FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As Fort Jackson and other military communities celebrate the Month of the Military Child, April is also a month designated to raise awareness about child abuse.

"If an Army child is not safe from harm behind the doors of his or her own home, then our community is not a safe place to live," said Col. James Love, garrison commander, in a proclamation for Child Abuse Awareness Month. "Children are the most vulnerable members of our community, and we demand safety for them. There is no excuse for leaving children in an unsafe home."

Fort Jackson's Family Advocacy Program has organized two events in recognition of the month. A workshop on sexual assault and child abuse awareness is planned for Wednesday; and a march against sexual assault and child abuse is scheduled for April 27.

"Actually, I think a month is not enough," said Greg Lewis, a Family Advocacy Program specialist. "I think that child abuse is a significant issue in our society; and I think that a month of awareness is just a small drop in the bucket (compared) to what we believe awareness should be."

Lewis said child abuse is not tolerated in the military, and he urged people who suspect abuse to report it.

"A lot of people may be reluctant to report (abuse) for fear of getting involved, for fear of some type of retaliation or for fear of not wanting to get that family in trouble," he said. "I want to say to you, 'If you are a neighbor and you see (abuse) or you suspect (abuse) ... you should be reporting that.'"

He added that people who suspect abuse should consider the consequences of remaining silent.
"If you didn't make the report, then you not reporting it could lead to serious problems for the children in that household," he said.

Lewis explained that the Family Advocacy Program's primary role year round is education and prevention. The program offers classes on topics such as dealing with stress and managing anger. He emphasized that the programs are not directly related to potential or actual child abuse, but rather are designed to provide solutions to common problems. These programs are aimed at helping parents before they encounter stressors that could possibly lead to abuse.

"I think that it's important for all of us as parents to understand the complexities of parenthood," he said. "It is important, particularly for younger parents, especially to be mindful of and to learn about what it takes and what's involved to being a parent."

One of the programs especially geared toward suchparents is the New Parent Support Program. The program is available to expecting parents and parents of children up to 3 years old. NPSP offers play groups in addition to classes and support groups on such topics as taking care of infants, breastfeeding and positive parenting. The program's staff is also available to visit parents at home for consultations.

Arlene Rowland, a registered nurse who works as a home visitor with NPSP, said one of the benefits of the programs is that it is available to families at all Army installations.

"Military families (often) don't have family around," Rowland said. "They're alw
ays traveling. And they're always moving about. So they really need to find a good support system. And the thing that's really nice is when they move, (NPSP) is always at every post."

For more information about child abuse or the Family Advocacy Program, call 751-6325. For more information on the New Parent Support Program, call 751-6304/1071/6868.

If you go
*Pathway to Resiliency: Connecting the Community; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 20, NCO Club, workshop on sexual assault and child abuse awareness.
*March for Change; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 27, Semmes Lake, march against sexual assault and child abuse.
For more information, call 751-6325.