Colorado parents launch Child Abuse Prevention Month

April 17, 2020

Four Colorado parents joined Governor Jared Polis, Michelle Barnes, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services and community partners for a virtual launch of Child Abuse Prevention Month. These parents shared stories of how they have received ordinary help from extraordinary people in their lives that ultimately helped them to build their parental resilience and strengthen their families.

Each April, people in Colorado come together to make an extraordinary difference in the lives of both kids and families. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns and a statewide stay-at-home order, coming together and providing support looked different from past years. The virtual launch of Child Abuse Prevention Month and Colorado can be found online at facebook.com/CO4Kids.

The four parents that helped to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month include:

Research has shown that isolation or limited social connections for parents are risk factors that can result in higher rates of child abuse and neglect. Parents and caregivers must take care of themselves so they can take care of their children.

Some ways parents and caregivers can care for themselves and community members:

  • Be strong in the face of stress. Identify your most challenging parenting moments and make a plan for what you will do when these moments come up.
  • Nurture caring friendships. Take your book club online or set up an online hangout with friends.
  • Grow your knowledge of parenting and childhood development.
  • Ask for support when you need it. If you haven’t already done so, join a parenting group on Facebook or Nextdoor. It helps to know that other parents are experiencing the same struggles as you. Ask your online connections for ideas and advice.
  • Help your child manage their feelings and relationships. Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions. This is especially important during this time of heightened anxiety in all of us. Respond warmly and consistently to your child.
  • Take regular breaks during the day when you need them. Create time to relax and do something you enjoy. Even it’s just to sit and read a book for 20 minutes or practice a few yoga poses. Stepping away to recharge is important. 
  • Go easy on yourself. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.

To learn more about proven ways for parents to help kids grow and maintain strong families, visit the Growing and Maintaining Strong Families page.

Meet Makita

Being resilient as a parent means taking care of yourself and asking for help when you need it. When life has gotten difficult, Tina Abeyta has been that someone that I can call at any time to simply vent or ask for help. She has helped me to feel good about myself and to remain hopeful.

I met Tina when I was 19 years old, a new mom fresh out of foster care and starting my first adult job. On my first day at work, she was one of the first people to walk up and introduce herself and made sure that I knew that she was excited to have me join the team. She welcomed me with open arms and asked lots of questions to get to know me.

Shortly after meeting Tina, I got pregnant with my daughter. Imagine being 19 years old with a six-month-old having to tell your new boss that you had recently gotten pregnant a second time. I was the youngest in the office by many years and already felt as though many people there judged me. When I told Tina that I was pregnant, she looked at me, smiled and asked when I was due. Ironically, my due date was Tina's birthday.

Tina always embraced me for exactly who I was -- no judgment at all. And, that helped us to grow extremely close. Throughout the summer months of my pregnancy, I was getting bigger, uncomfortable and frustrated. At least three times a week, she would take the two-block stroll to 7-Eleven to buy me a Slurpee just because she knew it calmed my nerves. On the days when I didn't have much money, Tina would share her lunch with me or bring something extra to work just to make sure that I was feeding myself. When I didn’t have a car, she would give me a ride home so I wasn't walking in the cold and dark alone.

One day, I commented on the coat she was wearing. Two days later she showed up at work with the coat and said, “I have too many coats, you take this one.” She didn’t give it to me because I couldn't buy one or didn’t have one. She did it because that's who she is. My daughter, Mya, was born on September 16th, just four days before Tina's birthday. And, if there is one person on this planet whose personality reminds me of Tina’s, it is my daughter Mya. 

Tina remains a consistent part of both my life and my kid’s lives today. She listens to me vent about how hard it is to be a mom and offers advice or a different perspective. But mostly she just tells me I am doing a great job. A few weeks ago I called Tina to complain about how hard it is to raise teenage boys. I was having one of those moments where I felt like I could not get through to my son no matter how hard I tried. She listened patiently asked a couple of questions and then said to tell him to be ready on Tuesday at 3:45 because they were going to dinner. I don’t know what they talked about… but he came home a new kid.

Tina picks my kids up from basketball practice, supports them at games, lifts them up when they are excelling and lets them know when they are wrong. Most importantly she loves them like they are her own.

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I have been blessed to have many people support me through this mom journey but Tina’s support has always helped me be the best parent I can be.

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Simply having someone like Tina to call has helped me to not allow stress to get in the way of providing loving care for my kids. I hope that I too am able to provide to others what Tina has given to me.

Meet Sharon

Six years ago, we adopted our daughter through the foster care system. We already had a newborn and two other kids in our home, but we knew this little girl needed us. Our daughter was five at the time and we knew that the trauma she had experienced would stay with her forever, but we also knew we could help her overcome anything.

Six months after adoption day, we realized that our daughter needed more support. And, we needed help as parents. Despite my background in child development and training in trauma-informed care, I wasn’t prepared. My husband and I knew we needed to step up for all of the kids in our family but we didn’t know what to do. We were at our wit's end. And that's when we found true saints, Sam and Sheri Campbell, who had lived through a similar journey. They now poured their hearts, home, prayers, finances and time into a ministry to provide respite for families like ours.

