a way to remember “the bruised and battered body of her grandson” and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse.

National Blue Sunday organizers challenge participants to pray, educate themselves, and volunteer for the children of our nation until black and blue are just colors in their crayon box.

In addition to participating in your church’s Blue Sunday service, you can help end child abuse by remembering the risk factors, recognizing the warning signs, raising the issue, and reaching out.

Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and all levels of education. Risk factors are greater for parents with economic difficulties, who are isolated from their families or communities, and have little experience with children. These parents may often experience physical or mental health issues, difficulty controlling anger or stress, unrealistic expectations, as well as abuse alcohol or drugs.

A child’s behavior may signal abuse or neglect long before any change in physical appearance. Some of the signs may include: nervousness around adults, aggression toward adults/other children, inability to stay awake or to concentrate for extended periods, sudden and dramatic changes in personality or activities, knowledge about sex that is unusual for the child’s stage of development, frequent/unexplained bruises or injuries, as well as poor hygiene or dress that is inappropriate for the weather.

By educating yourself and others, you can help your community prevent child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place.

Anything you do to support kids and parents can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse and neglect. You can be a friend to a parent or child you know. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear.

You can volunteer your time and money for programs in your church and community that support children and families. Donating used clothing, furniture, or toys helps as well.

“The biggest thing we want to convey is the awareness of the MOCC and the work of Agencies in our area to prevent and mentor families,” added Strickler.

Remember, children are helpless, but we are not. Together we can make a difference. If everyone did a little we would see BIG results for children.

To become a member of the Meceola Children’s Council, you can attend the monthly meetings at 9 a.m. the second Friday of every month at the 911 Call Center in Paris.