During my time at Family Compass, I have been able to learn a great deal about all forms of child abuse and neglect, but more importantly about the overwhelming need for prevention services in our community and beyond. Although some cases of child abuse I came across are truly abhorrent, some of the less extreme cases of abuse or neglect can occur simply because parents haven’t had the chance to learn how to properly raise children.
Since child abuse unfortunately tends to repeat itself in generational cycles, many at-risk parents might have experienced nothing but abusive treatment or harsh discipline from their own parents. Some parents may actually need to be taught that there is another way, that there are indeed more positive ways to raise children. All of the programs offered by Family Compass, such as Bringing Families Together, Parent Aide, Healthy Families, or otherwise, educate at-risk clients in order to improve the lives of innocent children and reach a sustainable outcome that can ultimately break the generational cycle of abuse.
I am proud to have been able to have been even a small part of this laudable mission this summer; through scheduling social media posts, helping craft E-News, suggesting website improvements, designing original Family Compass visual content, or otherwise. Yet what inspired me most was to be able to get acquainted with the people behind-the-scenes at Family Compass, specifically through my photography project documenting many of the staff members.
In the spirit of one of my favorite photography projects, Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York”, I took candid images of each staff member while having them briefly speak about their experience at Family Compass. These images and interviews were later posted on Facebook as part of my #CycleBreakers post series, in order to provide the social media audience with a more intimate look at what goes on at Family Compass. After hearing everyone’s story, it became evident that the staff here has such an innate passion for abuse prevention. While some individuals stressed how rewarding it is to watch their clients grow and improve, some even shared stories of personal encounters with abuse and trauma. Regardless of their personal motive, I know that everyone I spoke to shared a strong desire to serve and help others.
For a young person like myself, it was an impactful experience to be a part of an agency so rooted in compassion. Although I have yet to discern my own path, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow alongside an organization with a mission I greatly respect and support. Organizations like Family Compass exist to serve the community and are vital to protecting children and instilling hope in the lives of others. I am hopeful that the content I’ve shared shared and the suggestions I’ve made will help Family Compass continue to grow to make an even greater impact in our community.
Post by Justin Schwartz, Exxon Community Summer Jobs Development Intern for Summer 2015.
The Dallas Morning News published an article this week on the federal funding, which has allowed for the expansion of home mentoring programs nationwide. At this time, the funding made available in 2011 has not been reauthorized at the federal level. Yet, the loss of such evidence-based programs would have a devastating impact on our community. On average, six children are born to teenage parents each day in the city of Dallas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young parental age is among the top risk factors for engaging in child abuse. Home mentoring programs, such as those referenced in the article are demonstrated effective at preventing such abuse, as well as saving tax payers the average lifetime cost of abuse for each child of $210,012.
Young women, like Ana in Dallas, who was raised by substance abusing parents and left home alone for days at only ten years of age, are learning how to parent in a different way through Family Compass’ Healthy Families program funded in part by the aforementioned federal funding. Upon entering the program Ana shared, “If my parents could not take care of me in their twenties, how will I be able to care of my baby at 14?” With the support of Family Compass, Ana is learning to raise her child in a loving, nurturing environment where her daughter is sheltered from abuse. We absolutely must advocate for continued investment in our community’s most valuable resource — our children.
Last week another precious life was lost. On January 26th, a 14-year-old teen was charged with capital murder for allegedly drowning a two-month-old that was temporarily staying in her home. As we gather history on the family, the toddler had been temporarily placed in this home while the biological mother spent 112 days in jail for a probation violation for a felony theft charge.
In situations like this, here is what we know. Given certain risk factors, we can predict the likelihood of abuse and as such we can prevent child abuse, serious injuries and fatalities. The risk factors in this situation included: the primary, biological mother was in jail and there were no biological family members able to care for the infant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that presence of these risk factors can lead to abuse, injury and/or a fatality.
