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Guest Opinion: Let’s keep leading in helping children

I enjoyed reading the March 10 article about Idaho competitors in the National Spelling Bee. It took me back to Houston in 1955 when I won a regional spelling bee on the word “ostentatious.” That’s probably on the first grade list these days.

It’s great to get it right. And Spokane is truly exemplary about getting it right for children from high-risk situations. Just think of the innovations that have grown up organically in our community because a small group cared and got creative. One of them, VOA Crosswalk founder Marilee Roloff, will speak about them at the City Forum on April 18.

Against all odds, Toni Lodge built the beautiful Native Health/NATIVE Project in West Central that pioneers youth development and wellness programs for American Indian families who are experiencing our community’s highest health disparities and inequities.

At Kids First in Colville and Partners with Families & Children in Spokane, we have developed the children’s advocacy center model to respond to serious child abuse injuries that rise to the level of a crime. Here are the essential ingredients: specialized investigative units in law enforcement and Child Protective Services, pediatric practitioners with advanced training in intentional injuries, forensic interviewers who know all about child development, child advocates who see the family through the court process, responsive mental health treatment, and coordination of all the professionals so they work efficiently.

We have other resources, as well:

• The Salvation Army’s Sally’s House provides immediate respite and carefully matches a child’s needs with the skills of foster families.

• The Crisis Residential Center developed by YFA Connections works to unearth the complex reasons teens may run away from their homes.

• Lutheran Community Services NW engages in vigorous outreach to provide specialized treatment for child sexual abuse and other criminal victimization.

• Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) help represent children in dependency matters. Families open their homes to foster children.

But now, it’s 2012. Must we wait until a blow is struck to act? Certainly, diagnosis after the fact takes professional experts. Prevention before any injury takes all of us.

Once again, our region leads the nation. This is the sixth year of the “Our Kids: Our Business” call to action to prevent child abuse and, indeed, all the adverse outcomes from childhood. Instead, we want all kids to be happy and healthy and thriving – a tall order! Pinwheels symbolize the joy and innocence of childhood, and remind us that it’s the responsibility of grown-ups to protect that innocence. Each person has something to contribute to keep kids safe. If our heads are engaged, surely our hearts will follow.

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Mary Ann Murphy chairs the Council for Children and Families.


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