April marks Child Abuse Prevention Month

A raindrop appears on the cheek of one of the wooden kids on the Garfield County Court House lawn last year. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Oklahoma State Department of Health, along with its community partners, is working to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring great childhoods for all Oklahoma children.

Organizations across the state are working together to host events demonstrating their commitment to preventing child abuse.

Thousands of Oklahoma children suffer abuse and neglect each year. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Human Services, there were 15,951 substantiated child abuse and neglect victims in Oklahoma, an increase from last year.

Sherie Trice, community child abuse prevention grant coordinator with the OSDH, said the statistics serve as a reminder that every possible effort should be made in preventing child abuse in Oklahoma.

“We encourage every citizen to ‘do one thing’ when it comes to protecting children and strengthening families,” said Trice. “Even small gestures like being kind and supportive to parents challenged in public and/or assisting parents by offering help such as reading a book to a child in the waiting room or providing an extra set of hands at the supermarket and also offering respite before families experience crisis. These efforts are instrumental in helping families reduce stress and just make life a little easier.”

Last year in Garfield County, 332 children were confirmed as abused or neglected, an increase of 86 from the previous year.

At 5 p.m. Monday, the Garfield County Child Advocacy Council will have a ceremony on the courthouse lawn as part of its Wooden Children Project.

Members of the community and local organizations and businesses have adopted wooden children that represent the 332 children that were abused or neglected in the county last year. Those who adopted the children dressed and displayed them a month prior to being placed on the courthouse lawn for the duration of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

There are other events and activities across the state to support National Child Abuse Prevention Month:

• Build a Blue Ribbon Tree for Kids Campaign: Trees in communities across the state are decorated with blue ribbons to bring awareness to child abuse prevention. For more information, visit this link: https://go.usa.gov/xEG4U

• Happiest Day Coloring Challenge: Children are encouraged to simply draw or color their “happiest day.” Children may work individually or in a group with family or as a class. Parents and teachers are encouraged to share these pictures on social media using #PictureABrighterFuture or #OKDo1Thing. For more information, visit this link: https://go.usa.gov/xEG4E

• Wear Blue Selfie Day: Friday, April 5 is designated as the day to wear blue to help promote and strengthen child abuse prevention efforts in communities. Share your best selfie with others and ask co-workers to join. Post the picture on social media using #OKWearsBlue.

• Child Abuse Prevention Awards of Excellence Ceremony: Honoring excellence in prevention, Tuesday, April 9, at 11 a.m. in the Oklahoma Judicial Center Great Room.

• 26th Oklahoma Child Abuse and Neglect Conference: The OSDH Family and Prevention Services are co-sponsoring a prevention track. Visit this link for more information: https://www.ouhsc.edu/okcantraining/Annual-Conference

• Skydance Bridge Lights Up for Child Abuse Prevention Event: Everyone participating in April prevention activities will gather at the bridge to close out April on Tuesday, April 30, at 6 p.m. with a group photo.

For additional information about child abuse prevention, or how to get involved with other activities in your community, contact a local county health department or Trice at (405) 271-7611.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains. He can be reached at crains@enidnews.com.

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