“The greater a child’s terror, and the earlier it is experienced, the harder it becomes to develop a strong and healthy sense of self,” said Nathaniel Branden, author of "Six Pillars of Self-Esteem."
Each April 1 marks the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month, which became nationally-observed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan after Congress committed to implementing solutions to child abuse.
According to Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, in 2016, out of a rounded 676,000 reported victims in the United States, 74.8 percent were neglected, 18.2 were physically abused and 8.5 were sexually abused.
The high number of reported cases is one of the reasons Grand Forks Air Force Base recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month not only during April, but year-round, offering services to families in search of resources for aiding the healthy development of children.
The 319th Medical Operations Squadron and 319th Force Support Squadron organizes an annual fair at Grand Forks AFB for families with children up to age 12, to raise awareness of child abuse and promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
“We put on the event to raise awareness of the issue of child abuse in the community,” said Kjerstin Foster, Family Advocacy outreach manager with the 319 MDOS. “It is important for people to know abuse and neglect happen everywhere, and are not dependent upon education level, gender, socioeconomic status or religion.”
Aside from the annual fair, the Airman and Family Readiness Center here has specialists and counselors available to help families reduce common stress factors, which can be caused by every-day issues to include finances, relocation, transition and employment.
“Our goal is to provide information and resources to ultimately reduce stress, which indirectly supports child abuse prevention,” said Cheryl Anderson, center director for the A&FRC.
The base chapel also offers the option for families and individuals to come in if they are in need of counseling services, which are completely confidential. If families require support or services other than those provided by the base chapel or A&FRC, the 319 MDOS has a family advocacy and mental health clinic, both of which provide confidential counseling that can remain off the record.
The steps Grand Forks AFB takes towards supporting children and families go beyond the month of April, or Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Warriors of the North are always working towards providing counseling, support and education for those who need the tools to help recognize and report the signs of child abuse.
“Abuse is something that could be occurring in your neighbor’s home,” said Foster. “By becoming aware of various forms of abuse and neglect, you are more likely to recognize the problem and intervene before another statistic occurs.”
If you or someone you know is in need of information or support, contact the base chapel at 701-747-5673, the A&FRC at 701-747-3241, or Family Advocacy at 701-747-6806.