Child abuse prevention education on tap for Williams, volunteers needed to help coordinate programs

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - More than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States each year involving more than 6 million children, according to the nonprofit organization Childhelp.

To combat this problem, North Country HealthCare and the Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth are using a grant to raise awareness about child abuse.

The Department of Economic Security awarded the two agencies a $9,000 grant last month to provide child abuse prevention education in Williams as well as family oriented activities.

North Country's Healthy Steps Child Development Specialist Michelle Simmons said the grant money will serve three purposes: to raise awareness about child abuse, to offer child abuse prevention and identification training and to provide families with a resource guide for where to call if they need help.

Possible ideas for the grant programming include an activity fair at a local school or a speaker discussing how parents can play an active role in their families.

"It's the education and the getting families to spend more time together and open up a dialogue about this," Simmons said.

Simmons said the goal of the grant programming is for community members to have the resources so that they can act, as opposed to thinking "'I think there's something wrong but I don't know what to do about it so I won't do anything.' And we need to be the voice for those who can't voice the problems that they're experiencing."

She added that the more a community talks about child abuse, the less of a stigma the problem carries.

"It's okay to ask for help," she said. "It's okay if your child's friend comes over and you see something to be able to say, 'Hey is everything okay at home?' They don't have to suffer in silence. They need to be able reach out for help and be able to know that there are people out there who are going to help them and be willing to help walk them through the process of healing."

The two groups are now looking for volunteers to form a committee that will coordinate the grant programming.

"It's a way for the community to give back to the kids," Simmons said.

The funding will be available between January and April of 2015, since April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The group's first meeting will be Oct. 21 at 5:15 p.m. at the North Country HealthCare Williams Community Room, 301 S. Seventh St.

More information about the grant or getting involved is available at (928) 635-4441.

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