Monday, December 21, 2009

Babysitters have been a part of our culture since the advent of babies. The stereotype of the teenage girl coming over to sit with the little ones while the parents enjoy a night out has been in our mind’s eye since “Leave it to Beaver” (okay…I’m dating myself). Today’s world is no different: Parents still need a night out once in a while to “get away”. It’s healthy for them, and it’s healthy for the kids. As parents however, you need to be certain about whom you are leaving your children with. As the season for Holiday parties gets into full swing, here are some basic things to consider before ever leaving your children with anyone:

1. Unless you know everything about this person, get references.
2. Ask for recommendations from other parents who have used this person
3. Interview the person before ever leaving your child with him\her…even if they are a licensed childcare provider. You should still interview them to get their philosophy on child rearing, discipline, and whether or not they have a clear and up-to-date understanding about what to expect from young children
4. Have they ever attended a “Safe Sitter” program (or something similar)
5. Do they know CPR?
6. How much experience do they have sitting for the age group in which your children fall?
7. Have you ever noticed ANY impatient or violent tendencies toward anyone or anything?
8. Make sure and leave all emergency numbers, and reinforce that it is fine if the sitter has to use them.
9. Tell your sitter that it is not okay to have guests over while they are sitting. You do not want strangers around your child whom you have never met or interviewed.

A Book Makes A Wonderful Gift

Monday, December 14, 2009

Books make fantastic gifts for anyone, especially kids, for long winters! Picture this… a snowy day outside, a warm fire in the fireplace, fuzzy slippers, your favorite book and some hot chocolate on hand. Yummy!

Adults who read in front of children, set a wonderful example for the kids, demonstrating how important reading is. When caregivers read to or with children, they share very special times together. Healthy touches and snuggles can be exchanged when reading alongside a child. Adults can ask questions about the story, about the characters, or how the ending could be different.
Magazines make good gift ideas too! Perhaps one in their stocking or a monthly subscription would make a nice gift. Consider what type of magazine or book the child might like, their reading level, and their age when choosing.

Don’t forget books for drawing, games, and word/picture finds and puzzles. No matter what a kid is “into,” there surely is a book on it! Books can open their minds to all sorts of possibilities!
Both kids and adults reap the advantages when they make reading a priority!

Toys Are Serious Business

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shopping for toys during the holidays can be exciting and fun, but it can also be frustrating. There can be thousands of toys to choose from in one store, and it's important to choose the right toy for the right age child. Toys that are meant for older children can be dangerous for younger children.
Last year, an estimated 140,700 children were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms after toy-related incidents; 13 children died.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires toy manufacturers to meet stringent safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide. Labels on toys that state "not recommended for children under three ... contains small parts," are labeled that way because they may pose a choking hazard to children under three. Toys should be developmentally appropriate to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the child.

Toy Buying Tips:

Under three years of age:
• Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a choking danger.
• Never let children of any age play with uninflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger.
• Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children.
• Children at this age pull, prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts.
• Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Ages 3-5:
• Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges.
• Look for household art materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.
• Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.

Ages 6-12:
• For all children, adults should check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.
• If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun.
• If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it.
• Teach all children to put toys away when they're finished playing so they don't trip over them or fall on them.

Cold Weather Safety and Children

Monday, November 30, 2009

OK, I get it, as we age we may not appreciate the cold weather like kids do! Snowball fights, making snowmen (and women), snow forts, and snow angels really are a blast for children. No one can deny how beautiful that first snowfall can be! Of course, the dangers of the ice and cold, are no fun for anyone. Here are some thoughts on keeping children safe and warm during the cold weather season.

1. Adequate heat in the home and car -- There are home heating assistance programs. In Indiana, call 1-800-Children, or 211 for more information.
2. Please heed any warnings about space heaters and fireplaces in the home.
3. It’s a good idea to keep a blanket in the car, and perhaps extra clothing.
4. Warm coats, hats, gloves, boots and sweaters are all necessary. See local clothing banks in your area for free or low cost apparel.
5. Watch the weather stations! Day to day, and literally, moment to moment weather and wind chills can change!
6. Children waiting for the early morning bus could be especially at risk with the cold weather.
7. Give kids playing outside after school guidelines.
8. Remind “latchkey” kids who they can go to for help, if needed.
9. Warn and watch kids who could be playing or skating on ice or sledding near trees.
10. Preteens and Teens – This group often think it’s “not cool” to wear warm layers or coats. Shorts and flip flops are very trendy right now! Talk to your older kids. Help them choose “cool” warm clothes, that they WILL wear!

Corporal Punishment In Schools

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I read with interest an article pertaining to school corporal punishment (although using the term “corporal punishment” is really a euphemism. Let us call it what it really is…hitting). I’m fairly certain there are mixed opinions regarding this issue, but my concern is that many people in Indiana are still in favor of the use of physical punishment in schools. I would like to take this opportunity to share just some basic facts about hitting a child, especially in a school setting. Although there is much research on this topic, I will primarily focus on the most frequently perpetuated myths.

One myth states that if there was still paddling in schools, there would be fewer school shootings. In reality, according to the Center for Effective Discipline and the National School Safety Center’s Report on School Associated Violent Deaths (1992-2007), it was found that there were significantly more shooting deaths in states that still permitted corporal punishment.

