Friday, October 31, 2014

‘Children’s Campaign’ can make a difference

Posted on Nov. 26, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Candy Yoder

Point of View

The 2012 presidential campaign is finally over, and we are relieved to no longer be inundated with radio and television commercials, print ads, phone calls, and slick, colorful flyers in our mailboxes.

One topic noticeably absent from all major political platforms was that of children and families. We cannot address the future prosperity of our communities if we do not discuss how each child, regardless of race, culture, or geography, deserves an equal opportunity for healthy development. I wonder what would happen if we (collectively) would take the energy and resources that were used for the political campaign season, and focus on a “Children’s Campaign.”

We can have a tremendous impact on the very structure of a child’s brain by providing safe, stable, nurturing relationships for each child. Every family can be strengthened when provided with “protective factors” such as increased social connections and knowledge of parenting and child development. The growing body of research that supports this includes the study of a program which served low-income, first-time mothers in a voluntary home visiting program. The program was shown to reduce child abuse and neglect by up to 80 percent and to reduce children’s arrests by age 15 by more than 50 percent.

Elkhart County has a tradition of leading the nation in innovation and developing solutions. As a community, we create our own template instead of waiting for others to create something for us to follow. In the absence of national leadership in ensuring success for all children, Elkhart County will again lead the way. Policy makers, elected officials, corporate executives, faith communities and every individual must consider these questions: What is our vision for the children and families in Elkhart County? What are the specific strategies to achieve that vision? What concrete actions can we as individuals, organizations and communities take in order to truly prepare our children for the future?

As an organization, CAPS is focused on preventing child abuse, and we know from experience that most of the abuse and neglect in our communities can be prevented if families get the right support, education and information from the very start. If families are surrounded by a caring community of people who have the courage to ask how they can help, and then take the time to offer a helping hand, even the most difficult problems can be handled.

Elkhart County is rich with organizations working together to provide a safety net when parents need assistance in getting their children off to the right start. Let’s work together — individuals, churches, businesses, and neighborhoods — to set high expectations for our children and families. Then let’s invest our time, talents and treasures to ensure a strong future for our community — a strong future that must begin with the children. Let’s not wait for a government program, but follow the strong tradition of Elkhart County and be innovative. Let’s create a change that will outlast all political campaigns and truly alter our communities by ensuring that all children have all their needs met from the very beginning. Whether it’s within your extended family or neighborhood, local school, church, business, or through a community agency program, every effort no matter how small contributes to a better future for us all.

Candy Yoder is president and CEO of Child and Parent Services. She can be reached at caps@capselkhart.org