What you can do to help abused and neglected kids in MT

This month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is almost over. The Missoulian’s been featuring a series on the topic for the past several weeks, and today we published our own entry. Hopefully, it’s at least as helpful as some of the other columns written by the experts on child abuse prevention in western Montana.

The editorial is aimed at encouraging people to at least get started thinking about the hurt children in our community and how to help them. To consider becoming a foster family or a court-appointed special advocate, or perhaps lending some volunteer time, extra household supplies or monetary donations to one of the several organizations that provide support to families at risk.

The long-term aim is to stop the cycle of abuse and give children the best possible start in life. The immediate result is making a real difference in the life of a kid, right here in Montana, who needs to know that he’s not alone.

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Missoula’s Birth Center among organizations recognized for shaken baby prevention

The Period of PURPLE Crying program is an evidence-based prevention program focused on the fact that babies cry. This month – National Child Abuse Prevention Month – it’s being recognized as an important part of preventing the physical abuse of infants.

Specifically, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome recognized our humble state “for its efforts to prevent shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma.” The official recognition came earlier this week at the statewide Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference, which was held in Missoula this year.

There, NCSBS lauded the efforts of Montana groups to educate key people – hospital staff, agencies and parents – about normal infant crying patterns. The Birth Center in Missoula is one of 20 groups in Montana that use the PURPLE program.

Healthy Mother Healthy Babies-Montana is another, and in a news release that went out earlier this week, executive director Synness had this to say:

“To date, PURPLE MT has partnered with 20 out of 29 birthing hospitals and clinics across Montana to deliver the Period of PURPLE Crying program to over 7,100 new parents. We believe that the education and materials provided through the Period of PURPLE Crying program will make a profound difference in the lives of Montana families and will provide parents and families with the information, support and the tools they need to provide the healthiest and safest start for their baby.”

Julie Price, International Program Director for the PURPLE program at the NCSBS, added: “It is such a privilege and pleasure to work with these organizations and professionals in Montana. The NCSBS recognizes how much collaboration it takes to implement this program in hospitals, to reinforce key messages in the community, and also to create a cultural change with public education campaigns. It takes a lot to sustain a statewide prevention program, and we greatly appreciate everything they do.”

According to the release, “SBS/AHT is a form of child abuse caused by the violent shaking of a baby or small child, usually by an adult frustrated by the baby’s crying. The Period of PURPLE Crying aims to educate parents about the normality of early increased crying during the first months of a baby’s life, and the associated frustration. The program also seeks to teach parents techniques to soothe a baby, and healthy ways to cope with the crying when cry bouts cannot be soothed.

“For more information about the Period of PURPLE Crying program, please visit PURPLEcrying.info.”

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Missoula couple named Foster Parents of the Year

Wow, congratulations – and thank you – to Kim and Tyson Moore. The Missoula couple are this year’s Montana Foster Parents of the Year.  So if you see them around town with their kids – they have two bio kids, a foster kid and are adopting a 1-year-old foster child – give them a round of applause.

Another Missoulian you’ll want to applaud: Cori Stern, who is being given the CASA Volunteer of the Year award.

Read on for more details on the awards ceremony this Monday, as well as the full list of Montanans receiving awards for their work preventing child abuse and neglect:

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Workshop on child predator prevention starts Thursday

There’s lots of info in the paper today about the workshop on how to spot – and stop – child predators. The two-day workshop starts tomorrow, Thursday, at 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. It’s a joint forum organized by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, the Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.

The three are teaming up to help teach adults how to protect children from child molesters – not just parents, but teachers and other child care workers as well.

The two-and-a-half-hour training session will include a presentation by the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, Cory Jewell, as well as a talk on Internet crimes against children by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson.

Interested? It’s on the sixth floor of the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson Building, at 350 Ryman Street. Please note that registration IS required, and you can register by contacting Kimberly Dudik via email at kdudik@mt.gov.

Dudik is also one of the authors of a guest column in today’s Missoulian, which you can read here.

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Teen pregnancy, foster care, and Child and Family Services

Lately I’m seeing a lot of opinions in the Missoulian having to do with mom stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the month of May being the month that’s home to Mother’s Day or what, but I’m liking it.

I do know that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and I know this thanks to a letter to the editor from the Montana Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. That letter stated that “Each day in Montana, approximately three teens give birth” and went on to describe the challenges faces by these teen parents. It ended with a call to action: ” If parents, youth, schools, businesses, faith leaders and health care providers join together to address teen pregnancy, we can make a difference!”

Speaking of calls to action, the new documentary “From Place to Place,” produced by Missoula’s Matt Anderson, is already making huge waves – and it hasn’t even screened in Montana yet. The documentary follows the lives of two Missoula youth who age out of the foster care system – without a family.

These youth have become advocates for change; one spoke at a Montana child welfare conference earlier this month, and I understand they have spoken to other leaders in the national system as well. You can read Anderson’s guest column in the Missoulian here. And you can watch “From Place to Place” at its first Montana screening at the Wilma Theatre a week from today, on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

And finally, in her guest column last week, Child and Family Services Division administrator Shirley K. Brown also had some important information to share – including information about how you can help protect Montana’s abused and neglected children:

In Montana, 903 children were removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. The type of abuse experienced by these children includes physical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and medical neglect.

Montana’s children are our future – children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-5437 (1-866-820-KIDS). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-939-7837 (1-866-9FOSTER) or email AskAboutFosterCare@mt.gov.

