February = the month of love. June = the month of summer fun. December = the month of Christmas.
We have plenty of time throughout the year to celebrate the happy stuff. Birthdays, holidays, changing seasons… but every now and then we have days/months designated to bringing awareness to less than happy stuff. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), Autism Awareness Day (4/2), Memorial Day (5/27), etc.
This April is one of those months in my town. It’s time for Go Blue Lubbock.
Go Blue Lubbock is a community-wide project and collaboration to promote child abuse awareness and prevention throughout the month. Our community is consistently plagued with some of the highest child abuse and neglect rates in the state. More awful things are happening here to OUR CHILDREN than other, bigger, places throughout the state. So all month long we encourage others to wear blue in support.
But it’s not just about us. Yes, this is Go Blue Lubbock. But child abuse and neglect is a rampant problem throughout the country that needs to be addressed. I could go on and on about statistics and data, but I won’t. You can search that info yourself with a few clicks.
I’ve worked and volunteered in this field for several years and, while I’m not the most educated or experienced on the issues, I’ve learned so much that inspires me to keep hustling every day.
Let’s talk briefly about some myths:
It’s NOT all physical and/or sexual abuse - It’s easy to picture the bruises or physical trauma when thinking about child abuse and why CPS would get involved. However, the super majority of these incidents are related to neglect … not physical or sexual abuse. It’s not always something you can see just by looking.
It’s NOT stranger danger - The majority of these children are abused or neglected by a parent, caretaker, or someone they know. There’s a huge misconception with sex trafficking (a rapidly growing issue) that strangers or scary predators from other countries are kidnapping children. But it’s not true! It’s not strangers hurting our kids. It’s people they know. People they trust.
The parents are evil - I thought this would be the hardest thing to deal with being in this sector. I just knew I could never advocate for a parent who has abused or neglected their child to EVER get them back. (Never say never, right?) But the truth is not all parents are evil. Some are victims themselves. Some don’t have the skills to parent properly. Some… just need help.
This is a hard topic, I get it. It’s sad, heartbreaking, and more complex than I ever imagined. It’s not just a matter of spreading awareness and saying “HEY! WE HAVE A PROBLEM! STOP ABUSING YOUR KIDS! SPEAK UP IF YOU SEE SOMETHING! WEAR BLUE FOR AWARENESS!” Because the sad truth is the foster care system is just one of many broken systems in our community doing their best to help these kids and their families. Children and families whose lives are in the hands of numerous, temporary strangers who each have their own baggage and agendas that may or may not be put aside to do what’s best.
I believe it’s going to take:
More foster homes and less shelters - kids need to experience a family not a shelter
Parenting education resources - I heard a quote once that said something like “People who don’t understand how child abuse can happen have obviously never had children.” Once I became a parent, I totally understood. It’s HARD! We could all benefit from Parenting 101. But this is especially important if someone was raised in a bad environment without realizing it and passes on the bad parenting decisions with their own children.
Increased compensation and hiring rates for social workers and nonprofit workers
Proper sexual health education for youth and young adults - non-abstinence based. Let’s be clear on that.
Easily accessible mental health services
Improved drug and alcohol rehabilitation and education efforts - cocaine, meth, etc… marijuana isn’t usually the problem here, friends.
Quality GED/primary education programs
Better laws to protect the victims
COLLABORATION COLLABORATION COLLABORATION - This is already happening and that’s incredible. But it’s truly going to take everyone to make an impact. Social workers, politicians and lawmakers, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, concerned citizens, attorneys, therapists, teachers, doctors… so many people touch children’s lives every day and MUST be part of the conversation to make a difference.
Honest conversation - We have to take the time to talk to our kids about the little stuff, so if they ever need to, they’re willing to talk about the big stuff. We have to be willing to check our egos at the door and recognize where we’re failing the children in our community so we can truly fight to fix the problems.
As you can see, it's not an easy fix. So I challenge everyone this month to do something to get involved. Get educated, volunteer, contact your elected officials, wear blue… whatever you can do, do it. Spend this month forcing yourself to wade through the heartbreaking and uncomfortable to make a difference. Be intentional with telling our children that we’re here and we love them.