The Jackson County Board of Commissioners recently adopted a resolution recognizing the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Also present for the meeting were Jackson County Job and Family Services (JFS) Director Tammy Osborne-Smith, JFS Children Services Supervisors Kristin Butts and Loree Walker, Jackson County Health Department (JCHD) Wellness/Safety Director Lindsay Pierpont, and JCHD Family and Children First Council (FCFC) Coordinator Megan Peters.

“When planning for the future of our towns and cities, our communities should be focusing on the success, safety and well-being of the next generation,” said Osborne-Smith on Tuesday morning, March 30. “We say it all of the time; our children are our future.”

She continued on stating, “With that in mind, child protection is an essential component to every facet of society. Children need and deserve to live in a community where communities embrace a framework of protective factors that contribute to child protection. Families are strengthened through parental resilience (parents managing stress and functioning well when faced with adversity), social connections (positive relationships that provide emotional support), and emotional competence across families (children develop the ability to communicate clearly – recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships).”

Child Protective Services, Osborne-Smith said, is not just simply a county social services program that connects families with resources and places children into congregate-care settings when necessary.

“Protective services encompasses many things, such as communities strengthening families during times of their greatest needs, community providers working with children and families every day to build protective factors, and pro-active agencies creating pathways that lead families to improved outcomes for their children,” she said. “Each and every day, there are countless opportunities that allow individuals to shape and sustain social connections, and supportive environments that promote family engagement that leads to positive development and child well-being.”

As per usual, a big part of the child abuse prevention campaign, which is a national endeavor, is to wear blue on particular days in April.

“As we all continue to strive to continue our efforts, together in the mission to prevent child abuse and neglect, I encourage you each to wear blue on April 1 and 14 to support and promote a community partnership and awareness that strengthens families, promotes family and child resiliency, and helps eliminate child abuse and neglect,” Osborne-Smith stated.

She also expressed her gratitude for the partnership with the FCFC, as well as her staff’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I want to thank the staff that are here and back at the office,” Osborne-Smith said. “The pandemic has brought us an enormous amount of stress and new challenges, but they have risen to the occasion and continue to overcome.”

Commissioner Jon Hensler said it is important to note that, even during a global pandemic, the county’s JFS staff “didn’t miss a beat.”

“I think it’s kind of easy for people to forget that these advocates are still going into people’s homes and doing assessments to ensure children are taken care of and safe,” he said. “They don’t get to decide whether or not they go to work – they’re on the front lines. We appreciate your efforts. Children are our most precious gift. Thank you for advocating on their behalf.”

Echoing those comments, Commissioner Donnie Willis stated, “Over the years, I’ve seen what you guys do, sometimes late at night. That didn’t change with COVID and we really appreciate it.”

In the proclamation, which was unanimously approved in the form of Resolution 73-21, it is stated, “Child abuse and neglect is a community problem, and finding solutions will depend on involvement of many people throughout Ohio.” Further, the legislation says the consequences of child abuse and neglect cost Ohio billions of dollars annually, and that adults are the key to preventing such issues.

“Take a picture of yourself, your group or company wearing blue [on April 1 and 14] and post it on Facebook,” Osborne-Smith stated. “We ask that you partner with us and become aware that YOU can help prevent child abuse and neglect in our community.”

This April, JFS is inviting local businesses and school districts to help promote Child Abuse Prevention Month, and according to Osborne-Smith, thanks to the gracious support of a local group, prizes will be given to winners in each category.

“We are seeking downtown businesses to decorate their windows to help raise awareness for Child Abuse/Neglect Prevention,” she said in a release. “Thanks to the gracious donations of community partners, we would like to offer a prize to the ‘Best Window Display.’ Feel free to be as creative as possible as we bring awareness that everyone can be #EverydayOhioHeroes. We encourage anyone who would like to participate to submit photos of their window displays by April 14 to LauraRippeth2@jfs.ohio.gov.”

Further, classrooms are being asked to decorate their windows to help raise awareness, and a prize will be awarded to the “Best Classroom Display.” Teachers, students and staff are encouraged to wear blue on April 14 as a sign of support, and anyone wishing to participate is asked to submit photos of their window displays or blue attire by April 14 to LauraRippeth2@jfs.ohio.gov.

For more information, visit the Jackson County JFS Facebook page.