According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, there were nearly 32,000 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in the county, with more than 5,300 substantiated cases. And those are just from 2015.
To raise awareness of these alarming numbers, and to better equip professionals to help end the devastating cycle of abuse, The Raise Foundation, designated as Orange County’s child abuse prevention council, is gearing up for a month-long “Keep Kids Safe, Happy, and Healthy” campaign in April.
The campaign, organized by the foundation’s Blue Ribbon Task Force to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention Month, begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 2 with the Clinic in the Park Blue Ribbon Family Fun Day at the Orange County Great Park.
A few days later, on Wednesday, April 5, the foundation will host its Blue Ribbon Kick-Off Ceremony, emceed by journalist Vikki Vargas of the NBC4 news team. That event starts at 9 a.m. in the courtyard of Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and will include a tribute to 10 local children who died in 2016 as a result of child abuse and neglect, along with the recognition of several Blue Ribbon heroes.
Meanwhile, to generate awareness, nearly 50 blue pinwheel gardens will be displayed at various county locations throughout the month, and a roaming Blue Ribbon youth art exhibit will begin its year-long journey at Kidseum in Santa Ana.
The “Keep Kids Safe, Happy, and Healthy” campaign will continue with a Blue Ribbon Family Fun Day at Manzanita Park in Anaheim, starting at 1:30 p.m. on April 22. Finally, events will conclude on April 27 with the 29th annual “Pathways to Prevention” conference, featuring a screening of the documentary “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and The Future of our Nation.”
The Raise Foundation is a collaborative nonprofit dedicated to stopping the cycle of abuse through education, advocacy and services, and it’s known for launching its annual campaigns with a central focus. This this year is no different. For 2017, the task force has chosen to spotlight foster care, particularly in light of state legislation that was signed a couple years ago to reform placement and treatment options for displaced youth.
“With the implementation of the Continuum of Care Reform and the shift away from congregate ‘group home’ care, resource families are urgently needed to serve our children,” said Blue Ribbon Task Force member Elizabeth DenBleyker, who works at the County of Orange Social Services Agency.
Other campaign focus areas will include water safety, distracted parenting, shaken-baby syndrome, the role of Family Resource Centers and Kaitlyn’s Law, which addresses child safety inside cars.
Keri Gee Semmelman, director of marketing and development for the Raise Foundation and chair of the task force, said her group is hoping to engage the entire community in a conversation about child abuse prevention, including those who aren’t necessarily parents or care providers.
“The overriding goal is to help people become even more mindful when it comes to the safety of all children,” she said, “because being a child should not hurt.”
To learn more, or to get involved in the annual campaign, visit ocblueribbon.org, or contact The Raise Foundation at 714-884-3421, Ext. 104.