The second myth is that since paddling was taken out of schools, there has been more violence against teachers. Actually, the opposite is true. The decline of paddling in the United States correlates with a decline of violence against teachers. Other proponents for paddling state that since paddling has been taken out of schools, that children have become lazier and are falling behind. The fact is that non-paddling states have higher ACT scores and higher graduation rates.

Another myth indicates that if you don’t paddle children when they misbehave, they will end-up in juvenile detention or jail. The reality is that eight of the top ten paddling states are the top ten states with the highest incarceration rates (Bureau of Juvenile Statistics). No one is suggesting that children should not be taught appropriate behaviors and consequences.

The bottom line is, there are too many other effective ways in which manage a child’s behavior without resorting to hitting. Paddling has been known to leave bruises, as well as broken bones and other injuries. I’m sure that we will receive comments such as “I was hit and I turned out okay”…well, I’m sure that’s probably true, but the same can be said for the use of car seats, seat belts, helmets, etc. Yes, many of us went without these objects as children and we survived. However, there were millions of children who did not survive, and now that we know the potential dangers of not using these items, we would never have our children go without these protective devices.

The last thought I have is: Can anyone imagine doing something at work that did not meet with your supervisor’s approval, and then having to endure the pain and embarrassment of being paddled…all of your co-workers knowing about it…maybe your clientele. Can you imagine how angry and hurt you would be at your work place? Perhaps you would not repeat the behavior that got you into trouble (or perhaps you would out of spite), but you would be responding out of fear, not out of respect for your boss, the rules, or your place of business. And really…how motivated would you be to continue making an effort in your job? This point is moot however, because if your boss were ever to strike you, he or she would be arrested. For some reason when a person crosses the magical age of 18, it becomes a crime for a caregiver to hit them…before that, all bets are off.

Hopefully Indiana will become one of the majority of states that ban hitting children in school.

The Most Wonderful Time…Maybe Not For All

Monday, November 23, 2009

The holidays are upon us. Unemployment continues to rise. More and more companies are laying off or considering closing, troops are still overseas and away from their families, and although the song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” will be echoing from ear to ear, many people are struggling.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there is a spike in depression, crime and domestic violence. The pressure of the holidays, additional financial strains, holiday travel, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, holiday parties, loss of loved ones and rest, and many other contributors can unfortunately take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. These factors cause mounting worry and extreme exhaustion for even the youngest children in the family, and may contribute to the rise in child abuse or neglect.

This should be a time that families look forward to, this time before the New Year, when gatherings are being planned, Santa Claus and the first Christmas story seems so near, but the pressure to get through all the hustle and bustle is also known to lead to many dangerous and life-threatening situations. Children are also very observant and at the very least, they feel stress and anxiety if their parents are stressed out over the abundant responsibilities this season brings.

To help ease the pressures of your holiday list of “things to do,” here are some tips to make this holiday season, a more relaxed and enjoyable one.

1. Check your own attitude. If you want respect and cooperation with your own family, the store clerk, a ticketing agent at the airport, your children and others in your network, you should set a good example, yourself. Prioritize, delegate, reduce, or scratch off upcoming duties and activities that affect you and the family.

2. Start preparing for the holidays early. Make lists, keep a calendar, and assign extra chores to family members, if necessary.

3. Stick to a budget during this time. Cut costs where you can. Get creative with gifting, shop sales, use coupons, decide to draw names, etc. In our home, we’re making cheesecakes as gifts. I think this is a unique present and it brings our family together to create the gift. Think about crafts, photos, a coffee get together, a favorite magazine, something creative but maybe not so expensive this year if gifts are to be exchanged.

4. Stick as close to the family routine as you can. Combine parties or stop in for only a short time so that you and the children can get your required rest.

5. Let children wind down with whatever makes them feel better. Maybe it’s soft music, reading or cuddling with you at the end of a long day.

6. Eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water and indulge in some physical exercise.

7. Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality and incorporate values into your own holidays.

8. Bring along a child’s favorite blanket or toy if you’re staying with family over the holidays.

9. Volunteer at a food bank, hospital or community center. Consider being a foster care parent. Many of these children have never or rarely experienced the traditions of Christmas, and have lived their young lives being beat, burned, starved, sexually abused, even murdered. At the present time, there are over 500,000 children in foster care, just awaiting a family to care for them. This holiday season would be a great time to consider being the gift one of these children really needs. Contact your local Department of Child Services.

10. Plan to watch a Christmas or funny movie at home, play a board game, go sled riding, attend a religious ceremony together, have a snowball fight…put the family’s physical, mental and spiritual health first.

11. Let go of the little stuff that’s weighing you down. It’s really a waste of wonderful time you could be having with those who adore you. I once read, “Stress is really knowing what’s the right thing to do, but not doing it.”

12. Be responsible. You really don’t need to drink and party to have a good time. And drinking often leads to disaster. (Take it from a child of a one-parent family, and whose father committed suicide). Many people won’t see 2010 because others chucked responsibility. Over 4,000 people die in traffic accidents each year between Thanksgiving and New Years in the United States. Almost 40% related to alcohol. 30% due to speeding and winter road conditions. Slow down and pay attention. Do the right thing. Someone is depending on you. No, everyone is depending on you.

