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Refuge from the chaos

Sat., April 21, 2007

Spokane nonprofits and businesses launched two programs on Friday designed to engage the public in preventing child abuse and neglect.

The programs establish safe places for endangered children to find temporary shelter and to educate adults on how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. Both programs rely on volunteer work from the public and evolved from the communitywide “Our Kids: Our Business” campaign.

“When the community takes an active, cooperative role like this, we can steer kids away from dangerous alternatives,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “We not only save the child, we also cut the costs affiliated with drug use, teen pregnancy and violent crime.”

AmericanWest Bank established the first Spokane Safe Place on Friday. Yellow-and-black signs will identify businesses, fire stations and other organizations where children can find safety and support.

“We will not only set the example but try to solicit the help of other businesses,” said Robert Daugherty, the bank’s CEO and president. Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said the city’s 14 stations also will be designated sites.

The Safe Place program – which has been in place in Coeur d’Alene since 1999 – helps connect children with social service agencies. A second program trains adults in recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse and how to help those children who may be at risk of abuse. The Stewards of Children program works with organizations and corporations that serve children.

Staff from Partners with Families and Children, a Spokane social services agency, deliver the workshops.

“Whereas before we put the onus on children to report, this provides parents education on how to prevent, recognize and react in a responsible way,” said Karen Winston, a program supervisor at Partners with Families and Children.

Both programs are free.

“Without volunteers, without the community, we can’t do the job we’re assigned to do,” Knezovich said.


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