Featured Journal

We can make a difference

Written by Tiffany Verzal

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about child abuse, and asked all of you to pay attention to the kids around you.  I hinted at a few things that we all can do to help stop this problem, so I want to dive in a little deeper.

When Brandon and I took the parenting class 7 long years ago, I remember them going over Shaken Baby Syndrome.  I also remember that I didn’t pay too much attention to it, because it wasn’t ever going to affect me.  Obviously I was very wrong. 

I talk about this issue, but the reality of it is that what I see and know doesn’t even skim the surface of what people like police officers, child protective service workers, social workers, doctors, and nurses see.  Honestly, most of us probably can’t comprehend what some of these children’s lives are like.  So I am not going to pretend to understand that.

What I do know is that my daughter was abused by her daycare provider and it has left her permanently disabled.  I do know that I have met way too many other children that were injured the way that she was, and that these cases continue to happen.  As far as I am concerned, any case of shaken baby syndrome is one too many.  In fact, any case of child abuse is one too many.

In the beginning of September Brandon and I met with James Hmurovich, the President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America.  They are based in Chicago, but have chapters across the United States.  This man has seen a lot in his lifetime because he is a former Deputy Commissioner for the Indiana Department of Correction and was also the Indiana State Welfare Director. 

I was lucky enough to interview him for about 30 minutes, and every second of it was fascinating to me.  But my biggest take away from the experience is that “making a difference” and “preventing child abuse” is something that all of us can do.

There is huge value in fundraising, government funding, and non-profit agencies.  To get rid of child abuse will take an army.  However, I had never appreciated the full value of what a community does to prevent child abuse.

It was a common theme throughout the interviews of all of our experts, parental stress is one of the biggest factors that leads to child abuse and neglect.  And the one thing that kept coming up over and over was how important it is to support parents, especially new parents.

New parents, especially ones without a strong support system need to have experienced people walking beside them telling them that a crying baby is normal, that it is ok to be frustrated, it’s ok to put a baby down and walk away if you are stressed.  They need to know that it is ok to not have all of the answers…and that no matter how put together some parent looks- they don’t have all of the answers either.

The great thing is that all of this is really easy.  Here’s what Prevent Child Abuse America posted on their website as ideas.

Be a friend to a parent you know. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Show you understand.

Be a friend to a child you know. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Send them a card in the mail. Show you care.

Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.

Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.

Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, such as parent support groups, child care centers, and our state chapters and local Healthy Families America sites.

How simple.  Church groups are a great place to get started with this.  Maybe your area has a crisis pregnancy center that needs some volunteers or mentors to parents.  Maybe the single parent of 3 down the street from you is on their last nerve…and you making an extra dish of lasagna is the answer to a prayer.  I encourage all of you to look into your heart, maybe there is something calling you…

 

About the author

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.