African American Family Commission Observes Child Abuse Prevention Month: Executive Director Urges All to Put Prevention First

When the African American Family Commission created CHILD WATCH in 1996, it was based on one simple premise: preventing child abuse and neglect.

As a direct action and referral program, CHILD WATCH enlists the community to help identify children and families at risk. Community members who know families who may have difficulty providing for and protecting their children, or who may be overwhelmed by the responsibility of child rearing, are asked to contact the program. Its objective is to protect children while keep them out of the child welfare system.

"We recognize that unemployment, poverty, drugs, homelessness and stress are contributing factors to child abuse and neglect," said Terry Solomon, Executive Director of the Commission, which was created to advise Governor Edgar and DCFS Director McDonald about issues concerning African American families. "But that doesn't absolve us -- the families or the community -- from our responsibility to the children."

Since the inception of the program, calls have been received from individuals seeking help for children they suspected are being abused or neglected, children who require medical attention and counseling and adolescents who have problems communicating with their parents. Relatives have also made calls for children who have problems with drug addiction. Many people are referred to mental health and family services agencies for counseling and crisis intervention.

CHILD WATCH (whose theme is "Preventing Child Abuse is a Community Affair") brings together members of child welfare and human service agencies, civic organizations, religious and business leaders, educators, advocates, volunteers and the community-at-large to respond to the needs of families in crisis. In addition to prevention, the ultimate goal of the program is to enable families to provide for the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of their children.

During Child Abuse Prevention Month in particular, Solomon urges the public to take advantage of CHILD WATCH's services and contact the program at (312)FAMILY-3 if they know a family who is at risk or in need of assistance.. "Spring is a time of hope and rebirth," Solomon said. "While our children are on Spring break, and even after April, it is incumbent upon families, churches and neighbors to renew our commitment to protect the children. It is our moral responsibility to do so."