13. Make kindness the most popular gift this holiday season. It’s always the right size and price. It fits just right. You’re sure to feel skinnier when it’s exchanged. Reach out to other families, individuals and children in your neighborhood who may facing some slight to major let downs during the holidays or who may not be near or with their own family. Offer to run errands, babysit, or invite them over to your table. At our house, we always host a Thanksgiving brunch for friends who don’t have plans until the late afternoon. It’s just a little way for me to say, “I’m thankful for all of you.”

Consider making an extra batch of cookies and deliver to shut-ins, the nursing home, a single-parent family, someone who has just lost their job, the sick, the elderly, someone you haven’t talked to in awhile and need to rekindle with or who you’ve been wanting to meet or to show you’re appreciation to. Help shovel someone’s driveway, walk their newspaper to the door, pick up a loaf of bread, decorate their tree, and stop what you’re doing to enjoy time with your own spouse, kids, grandparents and friends. Give of your time and talents. Kindness and generosity….there’s just not better gift.

Here’s to less stress, yet a richer holiday season, one that you will never forget for the steps taken to provide the level of care that all family and friends deserve. Cheers to all of you great parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and others who through all of the busyness, still set a good example and work to keep our children and families safe and happy.

Guest Blogger: Suzzi Romines is the Event Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse of Dearborn and Ohio Counties. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can report it anonymously by calling 1-800-800-5556.

The Humor Rumor

Monday, November 16, 2009

Humor is like fire. Used wisely, it can create warmth and intimacy for us and our loved ones. However, it can also cause pain and destruction when it is used carelessly.

Many people think that humor is all about being able to tell a joke. But let’s consider the origins of the word “humor.” It comes from the Latin word “umor” which has nothing to do with a punchline. In fact, “umor” means to be fluid and flexible like water.

Think about that image. When water encounters an obstacle, it doesn’t whine, or call its best friend, or run to a therapist. It waits…building its strength until it can move under, around, over or through that obstacle. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who lives in Indiana who has a basement!

A true “sense of humor” is an attitude, a way of greeting whatever life brings you. While it’s true that humorous people often use funny comments to deal with difficulties, more often they are simply flexible and creative in the face of obstacles.

In their book Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure, C.W. Metcalf and Roma Felible share humor skills that people can learn. Here are just three of the skills mentioned in this book:

• The ability to see absurdity in difficult situations.
• The ability to take ourselves lightly while taking our work seriously.
• Having a disciplined sense of joy in being alive.

When we’re in the middle of a difficult situation, sometimes the wisest course of action is to step back, to take a moment to truly see everything before deciding whether to become upset. Giving ourselves the gift of just a little time helps us to see the absurdities. And that, in turn, assists us in having a larger perspective. “How important is this really?” we might ask ourselves. That gift of time—perhaps just a few seconds—can allow us the luxury of seeing the situation for what it really is.

Many of us have difficult jobs. People are depending on us, and we don’t want to let them down. Pressure comes from all corners, and we can begin to feel that it all depends on us. We begin to feel alone. Again, that gift of time leads to the gift of perspective. We can see options we hadn’t considered before. We feel free to ask for help. The work is still serious, of course, but the truth is that it isn’t all on our shoulders.

Ah, but the third skill. That one stumped me at first. I had never seen the words “discipline” and “joy” in the same sentence! The authors of the book reminded me that many of us don’t take our own advice. We insist that friends and coworkers take good care of themselves, while at the same time we neglect our own needs. Think about it. Is there a hobby you’ve abandoned? A dear friend or relative you just haven’t had time to see? Something simple that renews your spirit, and yet you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed it?

Metcalf and Felible recommend that we be intentional about self care. In fact, they recommend that each of us start a “Joy List”—a list of things that bring you joy. The items on the list don’t have to be expensive or complicated. All they have to be are things that renew you and bring you joy. Don’t put anything on the list out of obligation to someone else. If pulling weeds in the garden truly makes you feel good, then add it; if the only reason it makes you feel good is because it will get your spouse or partner off your back, well…that’s a different matter.

Once you have a few things on the Joy List, the next step is to give yourself those things. Take that afternoon to read a book, or go fishing, or have a long lunch with someone. Make it happen and be intentional about it!

Caring for ourselves allows us to be more flexible and creative in dealing with our day-to-day challenges.

You Can Do More

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

June 24th of this year marked the beginning of one of the most remarkable journeys of my life. 16 years ago our family became the adoptive parents of a bubbly, sparkling 2 year old girl. Who knew that someone so little could turn our world completely upside down! Here we were a quiet family of 3, a mom, a dad and a son. Emphasis is on the word quiet. Our son was entering the pre-adolescent stage where interactions with parents were very low on his list of priorities. You know the scenario, homework, dinner and a long evening of Nintendo and talking on the phone with friends. My husband and I were not much better, as a musician he was always practicing for the next gig and I had just returned to college to work on my Masters in Social Work. So usually the only noise you heard in our house was the sounds of a flute coming from the basement, or the refrigerator door opening when our son came out of the room for a snack or the turning of pages while I studied for the next test!