Due to the presence of predictable risk factors, this death was preventable! As a community, we can’t simply throw up our hands and say that there was nothing we could have done. Child abuse is preventable and this is why Family Compass exists. Be a part of transforming the health and safety of our community by investing in our most precious resource – our children.
For years, we have received referrals from Collin County for services offered by Family Compass. It has always been heartbreaking to share that we were unable to serve families residing outside of Dallas County. Our concern is always the child and their risk for abuse or neglect. Our confidence for families referred in Dallas County lies in evidence-based programming for which we have received national accreditation and a caring, highly-skilled team. And then I received an e-mail in early June with an inquiry.
At that time, Family Outreach of Richardson-Plano, a 41 year old non-profit with a similar mission, reached out to us to consider a merger. After six months of preparation, it is with sheer delight that I share that we have merged Family Outreach of Richardson-Plano into our fold. The merged organization will provide child abuse prevention services in both Dallas and Collin County and operate going forward under the Family Compass name.
I have had the great privilege of working closely with the amazing board, staff and volunteers of the organization for the previous months. Our integration plan includes working alongside the dedicated staff and volunteers to enhance existing services with evidence-based curricula and plan for significant expansion.
Prevention services are critical for Collin County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the lifetime cost of abuse for each individual is $210,012. As such, the 1,168 cases confirmed in Collin County in 2013 will have an estimated lifetime cost of more than $240 million. Alternatively, it costs approximately $1,500 annually per child to receive services to prevent abuse.
The holidays are one of the most dangerous times for children, as parents become overwhelmed with economic and family stress. We are here to serve the children of Dallas and Collin counties now and in the years to come. We believe every child deserves to retain their innocence, having never experienced abuse. Every child deserves a true childhood.
The NORC at the University of Chicago, one of the largest independent social research organizations in the United States, released a study in October on the prevalence of Teen Dating Violence. According to this national study, nearly 20 percent of boys and girls reported themselves as victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships. Astoundingly, more than 60 percent reported being victims of psychological abuse, broadly defined as actions ranging from name-calling to excessive tracking.
As a parent myself, it is beyond comprehension to think that more than 60 percent of our teens are enduring regular abuse. But, what if the individual is a teen parent. Under those circumstances, there is another victim – the child. When discussing intimate partner violence, we often forget to address the impact on children. However, those of us working with struggling families each day observe the trauma experienced by children watching their mothers threatened, hit or stalked. The resulting trauma impacts their young bodies in the same manner by increasing their heart rate, cortisol levels and decreasing the depth of their breathing. Sustained exposure to trauma for these teens or their children leads to chronic depression and anxiety and often substance abuse to dull the pain.
Fortunately, the impact of witnessing violence on children is being targeted by multiple national and local efforts. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder released a report entitled Defending Childhood addressing the impact of witnessing violence on children. Family Compass and a consortium of providers including: The Family Place, Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, Jewish Family Services, Pastoral Counseling Center, Momentous Institute and the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) have utilized the report to develop a local initiative to assess trauma among youth at DISD and implement a trauma informed model to allow children to heal from their experiences of trauma. For more information or to join the cause, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
High profile cases of child abuse and family violence in recent media have raised awareness of what Family Compass witnesses every day – a crisis in our community and nation. Sadly, family violence is highly prevalent and predominately impacts our society’s most vulnerable – our children, women and the elderly as displayed below:
- 1 in 3 women will experience family violence in their lifetime
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are abused or neglected
The Texas Council on Family Violence recently released a report indicating that per capita, Dallas County is the most lethal region in Texas for domestic violence. The Department of Family Protective Services indicates that 17 children lost their lives to abuse or neglect last year. With these statistics in mind, one must ask “when will we stop operating business as usual”.
Family Compass offers evidence-based services that are proven effective to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect, encourage healthy relationships between parents and improve overall family functionality. There is another way. Be a part of critical change in our community and embrace a zero tolerance stance on family violence and widespread access to prevention and early intervention services by supporting Family Compass with your time, talent and resources today!