For the past few years I’ve served as a volunteer board member for the Kawartha Haliburton Children’s Aid Society. It’s been a great opportunity to fully understand the wonderful work this agency does to support vulnerable children and youth. I’ve also developed a greater appreciation for the complexity of child and welfare services through this experience.
October is recognized by Children’s Aid Societies across the province as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The message being conveyed is that each of us can play a vital role in speaking up for kids in order to keep them safe and well-cared for.
Unfortunately, many people worry that their call to Children’s Aid will lead to splitting up a family. During the month of October, Children’s Aid Society’s in Ontario will be raising awareness about how a call to a Society leads to an offer of help that can make all of the difference to children, youth and families.
Ontario’s leading research study on child abuse and neglect shows that children remained with their families in 97% of CAS investigations, a statistic that comes as a surprise to many people (Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect — 2013). The work at Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society and CASs throughout the province is often focused on in-home, early intervention services, based on the recognition that early intervention can reduce the need for more intrusive services later. Early intervention services offered by Children’s Aid can include counselling, parenting programs and substance abuse treatment. A call from a concerned individual can also lead to a family being referred to community service partners whose supports and services can be invaluable to mitigating risks to children.
Last year, over 165,000 Ontarians reached out to Children’s Aid Societies with a child protection concern, with teachers and police making the most referrals. The Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society received 4,808 calls about children last year, conducted 1778 child maltreatment investigations and provided services to 6,118 children in the counties of Haliburton, City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough. The recent inquests into the tragic deaths of Jeffrey Baldwin and Katelynn Sampson revealed that there is still a lack of awareness among professionals and community members about their “duty to report” safety concerns to Children’s Aid Societies, as described by Section 72 of the Child and Family Services Act. The Child Abuse Prevention Month campaign strives to provide information and education in this area.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is symbolized by the purple ribbon. This year, CASs across the province are encouraging everyone to wear something purple on October 19th for GO PURPLE DAY or to wear a purple ribbon during the month of October to help raise awareness about how it takes a community working together to prevent child abuse. The provincial hashtag for the campaign is #iBREAKthesilence. This year boards of education and schools across the province are joining the GO PURPLE DAY initiative by dressing in purple and participating in various “iBREAKthesilence” activities.
So a shout out to the team at the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society for all of the great work you do. The safety of children is everyone’s concern. When families thrive, communities thrive.