While this scene seems pretty tranquil, we all realized that there was a void in our life. Something was missing. We had been blessed with so much and yet every day we were faced with the question of what were we doing for others? All of our family worked in professions that served others; we were social workers, teachers, ministers, nurses, soldiers and sailors. Our purpose was to make a difference in the world and while we went out each day to do just that, there was this small voice that was saying “you can do more”!

As soon as the decision was made we realized that this was the “more” that we had been called to do! We began the process of learning all we could about adoption. We completed pre-service training and submitted all of the required documents necessary to become approved by our state. We also worked closely with our social worker during the home visits and home study process. We learned so much about ourselves and our abilities during our family preparation. As an adoption social worker, I had a unique opportunity to view adoption from the “inside out “and it has made all the difference in my own work with families adopting from a child from the child welfare system. After a period of waiting, this introverted family had the awesome blessing and responsibility of loving and caring for an outgoing two year old. What a match, but truly a match made just for us! She has given us more joy then we can ever know; she has made a difference in our lives and all who know her. And to think that our desire to make a difference in the life of someone else could end up being the best gift that we were ever given!

Has this sixteen year journey been easy? Of course not, but those opportunities that we truly treasure do not come to us with ease. It has at times been an uphill climb, but I have never looked back down the mountain and wondered, “Why”? I have asked “How” and the response has always been “You can do more”! The need for adoptive families for waiting children is great everyday for the more than 130,000 children are waiting across the nation for a permanent family. Won’t you join my family and scores of others in answering the call? “We CAN do more”!

For information about special needs adoption in Indiana contact

For information general information on adoption contact the Dave Thomas Foundation @ or AdoptUSKids @

Alfreda D. Singleton-Smith , MSW LSW

Substance Abuse

Monday, November 2, 2009

Although there has been a decrease in the prevalence of substance abuse in our society, it still continues to be a very serious issue, and one which plays a pivotal role in the area of child maltreatment. For several years now, substance use has been one of the primary contributing factors in terms of child maltreatment deaths. When a parent or caregiver becomes impaired, their ability to drive, supervise appropriately, discipline appropriately, etc. all become a challenge…or worse…deadly. Drownings, car accidents, and positional asphyxiation are all consequences that some children have endured due to their caregivers’ impairments from substance use. Ideally, no one would be in a position where they are abusing drugs or alcohol. However, we know that we have a long road ahead before that is no longer an issue. We implore caregivers then, to please not use substances while caring for children. It impairs judgment, awareness, and the ability to control impulses. It is especially imperative to not drive while using drugs or alcohol, and to not co-sleep with infants due to the high probability of rolling over and suffocating the baby.

Substance abuse prevention must start early…before children even start to school. Not only does there need to be a dialogue about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol, but parents and caregivers must also always be providing loving and nurturing environments and environments where the lines of communication are always kept open. Parents need to become involved in their children’s lives…know who their friends are; know who they’re on-line with; know where they are. Children do not need their parents to be their friends; they need them to be their protectors and the people who provide appropriate guidance.

Shelby's Not Breathing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A powerful reminder about safe sleep practices.

Having a Safe and Fun Halloween

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here are a few safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect children who plan to go trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Treats: Warn children not to eat any treats before an adult has carefully examined them for evidence of tampering.

Flame Resistant Costumes: When purchasing a costume, masks, beards, and wigs, look for the label Flame Resistant. Although this label does not mean these items won't catch fire, it does indicate the items will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source. To minimize the risk of contact with candles or other sources of ignition, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.

Costume Designs: Purchase or make costumes that are light and bright enough to be clearly visible to motorists. For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights. Bags or sacks should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle, and sporting goods stores.

To easily see and be seen, children should also carry flashlights.

Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.

Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Mother's high heels are not a good idea for safe walking.

Hats and scarves should be tied securely to prevent them from slipping over children's eyes.

Apply a natural mask of cosmetics rather than have a child wear a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision. If a mask is used, however, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision.

Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material.

Pedestrian Safety: Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child. All children should WALK, not run from house to house and use the sidewalk if available, rather than walk in the street. Children should be cautioned against running out from between parked cars, or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, or clotheslines present dangers.

Choosing Safe Houses: Children should go only to homes where the residents are known and have outside lights on as a sign of welcome.

Children should not enter homes or apartments unless they are accompanied by an adult.

People expecting trick-or-treaters should remove anything that could be an obstacle from lawns, steps and porches. Candlelit jack-o'-lanterns should be kept away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame. Indoor jack-o'-lanterns should be kept away from curtains, decorations, and other furnishings that could be ignited.

From the Consumer Product Safety Commission

School Bus Safety

Friday, October 16, 2009

BUS STOP: Your child’s bus stop should be in an area that is well lit, easily accessible, and away from traffic. If you live in an area where there is heavy snowfall, make sure that the stop is sufficiently free of snow, ice and related debris.

CLOTHING: Children should be wearing bright colored clothing, especially if waiting for the bus before sunrise or getting home after dark. Place removable reflective tape on their outer garments including on their hats and coats.

