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By Scott FerrisApril is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, a national designation since 1983. It is a time to remember all children who have been victims of abuse or neglect and for communities to recommit to developing and implementing solutions to prevent family violence. Once again, our community's safety net is pleased to hold several events this month to support our community's year round efforts in fighting child abuse and neglect.To kick off the month, our annual Children's Memorial Flag Raising will be at noon Monday at the Allen County Courthouse in a national remembrance of those children who have died due to family violence. Every day across our country, four children die as victims of child abuse. This solemn ceremony offers an opportunity for the entire community to acknowledge the terrible losses we have suffered and renew our commitment to the safety of children across our community. At 9:30 a.m. Friday at Lima Memorial Health System, our community will hold its annual Pinwheels for Prevention Program. At this event, participants will plant a pinwheel in the ground representing the 765 reports of child abuse and neglect received in Allen County for 2011. This is an increase of 37 percent from 2008. There is no coincidence that the reports of child maltreatment have increased as community's economic situations have worsened. Once again, we have planned a whole month of activities to increase our community's awareness of and to combat the growing instances of child maltreatment. For information on new foster parenting classes with Allen County Children Services, programs for students in local elementary schools, “Choose Your Partner Carefully ... parenting classes, Wear Blue to Work Day (April 11), National Spank Out Day, the Third Annual CASA/GAL Walk and much more, please visit www.allencsb.com or www.pvff.org. Also, Allen County's third Prescription Medication Collection Day will be from 9 a.m. to noon April 14 at Allen County Children Services and from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Rays Supermarkets at 890 S. Cable Road and 2100 Harding Highway. Let's keep potentially harmful medications away from the hands of curious children. But simply attending a memorial or community event is not enough. As citizens and human beings, we are compelled to protect the most vulnerable among us, our community's most precious resource. First printed a few years ago and expanded upon every year since, here are some simple steps you can take to help prevent abuse and neglect in our community:• Take child abuse seriously. Immediately report suspected abuse to your county child protective services agency. If you are not sure if you should call, err on the side of caution and call. Our highly trained staff will gather as much information as possible and make an informed decision as to intervening in a family's life. In Allen County, you can call 419-227-8590 to report suspected child abuse and neglect. Outside of Allen County, you can go to www.pcsao.org to find the necessary contact information in your community. • Practice positive parenting styles. Reinforce nonviolent problem-solving, compassion and self-control. Avoid corporal punishment. Ask yourself what is the message a child receives when physically struck for doing something wrong? • Serve as an example in your neighborhood. Instill compassion and humane values in children and teens by showing you value people, animals and the environment.• If you have trouble providing basic food, clothing or shelter, seek assistance from community agencies• Question the glorification of violence in sports, the media and entertainment.• Break the cycle of violence in your own life. If child abuse has been a part of your history, seek professional counseling. • Use your voice! Speak out or vote on issues that improve the quality of life for children and families. Advocate for the restoration of current resource levels for your community safety net services. Those services include: behavioral health services, home visitation, parenting programs, drug and alcohol assessment and counseling, support groups, etc.• Be active in your community. Volunteer or contribute to organizations that protect children and promote family well being. In Allen County, there is a vibrant community safety net with many partners that would welcome your time and energy.• Simply care. Make sure you know where your child is at all times. Ensure that he or she attends school regularly and receives proper medical attention.Remember: Vigilance against abuse and neglect should not end with Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.Scott Ferris is executive director of Allen County Children Services.

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