Concert to raise awareness of child abuse preventionWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The Blues Against Child Abuse event March 29 gives people a chance to not only hear some tunes, but to raise awareness of child abuse.
“We just wanted to find a way to bring attention to the issue and great music is a way to do it,” said Julie Malkin, public information officer for Lucas County Children Services (LCCS), the agency putting the event together.
The band Voodoo Libido will bring “lots of good old rousing blues” to the party at Dégagé Jazz Café, Malkin said. Hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will also be available.
LCCS hopes to draw a younger crowd with its first-time blues party, said LCCS Executive Director Dean Sparks. The agency hasn’t done as many activities in the area around Dégagé and wanted to reach a different part.
The agency is asking eventgoers to bring a personal care item like soap or shampoo to the party to be donated to a child in foster care.
Many times, foster parents need to run out and purchase these small items when the child arrives, Sparks said. If the children come in with these items, they have more time to bond with their new foster family.
“Sometimes [the children] come with nothing and it might make it an easier transition,” Sparks said.
Sparks said the county needs more foster parents. It’s the job of foster parents “to keep a child safe and to nurture them and help them bond and thrive in the world despite the things that have happened to them,” Sparks said.
Currently, there are 550 foster children in foster/relative care and 270 foster homes in Lucas County. To become a foster parent, you must contact (419) 213-3336 and be put in touch with a recruitment specialist. Background checks are performed in addition to a reference check, home study and safety/fire inspection. The parents must complete 36 hours of training before placement, Sparks said. Adults older than 21, married or single, are eligible.
“You don’t have to own a home as long as it’s safe and you have room for the kid, you can be a foster parent if you meet those criteria,” Sparks said.
Some foster parents work with birth parents to potentially reunite families or help children move on to another permanent home. Other times, foster families become that permanent home, Sparks said.
The blues event also serves as the local kickoff for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year’s theme is “child abuse is preventable.”
In 2011, LCCS received 4,148 referrals of suspected child abuse involving 6,046 children and discovered 587 area children were abused or neglected. The agency’s hotline for reporting child abuse receives about 750 calls per month and 300-400 are investigated.
These numbers are about average if not a bit low for an area the size of Lucas County, Sparks said.
Sparks and Malkin recommended reaching out to young parents with advice, reporting suspected abuse and talking to legislators as ways to prevent child abuse.
“Child abuse is preventable if everyone puts their minds to it,” Malkin said. LCCS has several events planned throughout April including “Wear Blue to Work Day” on April 11. Workers are encouraged to wear blue to the office, photograph a group of co-workers wearing the color and post it via social media.
“We’re trying to get everybody aware and develop that sense of camaraderie,” Malkin said. “We want to have fun, get people involved and aware and take advantage of social media.”
Buttons for the day are available by calling (419) 213-3254.
LCCS and other agencies will present information at the “We Care About Our Kids: Community Forum on Child Sexual Abuse” at 6:30 p.m April 18 at the University of Toledo Scott Park Campus. Admission is free.
A ceremony honoring local children who died as a result of street violence, abuse or neglect is 11:30 a.m. April 25 at the LCCS offices, 705 Adams St., Toledo. Since April 2011, no children have died in Lucas County from abuse or neglect, but Timothy Blair, 14, Deadrick Rocker, 17, and Montelle Taylor, 17, died as a result of violence.
Tickets for Blues Against Child Abuse are $10 and available at (419) 213-3254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The event runs 7-10 p.m. March 29. Dégagé Jazz Café at 301 River Road, Maumee. Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor.
To report a case of suspected abuse, call (419) 213-CARE.