Boarding: Teach your children to stand back away from the curb and to remain there until the bus has completely stopped and the driver opens the door to board. Teach them to board the bus in an orderly manner, without pushing or shoving and be seated immediately.

SEATING: Virtually all school buses DO NOT come equipped with seatbelts, nor are seats strong enough to resist impact in the event of a crash. Teach your children to be seated at all times. Face the front of the bus and keep their feet in front of them rather than out in the aisles. Staying directly behind the seat in front of you protects you in case of an accident.

IN CASE OF AN ACCIDENT: Teach your children various brace positions to prepare for the possibility of an accident. Learn optional exit strategies including using the emergency door or windows.

AWARENESS OF WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND THEM: Teach your children to be aware of the traffic in the area; to be constantly looking both ways as they cross streets; and to never walk behind the school bus. Teach them the DANGER ZONES: Behind the bus, where the driver cannot see them or in front of the bus where the driver cannot see them unless they are ten feet or three giant steps in front. The driver should be able to see them and they should see the driver.

A bus driver needs to be able to hear emergency vehicles, trains at railroad crossings, and other emergencies that might arise during the bus route. Children need to understand the importance of obeying the school bus rules and the consequences that could result.

You can keep your children safe by raising their awareness of potential hazards while the rest of us can make school bus safety a priority by obeying the rules of the road. Let’s make the rest of this school year a safe one.

What's the 411 About 211?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana has sponsored a telephone information line since the mid 1990s. Initially 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) was answered by PCA Indiana staff. Unfortunately, that limited the times we could answer the line to “office hours.” It became clear that people need assistance at all hours of the day and night, and are often uncomfortable leaving a voice mail message.

Last year PCA Indiana worked out an agreement with the Central Indiana 211 Center, also known as Connect2Help. Anytime you call 1-800-CHILDREN now, the line will be answered by Connect2Help staff.

Their highly trained specialists answer the 1-800-CHILDREN line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Connect2Help always has Spanish-speaking staff available, and uses a translation service for callers who need assistance in other languages.

Connect2Help has a database of over 60,000 programs and services and can assist callers in finding the resources they need.

The resource database is also posted online, and is available to the general public at Click on the link to the left labeled “Search our Database.” You will find a wealth of information about agencies, programs and services to meet a variety of needs.

Staying Healthy

Friday, October 2, 2009

Families all have a goal to be healthy! Health is something we all may take for granted, but it takes effort to assure everyone in the family is staying as healthy as they can.

Some basic steps toward preventative measures are so important, such as: 8 hours of sleep, plus naps, laughter, vitamins, handwashing, and eating plenty of fruits and veggies. Brushing teeth 2 times a day, flossing once and visiting the dentist 2 times a year are all basic requirements.

Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical needs. Just getting the basics done is a feat worth celebrating!

Other more controversial topics may also be requirements for your family. Immunizations and flu shots may be discussed with your doctor.

Paying for all these services is a whole other topic, isn’t it? Many states are offering health coverage for children of all ages. Please check with your state to see what services are being offered!

*Remember caregivers, you need to take care of YOU too! Regularly scheduled “fun breaks” need to be in place for you, as well as taking care of your physical and mental health.

How can one person make a difference?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Child maltreatment is a widespread problem. Nearly five children in the United States die every day as a result of abuse or neglect. More than 75% are under the age of four.

Both the statistics and the stories are horrifying. When we’re confronted with such a massive problem, it’s natural to feel hopeless. It’s natural to say, “How can one person possibly make a difference?”

The truth is this is the only way we can make a difference—one person at a time. And then one more. And then another. And another.

Confucius said, To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Some people think that preventing child abuse means calling the police or Child Protective Services when you see something happening. While it’s the right thing to do at that point, reporting isn’t the same thing as prevention-- anymore than chemotherapy is cancer prevention.

So, you may ask, how can child maltreatment be prevented? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Support programs in your community that are effective in helping families. If you don’t know about such programs, check with your local Department of Child Services office or United Way.

  2. Child maltreatment happens in all kinds of families, all income levels, in every neighborhood. Reach out to families you know. Offer to take the kids for a few hours to give harried parents a much-needed break.

  3. Remember that families become strong when they are supported by a strong community.

  4. Find out if there is a Child Abuse Prevention Council in your county by checking our web site: If there is a Council, contact them to see how you can help. If there isn’t a Council in your county, contact Mary Armstrong-Smith ( to learn how to get one started.

  5. Understand that abuse and neglect can have long term consequences for a child. Stress releases chemicals in the brain that weaken brain architecture and hinder brain development.

  6. Help spread the message that we all have a stake in developing healthy kids. “Children are one third of our population and all of our future.” (Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981)

Remember that child maltreatment is a problem with solutions that don’t always receive the attention they should. This is not a problem that should be left only to parents and social workers. Children are everyone’s future!

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” (Marian Wright Edelman)

Internet Safety

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The internet can be a wonderful and useful tool to enhance our knowledge about any topic. In seconds, we can know the capitol of Guam or how much corn Indiana produces in a single day ( I haven’t actually looked either of these up, but I’m sure the internet could inform us). It keeps us up-to-date on our favorite sports teams and celebrities, and enables us to be linked in at work and school when we need to be. In those same seconds however, a predator can “enter” our homes, and potentially harm our children. It is imperative then, that we teach ourselves, and more importantly our children, some basic internet do’s and don’t’s.

