Every October, athletes sport pink cleats and kids get pink highlights in their hair for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but October also represents awareness of another crucially important issue that people may overlook. In addition to donning pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, people can also wear purple to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Indiana University Northwest hosted the 30th Annual Forum on Child Abuse and Neglect. The forum started on September 25 and lasted through October 30. The event was conducted via Zoom to comply with COVID-19 regulations, and the first day began with remarks from Terry Stigdon, Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, and Sharon Pierce, CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.
These opening remarks were followed by keynote speakers and impactful workshops that centered around topics such as recognition, prevention, and restoration pertaining to child abuse and neglect. To view the full forum schedule, click here.
While this forum dates back 30 years, there is no single organization that puts the event together. Over the years, Health Families Indiana, the IU Northwest School of Social Work, the IU Northwest School of Nursing, The Villages of Indiana, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, Kids First Trust Fund, Geminus Corporation, Service League of Northwest Indiana, and other groups have worked together to educate others about child abuse and neglect through this forum.
“We don’t have a formal organization. We just come together every year and do it,” said Dr. Richard Hug, a retired professor from IU Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “I can’t say enough about the university’s participation. Indiana University Northwest is the chancellor’s office and all of the technical people have provided support over the years. This year we did the event through Zoom and had all sorts of terrific technical support from them. It’s been a real community effort.”
With around 400 people attending in recent years, Hug hopes the forum sheds light on an issue that often hides behind closed doors. He feels it is critical that people keep child abuse and neglect on their radars so they can better recognize it when they see it and take appropriate action.
“One of the key messages is to be a mandated reporter,” Hug said. “When you see child abuse or neglect, report it, but also be a mandated supporter. Consider the mandate to support families as important as the mandate to report abuse and neglect. There are lots of stressors on families, and they need support. The idea of generally supporting families and supporting parents in the difficult job of raising children is important.”
For those who would like to actively support families, there are local organizations families turn to for help where individuals can donate time or money. Such organizations include The Caring Place in Valparaiso, St. Jude House in Crown Point, and Gabriel’s Horn Homeless Center in Portage among others.
For more information on child abuse and neglect, visit https://www.facebook.com/IUNFORUM/.
To learn more about IU Northwest, visit https://www.iun.edu/.