The first time we met them, I literally felt like the full weight of an adult person had been lifted from my shoulders. Someone understood. Someone listened. The Campbells showed us that we weren't alone. That there was hope. They would take our messy kid, our messy family, our messy life and love us all anyway- because they had lived in these trenches themselves. They gave us time -- time for rest, time for research, time for rejuvenation and time for prayer. All of the things that were lost when so much time had been spent on just surviving. Parenting was tough, but my husband and I remained committed to our kids, each other and our faith – even though it all felt impossible sometimes.

We did a lot of work to stay strong,  but I know for certain that we wouldn't have made it much longer had we not found the Campbells. We want to be like the Campbells when we grow up! My hope would be for every family to find their own "Campbells.” It means so much to know that someone who really gets it, is only a text away. And that same someone will be there for you when you need to drop your kid off covered in their own mess literally, and your mess figuratively, because you just cannot take it another moment. Just having someone say it's ok to take a breather can breathe new life into you.

The Campbell's presence in our lives has helped us to feel good about ourselves as parents, plan for other parenting challenges that we will face in the future and to unapologetically take time to really enjoy our children and what we love about parenting.

Social support and families having someone to call for help is more vital now than ever. I realize how blessed and fortunate we are to have found these friends. And despite the challenges, we would not change anything about this journey, with the exception of taking the trauma away. But even then, we've learned to embrace and recognize the strengths and resiliency that trauma has produced... and this little child – not so little anymore – is so full of grit and grace that it would be hard to fathom her being any other way than the beautiful way she was then and is now.

Meet Adrian

I am the father of two daughters. As a dad, I am always looking for ways to ensure my kids and I have the resources we need to get us through the good times and the bad. This is parental resilience.

I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. My children and I learn together most times and I just try to make sure that I maintain a positive attitude when dealing with stressors and tough times. I make sure that they always know that I have their back whether I am going through something or it's them struggling with anything. I try to express to them in the best way I can that its ok to ask for help and that they should never be ashamed for needing it.

By establishing a routine, we created stability in our family. Our routines keep us on track and make sure that we get everything done that we need to do. However, when things don’t go accordingly, we can get off track but I make sure my girls know that is ok. It is in those moments of chaos or being unprepared that we often learn the most about ourselves and grow stronger.

I served in the United States Army as a Combat Engineer. I served for 8 years and completed 3 combat tours to Iraq for a total of 40 months. I was injured in combat and suffered multiple head injuries. Upon returning from my last deployment I was selected to be a US Army Recruiter, but unfortunately, I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression Disorder along with traumatic brain injuries. I was experiencing a lot of issues readjusting to society and over the years created many unhealthy behaviors. I was eventually granted a Medical Retirement from the Army.

I was completely unprepared for this transition. During this rough time, I also went through a divorce and struggled with substance abuse. In the military and where and how I grew up in an old school Hispanic family, men were taught to never show vulnerability. It was extremely hard for me to ask for help, especially upon exiting the military. I was emotionally numb for years and never showed an ounce of vulnerability.

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I really struggled with forming healthy and loving connections and relationships and the last thing I wanted to do was ask for help. I was ashamed and had a lot of guilt and bitterness.

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Adam and I met through Operation TBI Freedom (OTF) about a year ago. OTF is a program of Craig Hospital that supports Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries and provides assistance with just about anything you can think of for the Veterans and their families. They also have a Combat Led Peer Support group that is open to any Combat Veteran and/or their caregivers.

I have been a client, now alumni, of OTF since 2013 and when the program first started we were about 10 veterans deep. Now the program has well over 100 members.

Both Adam and I benefitted a lot from this peer support group and both wanted to do something special and unique for the community, like start our own support group. We both felt there was a need for a group that addressed the specific needs of dads who are also Veterans. With the help of the Veterans Trauma Court, Adam and I created a Veterans support group for fathers that we have named “Fathers of Freedom”.

Our mission is to provide a safe place for Veteran Fathers in the community to meet and to help lift each other up, be valuable listeners, and to educate each other in successful parenting strategies and resources that encourage positive child-development in healthy families.

Meet Adam

I am a father and served in the United States Air Force for 6 and a half years. I believe that we cannot help anyone until we take the time to help ourselves.

I started the Fathers of Freedom group because I want to give our veteran fathers a support group to lean on and voice their concerns. To speak about different tools to parenting and what some of the research is saying. To openly communicate with each other about what things have been working in their household and what things have not been working. To give men a platform to be vulnerable with other men so they can discuss parenting without feeling judged for their potential ignorance on the subject matter. 

Fathers of Freedom will provide an open space where we can learn together through open discussion and book recommendations. It will be a place to organize group activities with our children to build closer bonds and instill trust. I want this organization to be a safe-haven where men are given the opportunity to be the best fathers they can be to their children. 

At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can. My greatest hope for this group is for dads to play with their kids and to be fathers. It takes a lot of work, love, and dedication to be a parent and you must strive to meet their needs.

 


April is Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM). Access the toolkit for everything you need to raise awareness about CAPM.

The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. If you know of an organization or individual working to strengthen Colorado families and communities that would like to be highlighted, please reach out to Dianna Robinson at dianna.robinson@state.co.us.

To learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect and for information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit CO4Kids.org. Call 844-CO-4-Kids to report concerns about child abuse and neglect. If a child or teen is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.

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Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.