1. Parents! You need to become computer savvy. Learn how to use the internet, and keep up on all of the upgrades and latest security software

2. Find out where your child has access to the internet…school? A friend’s house? The library?

3. Check the history of your internet log to see what sites have been visited

4. Use parental control tools. Your service provider can assist you with determining what is best for your family, and how to use them

5. Keep the computer in a common area of the home. This tactic is not a “cure all”, but it does help in being able to supervise how long your child is spending on-line, as well as what they are doing while on-line

6. Tell your children to never give out any personal information on-line.

7. Do not post pictures of your children on social media outlets, especially if any identifying information is able to be viewed, e.g. the name of their school or sports team on a jacket or jersey, their name on a piece of clothing, etc. Any of these items may enable someone to trace your child’s whereabouts.

8. Keep an open dialogue with your children. Tell them to let you know immediately if someone makes any kind of sexual solicitation toward them (or any type of unwanted contact or message)

9. Model courteous behavior. Never tolerate bullying of any type.

10. There MAYBE some warning signs if a predator has made contact with your child. Your child may be using the computer late at night; may divert the monitor when you enter the room; may start receiving phone calls or gifts.

For more information about internet safety, you may visit, and they have many resources to which you may link.

Some of this information was gleaned from Prevent Child Abuse America

Safe Sleep

Monday, September 14, 2009

All new parents want to welcome their baby home to the safest, sweetest space possible. Therefore, all new parents need to be made aware of “safe sleep” issues. “Safe Sleep” is the term created to encompass several issues so parents can assure their baby of the safest sleep environment possible.

1. Cribs should meet safety requirements. (An easy tool to measure between the rails…a pop can should not be able to fit between the rails.)
2. Nothing should be in the crib, no blankets, toys, stuffed animals, etc.
3. Babies should always be put to sleep ON THEIR BACKS.

These precautions help families rest happily!

Car Seat Safety

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

PCA Indiana Urges Parents and Caregivers to Get Their Child Safety Seats Inspected

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 3 to 6 and 8 to 14. In 2007, 6,532 passenger vehicle occupants 14 and younger were involved in fatal crashes.

It’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver out there to make sure their children are safely restrained – every trip, every time. We are urging everyone to get their child safety seats inspected. When it comes to the safety of a child, there is no room for mistakes.

In 2007, among children under 5, an estimated 358 lives were saved from the use of child safety seats and booster seats. If all children under the age of 5 were restrained, an additional 71 children would have been saved.

National Child Passenger Safety Week (September 12-18) is an annual campaign to bring public attention to the importance of properly securing all children in appropriate child safety seats, booster seats, or seat belts – every trip, every time.

The campaign kicks off on September 12, 2009, with “National Seat Check Saturday,” where certified child passenger safety technicians provide free child safety seat inspections nationwide that educate parents and caregivers on how to install their child’s safety seats properly in their vehicles.

For maximum child passenger safety parents and caregivers should refer to the following 4 Steps for Kids guidelines for determining which restraint system is best suited to protect children based on age and size:

1. For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until at least age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

2. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at least age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).

3. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall).

4. When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall) they can use the adult seat belts in the back seat, if they fit properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).

Remember: All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.

For more information on Child Passenger Safety Week, a national effort to remind parents and caregivers of the lifesaving effect child safety seats have in protecting young children, please visit


Monday, August 24, 2009

Unfortunately, bullying has been a part of children’s lives probably since the beginning of time. However, what was once thought of as “just a part of childhood” is now seen as a very serious, and sometimes deadly, form of abuse. Adults, as well as peers, need to stand up to bullying, and intervene immediately when it is believed that bullying is occurring. More importantly, let’s find ways to prevent bullying from ever happening in the first place.

Here are just a few tips to prevent, and respond, to bullying (including cyberbullying:

1. Understand that it is not a “rite of passage” for children to be bullied. It can have very long-term, even deadly, consequences.

2. Pay attention to what is going on both at school and at home. If a child starts fearing going to school or to an activity, ask questions.

3. Have clear discipline policies at school or in sports activities, and make it understood that bullying will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences, including for Cyberbullying.

4. Have in-services for teachers and parents about what to look for in terms of bullying, and how to prevent it.

5. Encourage youth to talk to an adult if they are being bullied, or if they know that bullying is occurring to a friend or classmate.

6. Supervise children when they are on-line, and tell them to never pass along harmful information about others.

7. Tell children to never give out personal information on-line.

8. Start teaching empathy at an early age (even from birth!) so that children will grow understanding how hurtful it is to harm or tease others.

9. Teach interpersonal skills (again, from an early age). Many children who bully lack the skills to make or keep friendships.

10. Create opportunities for children to “do good”, especially children you know or suspect may be engaging in bullying behaviors.

Tips for Teachers

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

School is back in session, and although they may never admit it, it’s an exciting time for many children. School is also an opportunity for teachers to reconnect with students, and provide not just a learning experience, but also a safe environment. Below, we have listed some “tips for teachers” with regard to some issues that may arise during the school year. The list is certainly not all inclusive, so references can be found on the bottom so that you may get further information if needed.


