In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, 37 years later, community organizations, federal agencies, and the public are still working towards creating awareness. White Sands Missile Range is supporting the effort through their Army Community Services office.
“It is a community effort in order to keep children safe, there are several reasons why we must do so,” said Cynthia Valenzuela, Family Advocacy Program Manager at White Sands Missile Range. “For instance, back in the 1980s, we did not know that if you are raised in an abusive environment, your risk for domestic violence is increased, but we now know that it becomes a generational cycle of abuse. This is why awareness and prevention are important.”
The theme for this year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month is Stand Up For MilKids. The main objective is to create awareness that kids need an advocate. Many kids need support and positive role models in their lives; adults must stand up and take the initiative in protecting them.
Valenzuela explained that kids need one person in their lives who they can depend on, that provides stability. Having a stable relationship with an adult helps kids in their social development and can make a positive impact in their lives as they grow.
“The Family Advocacy Program began to formally assist military families in preventing or responding to child abuse or neglect shortly after the 1974 Child Abuse Treatment Act,” said Valenzuela. “Maltreatment of any family members is incompatible with Army values and impacts mission readiness.”
At White Sands Missile Range, the program helps educate the community on how to identify abuse and provides education on how to report abuse if they have suspicions.
“All reports are taken seriously, it is a powerful tool,” said Valenzuela. “There are also policies in place to help military children, such as ‘Talia’s Law’ that was signed by President Obama, indicating that the military has to report any abuse on base to civilian authorities, rather than keeping the report internal.”
This month Valenzuela is passing out blue ribbons to people who take the pledge to protect children and keep them safe.
“The tradition of the blue ribbon began during the 1980s with a grandmother in Virginia who lost her grandson to child abuse. To honor him, she tied a blue ribbon around her car's antenna,” said Valenzuela. “I want people to remember how it got started and for people to wear their ribbon in honor of all children who have passed away due to child abuse.”
If you are unable to get a blue ribbon, you are encouraged to wear blue on April 16 and 30 to show your support of children.