Group’s message: Prevent child abuse

Published 10:45 am Friday, April 9, 2010

What can you do to prevent child abuse in your family?

Preventing child abuse starts with your own family.

Help your child feel loved and secure. Make sure your child knows you love him or her. Encourage your child instead of criticizing. Spend time with your child.

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Learn to manage your anger. Instead of lashing out at your child, figure out why you’re really angry. Try to calm down. Take deep breaths or count to 10. Talk to someone, get counseling, take a parenting class and/or accept help.

What about in the community?

Know the warning signs of abuse and report it.

Be a nurturing parent. Learn positive skills and know when and where to get help if you need it.

Reach out to your neighbors. Preventing abuse can be as simple as being a good neighbor.

Take part in prevention efforts. Learn about child abuse prevention programs in your community and volunteer your time, make a donation, become an advocate, help raise awareness or join a coalition to prevent child abuse.

Work to build a strong community that supports children and families.

Protect your child from abuse. Teach your child how to protect themselves from harm.

— Information from the Helping Us Grow Safely Council

With a goal of prevention in mind, city and county leaders, law enforcement, emergency personnel and other community members united Thursday morning at The Children’s Center to proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

During a short program outside the center, Barb Sorum, co-chairwoman of the Help Us Grow Safely Council — which is also known as the Freeborn County Child Abuse Prevention Council — encouraged the community to get involved and support families throughout the county.

“All parents, we all need support at one time or another,” Sorum said. “Or we just run into situations that we don’t know what to do.”

She said oftentimes, when people hear about a report of abuse or neglect, they have feelings of sadness and anger or wish to put the blame on another.

Instead, people should start thinking about what they can do as a community to prevent this from happening, she added. They should listen to those in need and help families find support systems in the community.

Sorum said most parents are just one step away from having a crisis with their children.

Community members need to get involved, contact the United Way to find out how to help or get involved with the Hugs Council, which is Freeborn County’s Child Abuse Prevention Council. Help is also available through other agencies such as Circle of Parents, the Crime Victims Crisis Center, Freeborn County Public Health and the Parenting Resource Center, to name a few.

“Children are our future,” Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels said. “They’re our community’s future, and it’s important to keep them safe.”

He said when people see a parent who is in trouble — and there are signs — they should refer them to agencies in the community that can help them.

The Hugs Council has a list of more than 50 local and state agencies that can assist families. Other information about where to go to for help is also available this month at Northbridge Mall in a display case at the former Hallmark store.

To make their support of child abuse prevention official, Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh, Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig and youngster Joey Maiden signed a proclamation in front of the crowd, which also included children from the different locations of The Children’s Center.

After the proclamation was read and signed, the children tied blue ribbons — which signify child abuse prevention — onto emergency vehicles with the help of the police officers, EMTs and firefighters.

Sorum said Freeborn County was recently recognized as a blue ribbon county for its efforts in child abuse prevention.

“This is all of us working hard to do what we do in prevention,” she said.

For more information about the Help Us Grow Safely Council, contact 377-7665 or