LEBANON — More than 100 people learned how volunteers in Lane County hope to reduce the number of child abuse incidents by 90 percent by the year 2030 during the third annual Child Abuse Prevention Summit held Friday morning at the River Center.
The event was coordinated by the Linn County Child Abuse Network (CAN).
Guest speakers Jeff Todahl and Phyllis Barkhurst shared how the county of more than 300,000 residents is developing plans to meet the goal.
“This is a co-learning experience,” Todahl said.
Both speakers bring extensive experience to their project, and Barkhurst said she is a child abuse survivor. She is the director of the 90 by 30 Initiative and co-founder of the University of Oregon Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.
Todahl is an associate professor in the counseling psychology and human services department at the University of Oregon and a faculty member at the Oregon Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.
The program started in 2011, when 225 community members gathered to focus on a single question: How do we stop child abuse?
According to the pair, Lane County is about the size of Connecticut in terms of square miles and its population varies by area. Communities on the Oregon coast have different ways of life than Lane County communities within the Cascade Mountains.
“So, we have divided the county into seven regions,” Barkhurst said.
Todahl said much of the project so far has focused on gathering information from Lane County residents. Surveys of more than 6,000 people across the spectrum have been completed.
“We found that 98 percent of respondents so far believe that all adults have a responsibility to prevent child abuse,” he said. “But 44 percent weren’t sure what the community could do to reduce abuse and neglect.”
Nearly one in three Lane County residents, or about 100,000, have experienced abuse or neglect as a child.
A major finding is that 91 percent said a long-term community-wide effort to raise awareness of child abuse could be effective. And, they would support a local prevention effort if:
There was a clear plan.
It would actually help individuals.
It would be done in a way that didn’t blame parents.
The community would do it as a whole.
Good, trustworthy people were running it.
There were the resources and money to support it.
Barkhust said volunteers and local businesses have come together to create 75 short videos based on the concept, “What would we do, if …”
These videos create scenarios in which public interaction could decrease the potential for an abusive situation, or to create a learning experience.
Other tools being implemented in the 90 by 30 effort are:
Roots of Empathy: School-neighborhood partnership where a local infant spends time in classrooms with a specific curriculum proven to develop empathy in children.
Safe Families for Children: Faith-based effort that provides respite care for families to keep them out of the child protective care system and intact.
Speak Up Be Safe: School-based curriculum for K-12 to help children and youth learn the skills to prevent neglect, bullying and child abuse.
Finland’s Baby Box: Every new child in a community is welcomed with a baby box filled with gifts and information and references for the family.
Friday’s summit also featured several break-out sessions and showings of the Darkness to Light child abuse prevention training video.
Blue and silver pinwheels intended to spark an interest in child abuse prevention issues were distributed. Linn County communities, such as Lebanon and Brownsville, are filled with the pinwheels, reminders that April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.