April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, a time to recognize the role each of us plays in the lives of children and youth and to raise awareness about child abuse by engaging the community in developing ways to help prevent the abuse and neglect of children.

As part of the Benton County Community Health & Wellness Fair event on Saturday, April 1, Benton County Decat/Flourishing Families CPPC and Better Tomorrows will be providing a Kites for Kids event to kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The groups strive to provide opportunities for positive parent-child interactions in a community-based environment and raise awareness about local resources that can help struggling parents

Children attending the event will receive free kites to fly to symbolize hope, a happy childhood and a chance to soar, things that many local children do not experience.

According to recent statistics, 8,295 Iowa children were abused in 2014, which is 22 to 23 per day. Prevent Child Abuse Iowa statistics show there were 48 reports of child abuse in Benton County.

“This is the first year Benton County Decat/Flourishing Families CPPC and Better Tomorrows has hosted this event,” Heidi Schminke (Co-Director) said. “We are excited to offer it as part of the Health Fair and plan to offer other prevention activities during the month of April that will also support family engagement activities. In many cases, abuse prevention is as simple as offering to help a neighbor by watching her kids for an hour so she can rest or run errands.”

“Our overall message is that protecting children is everyone’s business,” Erin Monaghan (Co-Director) said. “Some parents may not want to ask for help out of fear of some sort of judgment by the community. There is no substitute for strong families and families need supportive communities to help them be strong. Children are best kept safe when families, friends, residents and communities work together.”

The Better Tomorrows Early Childhood Iowa Area offers services and referrals to families throughout Benton and Tama County with children ages 0-5. The focus of Early Childhood is to ensure that children enter school happy, healthy and ready to learn. For more information on the Better Tomorrows Early Childhood Iowa Area or the other service resources available in each county, contact Heidi Schminke at 319/472-4543, director@bettertomorrowseci.org; or Lori Johnson at 641/484-4788, ljohnson@tamacounty.org. You can also visit our website at www.bettertomorrowseic.org.

Flourishing Families CPPC (Community Partnerships for Protecting Children) is a community-based approach that works to prevent child abuse and neglect, safely decrease the number of out-of-home placements, and promote timely reunification when children are placed in foster care.  Community members, professionals and families work together to develop and implement strategies that positively impact families and protect children. The long term focus of Community Partnerships is to protect children by changing the culture and to improve child welfare processes, practices and policies. The CPPC approach involves four key strategies; shared decision making, neighborhood networking, individualized course of action, and policy and practice change, which are implemented together to achieve desired results.

Benton-Iowa Decat (Decategorization) is designed to use child welfare and juvenile justice funding for services which are preventive, family centered and community-based in order to reduce use of restrictive approaches that rely on institutional, out-of- home and out-of-community care for children. For more information on the Benton-Iowa Decat/Flourishing Families CPPC, contact Erin Monaghan at erin.bentoniowadecat@gmail.com ; or Heidi Schminke at heidi.bentoniowadecat@gmail.com.

As the title sponsor, Virginia Gay Hospital is pleased to bring organizations like Benton-Iowa Decat and Flourishing Families together to create the Benton County Community Health & Wellness Fair. For details about this event, please visit www.bentoncohealthfair.com and to learn more about Virginia Gay Hospital, visit www.myvgh.org