1. Remember, every person in Indiana is considered a mandated reporter. The law reads that ANYONE who had reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect, must make a report. Anonymous reports are accepted. Those who work with children will in all likelihood be held to an even higher standard.

2. Even if you have reported to a “designated” reporter (the school nurse, Social Worker, Principal, etc), it does NOT relieve you from your responsibility. You still remain responsible for the report…either by making the report yourself, or by insuring the report was made.

3. Look for potential signs, such as unexplained bruising, especially on more “fleshy” areas of the body, such as thighs, arms, face. Not all signs are visible, however, so you should also watch for behavioral signs as well, such as increased absenteeism, not being able (on a consistent basis) to stay awake in class, withdrawn behavior, changes in play, exaggerated startle responses, overly aggressive or sexualized behaviors. Remember that behavior changes in and of themselves do not necessarily mean a child is being maltreated, but the behaviors should be explored in case there are other issues, such as being bullied, physical problems, or learning issues.

4. Parents need to know that their children are safe at school as well. Every year children are injured in playground incidents. Schools need to insure that equipment is safe, and that children are properly supervised. They also need to insure that “hidden locations” are reduced so that there is less likelihood that a child could be abused or harmed in one of these locations. Trees and shrubbery should be trimmed. Playground equipment should not include toys where children are hidden from view at any time. Clear out concrete walls or other impediments to supervision. Look for gaps in fences or other protective barriers. Insure that anyone who is monitoring during recess is well trained in supervision, how to intervene in physical fights, and how to recognize and address bullying.

We hope everyone has a wonderful year, and remember teachers, to also practice self-care and stress management!

References: Committee for Children
Department of Child Services
Prevent Child Abuse Indiana

The Importance of Childhood Immunizations

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disease Prevention--Protect Those Around You

Disease prevention is the key to public health. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines prevent disease in the people who receive them and protect those who come into contact with unvaccinated individuals. Vaccines help prevent infectious diseases and save lives. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Parents are constantly concerned about the health and safety of their children and take many steps to protect them. These steps range from child-proof door latches to child safety seats. In the same way, vaccines work to protect infants, children, and adults from illnesses and death caused by infectious diseases. While the U.S. currently has record, or near record, low cases of vaccine-preventable diseases, the viruses and bacteria that cause them still exist. Even diseases that have been eliminated in this country, such as polio, are only a plane ride away. Polio, and other infectious diseases, can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.

Vaccine-preventable diseases have a costly impact, resulting in doctor's visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths. Sick children can also cause parents to lose time from work.

Why are Childhood Vaccines So Important?
* It's true that newborn babies are immune to many diseases because they have antibodies they got from their mothers. However, the duration of this immunity may last only a month to about a year. Further, young children do not have maternal immunity against some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough.
* If a child is not vaccinated and is exposed to a disease germ, the child's body may not be strong enough to fight the disease. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent, such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. Those same germs exist today, but babies are now protected by vaccines, so we do not see these diseases as often.
* Immunizing individual children also helps to protect the health of our community, especially those people who are not immunized. People who are not immunized include those who are too young to be vaccinated (e.g., children less than a year old cannot receive the measles vaccine but can be infected by the measles virus), those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (e.g., children with leukemia), and those who cannot make an adequate response to vaccination. Also protected, therefore, are people who received a vaccine, but who have not developed immunity. In addition, people who are sick will be less likely to be exposed to disease germs that can be passed around by unvaccinated children. Immunization also slows down or stops disease outbreaks.

Why Immunize?For Parents
Why immunize our children? Sometimes we are confused by the messages in the media. First we are assured that, thanks to vaccines, some diseases are almost gone from the U.S. But we are also warned to immunize our children, ourselves as adults, and the elderly.

Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations. It's true, some diseases (like polio and diphtheria) are becoming very rare in the U.S. Of course, they are becoming rare largely because we have been vaccinating against them. But it is still reasonable to ask whether it's really worthwhile to keep vaccinating.

It's much like bailing out a boat with a slow leak. When we started bailing, the boat was filled with water. But we have been bailing fast and hard, and now it is almost dry. We could say, "Good. The boat is dry now, so we can throw away the bucket and relax." But the leak hasn't stopped. Before long we'd notice a little water seeping in, and soon it might be back up to the same level as when we started.

Keep immunizing until disease is eliminated. Unless we can "stop the leak" (eliminate the disease), it is important to keep immunizing. Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, more and more people will be infected and will spread disease to others. Soon we will undo the progress we have made over the years.

Japan reduced pertussis vaccinations, and an epidemic occurred.
In 1974, Japan had a successful pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination program, with nearly 80% of Japanese children vaccinated. That year only 393 cases of pertussis were reported in the entire country, and there were no deaths from pertussis. But then rumors began to spread that pertussis vaccination was no longer needed and that the vaccine was not safe, and by 1976 only 10% of infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979 Japan suffered a major pertussis epidemic, with more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths. In 1981 the government began vaccinating with acellular pertussis vaccine, and the number of pertussis cases dropped again.
What if we stopped vaccinating?

