We must change it!

Recently I learned this heartbreaking 2012 statistic: 47% of Alaska children with substantiated reports of harm were under the age of 6. These are our youngest and most vulnerable precious children.

More than a million children in America experience child maltreatment each year – Alaska has among the highest per capita rates of child abuse and neglect in the country.

Since 1983, April has been National Child Abuse Prevention Month – an opportunity to shine a much-needed spotlight on the continuing tragedy of child abuse and neglect, to promote efforts to stop it and prevent it from occurring at all. For the second year running, we’re joining with Alaska Children’s Trust, thread, and others to highlight simple activities that help strengthen families and promote the support available for stressed parents. The Alaska Parent Line (800) 643-KIDS (5439) is open from 9 am to 9 pm daily. You can also download these helpful tip sheets.

Communities can show their support through Go Blue Day on April 4 and Strengthening Families Alaska Style posters.

Words Count, our big parent engagement initiative this year, contributes to healthier families by promoting easy things to do every day that strengthen the bonds of parents and children.

Throughout April, we’ll be introducing new Words Count activities, such as Facebook photo contests, placemats for children, and more. Watch your newsfeed or check out our Facebook page for details.

A new event this year is Honoring Our Children, a statewide day of celebration April 26. This call to action was issued by the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) and is a grassroots initiative that welcomes participation by all communities so long as children are at the center.

While none of these efforts in and of itself can solve the problem of child abuse and neglect, each can contribute to the solution. Ultimately, we are responsible to make sure our children are loved, nurtured, and prepared to take the next steps in their growth and development. Together – parents, extended families, communities – we must change that terrible statistic.