A Child Safety and Wellbeing Fair sponsored by the Safe Kids, Healthy Communities Workgroup, kicks off Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am at the Webster Groves Recreation Center, 33 E Glendale Rd, 63119. The purpose of the fair is to bring the community together for a fun morning of activities and entertainment while promoting safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that protect children and help them thrive!
Bring the whole family to high-five Louie from the St. Louis Blues, enjoy a magic show, yoga and mindfulness, and other fun children’s activities while checking out over 20 resource tables with giveaways and information. Fair organizers encourage parents, caretakers, children, and youth to attend. A short presentation introducing the Community Safety Pledge is scheduled for 10:00 am. To learn more go to www.communitysafetypledge.org.
Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are among the most powerful, protective, and healing forces in a child’s life! These relationships— fostered at home, school, and in the community—are the building blocks of a child’s physical and emotional growth.
The Community Safety Pledge seeks to strengthen these building blocks by promoting eight best practices organizations, businesses, schools, and anyone working with children and/or youth can adopt to protect children from harm. The workgroup is encouraging anyone who works with children and youth to sign the pledge and create their own safety code of conduct. Organizations can also be listed as “Pledge Partners” on the Community Safety Pledge website. The City of Webster Groves, the Webster Groves School District, Child Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis, and Missouri KidsFirst have all signed on!
Statistics show that one in 10 children will experience sexual violence before their 18th birthday. (www.d2l.org) Child sexual abuse is a preventable public health issue. Early trauma and violence in the home, school, or community can affect children throughout their entire lives. In fact, 90 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust. (www.d2l.org).
Current child sexual abuse prevention efforts rely heavily on children protecting themselves – getting themselves out of uncomfortable situations and telling an adult if they have been harmed. This burden is often beyond their abilities and control and does not prevent the harm from happening in the first place.
The Safe Kids, Healthy Communities Workgroup, seeks to provide additional prevention strategies that empower adults to speak up to protect children. The workgroup convened in the fall of 2022 with the goal of learning about child sexual abuse prevention and finding ways to empower adults in Webster Groves, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury, Warson Woods and Glendale to support safe environments and healthy relationships for all children and youth and to promote healing for survivors. The group consists of interested community members, educators, community leaders, and adults representing a variety of community groups/interests. Relying on a public health approach and best practices for primary prevention of child sexual abuse and assault the group developed the Community Safety Pledge.
The idea for the Community Safety Pledge grew from a Community Code of Conduct created by a similar grassroots effort in Bolivar, Missouri, in 2017 (see, https://www.d2l.org/first-kind-community-wide-code-conduct/). Led by the Briggs family, whose child experienced child sexual abuse, the Polk County Community Task Force to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect created a community-wide code of conduct aimed at helping businesses, organizations, and schools prevent child sexual abuse. The Safe Kids, Healthy Communities workgroup reached out to the Briggs to learn from their experience in creating a community approach to child sexual abuse prevention.
Safe Kids, Healthy Communities Workgroup Co-Leader, Jenny Dodson-Weihl states “We are grateful to the Briggs family for leading their community to take positive action to prevent child sexual abuse. We looked to Bolivar’s Community Code of Conduct as a jumping-off point to create the Community Safety Pledge.”
Organizations, businesses, schools - really any entity that interacts with children and youth - are encouraged to sign the Pledge and join the Community Safety Pledge movement. By signing the Pledge, individuals, and organizations are letting the community, parents of the children they serve, and the children themselves know that the organization values safe environments and supports healthy relationships. The Pledge gives all stakeholders language to describe behaviors that may cross boundaries and may potentially be red flag behaviors that lead to abuse. Adults, as active bystanders, can identify these behaviors and respond and take action to speak up to protect children.
Ms. Dodson-Weihl said the workgroup hopes to impact adults in Webster Groves, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury, Warson Woods, and Glendale. She states, “This area encompasses the Webster Groves School District, but we want all children and adults, regardless of where they attend school, to be a part of this movement. As adults we all have a role to play in preventing harm to children.”