So what would happen if we stopped vaccinating here? Diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. More children would get sick and more would die.

We vaccinate to protect our future. We don't vaccinate just to protect our children. We also vaccinate to protect our grandchildren and their grandchildren. With one disease, smallpox, we "stopped the leak" in the boat by eradicating the disease. Our children don't have to get smallpox shots any more because the disease no longer exists. If we keep vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that diseases like polio and meningitis won't infect, cripple, or kill children. Vaccinations are one of the best ways to put an end to the serious effects of certain diseases.

Source: (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Reprinted with permission

Back to School on a Budget

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's hard to imagine that summer vacation is coming to an end...the days are still long and warm, sleeping-in continues to be the fashion and you may still have another road trip in store. There’s no denying that the economy is having an effect on plans for back-to-school spending.

Here are a few ideas designed to help you get the biggest bang with fewer back-to-school bucks.

1. Make a plan -- Develop a shopping list and a strategy. What would you like to purchase this year? What do you need to purchase this year? How do the two lists overlap? Is any trimming necessary?

2. Set a budget -- Make certain it’s a realistic budget that can include all of the items on your list. Try not to overspend before school starts. There are plenty of unexpected expenses that are likely to crop up in the early months of the new school year.

3. Where to Shop -- Discount stores, office supply superstores, online stores, and other retail outlets offer a variety of ways to stretch your school-bound spending. Keep an eye out for sales flyers for all of your area stores, especially the larger chain stores. Match the flyers and the prices to your shopping list and budget. Don’t let the flyers create a new—and even bigger—shopping list for you.

4. If you can affort to -- Stock up on items that the kids will need throughout the year. Are your kids old enough to use notebook paper? Be sure to buy a few extra packages so that you will have some on hand when they run out. The last thing you want to do is to have to make a late night run to the store so that your son or daughter can do his homework.

More Back to School Tips coming soon!

Violence Against Children

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Typically, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana does not comment about specific cases regarding violence against children. However, sometimes situations arise that are so horrific, they require not just a comment, but rather a call to action. By now, most people in Indianapolis are aware of the killing of an eight year old boy during a domestic disturbance. After reading the story in the newspaper, I continued by reading the comments submitted by readers. Of course there was understandable outrage, as there always is after this type of tragedy. Predictably, many of the comments were directed at the perpetrator, and what type of consequences he should face. Although any type of violent act should have appropriate consequences, our question…one which we often ask, is what could have been done to prevent this act from occurring in the first place? The real issue is, when our children do not have the opportunity to grow up in healthy and safe environments, we all suffer, and potentially put our own futures at risk. These tragedies do not just impact the families and friends of the victim; they impact our society as a whole. We invest in our children, and if we do not protect those investments, we face a far more dangerous type of “recession”. By encouraging families to seek help when they are overwhelmed; by paying attention to children in our neighborhoods; by knowing community resources to be able to assist friends and family; by investing in education, appropriate childcare, early childhood programs…these are just a few of the things we can do for our children and families. We can also educate ourselves about policies that impact children, and contact our Legislators when we are concerned about these policies. In the time it takes to write a “Readers comment” at the end of a story, an e-mail or phone call could be made to a policy maker or community resource. If we mistakenly believe that all problems involving violence toward children exist within the family, then how can we, at the same time, believe that all of the problems can be solved within that same family?

These tragedies occur in all ethnicities and socioeconomic realms. Even if there are some out there who do not believe that statement, and unfortunately there will be, then without argument it can be said these tragedies impact all ethnicities and socioeconomic realms. In other words, we all have a stake in helping children. Despite what people have been led to believe, very little spending has been done on programs for children. In fact, over the last 20 years spending has decreased, and that trend is expected to continue.

I want to conclude by mentioning that one reader’s comment in particular struck me. They commented, and I’m paraphrasing, that because of the environment in which that child was growing, that he probably would one day grow up to be violent. However as research shows, he would have just as likely grown up to be a teacher, or police officer, or bus driver, or perhaps the doctor who finds a cure for cancer. We’ll never know will we, because any future possibilities were ended for him a few nights ago.

Introduction to Prevent Child Abuse Indiana

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (PCAI) was established in 1977. Founders were volunteers whose experiences and expertise committed them to the belief that preventing before is a much better solution than waiting to treat victims of child abuse. As a chartered state of Prevent Child Abuse America, we share a national vision to live in states where children flourish free from abuse and neglect. Valuing children, strengthening families, and engaging communities are the core values of the entire network.

PCAI is Indiana’s only statewide entity dedicated to the mission to be the voice in Indiana for preventing child abuse in all its forms. We have developed a statewide network of affiliated child abuse prevention Councils in forty counties in Indiana. PCAI’s programs and services focus on the strategy of primary prevention – working to reduce the risks of child maltreatment before the incidents occur.

In addition to serving as an advocate for policies and practices that are in the child’s best interest, our competencies center on four programs/ services:
1) Raising Public Awareness
2) Gathering and Disseminating Information and Resources
3) Providing Education
4) Building Community Capacity

In July of 2007, PCAI joined forces with The Villages of Indiana. PCAI became a Division of this Statewide entity, whose mission is to champion every child's right to a safe, permanent and nurturing home.