Derek Andre ’16 – Child abuse is no joke. In 2014, twelve out of every 1000 children in Montgomery County experienced some form of abuse or neglect. That is a nearly 14 percent increase over 2013. A group of Wabash students will try Friday to make that statistic better known.
As part National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Wabash will play host to day of awareness for child abuse and neglect. Students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to wear blue this Friday in an effort to raise awareness and to wear blue pinwheels to show solidarity with victims. The project, spearheaded by senior Ty Campbell, is the culmination of several weeks of work and conversation between Campbell and the Montgomery County Youth Services Bureau.
“We’re trying to promote child abuse awareness,” Campbell said. “To do that, the Youth Service Bureau in town asked members to wear blue on that day, the symbol of Child Abuse Awareness Month, and to wear blue pinwheels from their office. It got sent out in an email to some volunteers and I reached out to [Karen Branch, Youth Services Bureau Director] and said I’d like to do this and I think my fraternity would as well. We were talking and I thought I may as well try and get the other living units and fraternities involved, see if we can make this a campus-wide thing.”
Campbell’s first interaction with the Youth Services Bureau came last summer as part of an internship. He spent the summer working with the Bureau and later became involved with the YSB’s CASA program, an effort to represent children in child and family cases. The CASA program gave Campbell an insight into child abuse and neglect cases.
“When I interned, I learned about the [Court Appointed Special Advocate] program,” Campbell said. “We were at a team meeting when the CASA program got brought up and that’s how I got involved in that program. This side project is involved with CASA, a program that helps with ‘child in need of services’ cases, so the two are sort of combined.”
The Youth Services Bureau deals with child abuse and neglect cases across Montgomery County. Youth Services Bureau Direct Karen Branch hopes awareness projects can help raise knowledge about abuses children in the community face daily.
“Sometimes they are people who lack knowledge, coping skills or a support system to help them when raising a child becomes difficult,” Branch said. “It is not a justification of their actions, but pointing out that there are stress factors in family life that may contribute to the abuse and neglect that children suffer. Factors like insufficient income, unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence.
“To help prevent abuse we need to help reduce these risk factors in our community. From something as simple as offering to babysit for a child whose parent is stressed and overwhelmed, to supporting services and organizations that support our families and youth, every one of us can make a difference.”
For Campbell, this project is, in many ways, the culmination of four years at Wabash. After internships, immersion experiences, classes, and more, Campbell is glad that a project dear to his heart can be his last contribution to the Wabash community.
“With going to the Peace Corps next year and the humanitarian nature of that, a lot of that was shaped through my internship last summer,” Campbell said. “A lot of what I learned about community engagement and how to use your resources correctly came through Karen, who was my boss at the Youth Services Bureau. Right now, it’s all coming together, and I’d like this to be my last big thing here.”
Wabash students, faculty, staff, and administration are encouraged to wear blue Friday in recognition of childhood abuse and neglect. There will be a photo taken at 12:10 p.m. on the Chapel steps of all members of the Wabash community who participate.