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Shaken Baby Syndrome topic of Great Falls conference

The two-day Family and Community Heath Conference put on by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services starts today in Great Falls, and is bringing in a national expert to talk about how to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.

This is the syndrome that results when an infant is severely or repeatedly shaken. It can cause serious and permanent damage to a baby’s eyes and brain. And it’s a form of child abuse.

The national expert who will be speaking this afternoon in Great Falls is Julie Price, of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the title of her talk is “The Period of PURPLE Crying.”

Here’s a little more background on Price:

Price, of Utah, has 19 years in education, training and program management. In addition to her work with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Price oversees Utah’s Period of PURPLE Crying® hospital-based program. She assists hospital administrators, education personnel and maternity services with nurse training and coordination of the Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention and parent education program.

And here’s a little bit more about the PURPLE Crying program:

The Period of PURPLE Crying® is the phrase used to describe the point in a baby’s life when he or she cries more than at any other time. This period of increased crying is often described as “colic”, but there have been many misunderstandings about what “colic” really is.

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase. The word PERIOD is important because it lets parents know that it is temporary and will come to an end.

P: Peak of crying. A baby may cry more each week. The most at 2 months, then less at 3-5 months.
U: Unexpected. Crying can come and go and there is no clear reason why.
R: Resists soothing. A baby may not stop crying no matter what a parent does.
P: Pain-like face. A crying that may look like the baby is in pain, even when he/ she is not.
L: Long lasting. Crying which lasts as long as five hours or more a day.
E: Evening. A baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

“It may be confusing and concerning to be told a baby ‘has colic’ because it may sound like the baby has an illness or a condition that is abnormal,” says Ann Buss of the DPHHS Family and Community Health Bureau. “Parents and caregivers need to know that what they are experiencing is indeed normal and, although frustrating, is simply a phase in their child’s development that will pass.”

This is important, says DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell, because, “The concept of the Period of Purple Crying is a new way to help parents understand this time in their baby’s life, which is a normal part of every infant’s development. DPHHS is committed to bringing this valuable information to Montanans.”

Here’s more about the presentation:

This presentation is part of an overall DPHHS effort being led by the Montana’s Children Trust Fund of DPHHS to educate families of babies born in Montana about Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma. Recently, the MTCTF distributed 45,000 ‘Crying Cards’ to parents of newborns though hospitals, family and pediatric practices, child care facilities, and groups that offer babysitting classes.

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Missoula now has plenty of room for children who need a safe place to recover from trauma

Watson Children’s Shelter in Missoula is western Montana’s emergency shelter for children who have experienced abuse, neglect or other family crises. It’s where children who have no other safe place to go can live until a more permanent home for them can be found, and where they can be cared for in a way that helps them begin to heal. For many of these children, it’s the first place they have ever lived where they are completely safe from physical or mental harm.

That’s why it was so all-important for Watson’s to build a second shelter. Its first shelter kept filling to capacity, forcing its staff to turn away children in need. And that’s something Missoula just could not tolerate – so it didn’t.

This month, the shelter wrapped up its three-year, $4.4 million fundraising campaign to build a second shelter and create an endowment to keep the shelter in good finances for years to come.

The fact that Watson’s was able to raise this amount during a recession is a testament to the good work done by its staff and directors – and to the special place children hold in our hearts.

Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Congratulations, Watson’s – and congratulations, Missoula! We’ve done a good thing by making sure these kids receive good care after all they’ve experienced, and showing them they will not be forgotten or ignored by this community.

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Missoula treating childhood trauma on several fronts

“We are destroying ourselves as a nation by not paying attention to childhood abuse and neglect.”

So says Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who has studied post traumatic stress disorder in children and is widely regarded as an expert on childhood trauma. In fact, he founded the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network. Van der Kolk was speaking to an audience at the University of Montana to help launch a partnership between local schools and the university’s Institute for Educational Research and Service.

“As one of the leaders in the emerging field of childhood trauma, UM is helping these schools use behavior therapy to help children review traumatic experiences and reduce behavioral problems in a safe environment – and in a way that doesn’t create acute anxiety,” today’s story in the Missoulian reads.

And speaking of treatment for childhood trauma, I would be remiss not to mention yesterday’s excellent article noting that Youth Homes is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Over the course of those years, the organization has helped some 9,000 at-risk children through a variety of programs and services.

About Youth Homes’ work and fundraising efforts locally, executive director Geoff Birnbaum had this to say: “I can’t think of a better place to do this than in Missoula. I sometimes wonder if anywhere else can match the generosity of this community.”

Let’s hope the next 40 years more than matches the generosity Youth Homes has experienced thus far.

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Coalition criticizes media for failing to give deaths of abused or neglected children due coverage

Woah. According to a new analysis from the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, “deaths from the H1N1 virus, food-borne illnesses, Toyota accelerator malfunctions and coal mining … add up to a small fraction of the toll of child abuse deaths in the United States.”

In fact, it says, “U.S. child abuse deaths also eclipse the number of U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.”

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YWCA weighs in on GALs and sharing stories of abuse

In response to Tyler Christensen’s recent post, “Let’s talk about guardians ad litem, not the details of your custody battle” and the subsequent responses by Cheryl Wolfe and Alice, we at YWCA Missoula would like to express both our support for Ms. Christensen and the serious need for reform of Montana’s GAL program.

Speaking out about the abuse we have suffered is an important part of the healing process and we commend the parents who want to have a voice for their children and themselves. And we know that all too often silence is the loudest enabler of violence and it frequently takes the voice of survivors, the anger and hurt of survivors, to bring these issues to the forefront.

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