Yuma, AZ -- Designated by congressional proclamation to increase awareness on the issue of child abuse, April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month and families at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma looking for information or support can count on Marine Corps Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program to be there.
In an effort to raise awareness on a door to door level, support counselors and staff members have distributed packets of knowledge and materials to families and local residents at base housing. Information tables have also been setting up at high traffic areas, like the Post Exchange and the commissary, to bring attention to the issue and better educate everyone on what can be done to prevent it.
“We kicked off the month by having a packet delivery to all of base housing, both here on base and on 16th street – And in that packet was a lot of information about programs and services, as well as information for parents,” said Gail Perry, MCCS Family Advocacy Program prevention and education specialist and a native of Fort Knox, Ky. “We walked around base housing and hung them on the little mailbox clips. We also set up a table on the at the commissary and handed out information to patrons as they came in.”
Detailed information and self-care workbooks on parenting infants, grade school kids, and teenagers were provided. With roughly 1,300 school age children on base, military families at MCAS Yuma can feel free to better educate themselves on the helpful and preventative information of child maltreatment.
“Statistically, neglect is the largest category of abuse. Typically, what we see, in terms of neglect on base, is the lack of supervision - A young child may be getting out of the house unbeknownst to the parent and wandering over to the park unsupervised,” said Perry. “Or exposure to physical hazards, like access to a loaded gun or prescription medication.”
The four different categories of child abuse include: physical abuse; psychological or emotional abuse; sexual abuse; and, most commonly, neglect.
“Child neglect cases of child abuse – We get those,” said Ronald Bailey, manager for the New Parent Support Program and a native of San Mateo, Calif. “Sometimes, we get young Marine Corps families who came from broken homes and don’t know how to raise a family on their own.”
While Arizona does not explicitly ban the use of corporal punishment, the fine line is drawn at leaving marks on one’s child. While abuse may absolutely cross the line in a psychological sense, in terms of physical abuse, the limits are much clearer to the eye. Limits that, in the spring of 1989, inspired a grandmother from Virginia to kick-start the Blue Ribbon Campaign in remembrance of her grandson, who died at the hands of physical maltreatment.
“I think there are much more effective ways to discipline a child that teach them better than spanking. I think sometimes, unintentionally, parents send a message to their child when they spank that they’re not aware of,” said Perry. “Imagine, as a child, you hit your brother and your parent spanks you for hitting. That’s probably a little ironic and confusing to a child.”
Preventative measures and parenting techniques, along with a healthy home environment, can thwart the possibility of abuse from ever taking place. Programs sponsored by MCCS’ Family Team Building are available to all active duty families on station.
“We primarily deal with home visits - I have a nurse who works with me and we teach parenting skills to young parents,” said Bailey. “We try to educate parents in a way to discipline their kid; we try to teach them ways that won’t get both the parent and the child upset. When the parent is less upset, the child is less upset.”
Programs like “Active Parenting”, a month and a half long parenting class developed to help new parents, are offered at FAP. “Playmorning” is for parents and children ages 5 and under, typically to improve a kid’s social, cognitive, and motor skills. “Stork Club”, a weekly group session to better educate new parents and cultivate their skills, is offered by NPSP on Thursdays from 1030 to 1130 at building 645.
“Everyone is a mandated child abuse reporter,” said Bailey. “If you see a case of child abuse or domestic violence, you’re mandated by law to report it.”
April is also considered Month of the Military Child, which recognizes the sacrifices made on the part of today’s youngest members of this nation’s military family. Since 1986, the country has observed this month as a time to honor the sons and daughters of our military. In this case, we can honor them by making sure their psychological and physical well-being is never abandoned and always at the forefront of our minds.