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The Heart of Life

The Heart of Life: April 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Good

Maybe you've wondered why my blog is named The Heart of Life.  My very first post explains it, but I think now is a good time to revisit my reasons behind naming it such.  It's named after a slightly lesser known John Mayer song called The Heart of Life.  Writing down the lyrics to a whole song is kind of a cliche thing to do, but I love the whole song.  So here goes cliche.

I hate to see you cry
Lying there in that position
There's things you need to hear
So turn off your tears
And listen

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

You know, it's nothing new
Bad news never had good timing
Then, circle of your friends
Will defend the silver lining

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who's misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good
I know it's good

I wanted to end my child abuse prevention theme with a high note, and I think this song captures the spirit perfectly.  Bad things happen to kids sometimes, and it's been like that from the beginning of time.  The world can be a bad place, but we can't let that devalue the goodness in our individual lives.  Life is good. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Get the Facts

I'll let this infographic do all the talking.  Child abuse happens, and it needs to stop.


A Few Thoughts

I'm going to be spending extended amounts of time in an elementary school that has had a recent whooping cough outbreak.  I'm 95% sure I've been immunized for pertussis, but I'm still slightly nervous.

I cleaned off the yellow stuff from my bathroom ceiling with a magic eraser from the dollar store.  Victory!

Last night for family home evening we walked around the exterior of the house with a flashlight and wasp spray, looking to get rid of nests.  It was the most exciting FHE we've had in a long time.

I needed to do something trendy, so I went and bought some dry shampoo (Suave).  I'm in love.  I'm always looking for excuses not to shower.

There are ants all over our front porch.  I'm debating if I should take care of it before next FHE.

I spent a few hours this morning job hunting for my husband while he was at work.  I was tempted to look at jobs for me too, but there's no point until we know where we'll be.

I love clean sheets.  They feel so good.

I'm grateful my husband is more willing to do dishes than I am.  Hand-washing dishes always is so overwhelming for me.  Here's to hoping the next apartment has a dishwasher.

A few months ago it rained this weird, dirty rain that left my car filthy.  It has rained enough over the past few weeks that my car is basically clean again.  That was easy.

I'm want to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, but alas... my phone is plain Jane and not smart.  And my ipod is old school (it's only 2.5 years old, bless it's heart) and has no camera.  One day Instagram will be in my budget.


Friday, April 20, 2012


Ok, we're back to talking about child abuse.  You may have noted that I didn't talk about how to prevent sexual abuse in my last non-food post.  Don't worry, this was on purpose and we're going to tackle that now.  Parents that take good care of their children really don't have to worry about physical abuse or neglect being a problem within their family. Sexual abuse, on the other hand, is something that can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they come from a good home.  Sexual abuse picks no favorites--it happens to the wealthy, the poor, and the average alike.  This makes it massively important to talk about.

I don't have a problem talking about this subject, as it's something I talk to kids about on a daily basis, but I understand that a lot of people have their reservations.  Sexual abuse is a gross problem.  It's dirty, terrifying, and evasive.  Because this is the nature of the beast, sometimes parents avoid talking about it with their kids.  They think it's too gross for kids to know about.
This is how I like to think of it.  When kids are little, we teach them about cavities.  Now, a cavity is really a pretty gross and scary problem for a child.  It hurts, and you have to go to the dentist to get it fixed, which can be terrifying.  But I don't think too many parents are opposed to having their child learn about cavities.

However, one day the mother of a preschooler decided, "No!  I do not want my child to learn about cavities.  It's too scary.  I'll just make sure my child brushes his teeth three times a day and he'll be fine."  Thus, the mother enforced regular teeth-brushing and freaked out every time he didn't brush his teeth.  His mother also freaked out when he ate anything sugary.

This kind of freaked out the child.  He didn't know why she got so worked up every time he forgot to brush his teeth or ate sugary things.  So one day he asked his mom, "Why do I need to brush my teeth and not eat sugary food?"  His mother awkwardly searched for an explanation, "Well, you just need to do these things so... you don't have a problem.  It'll be bad if you don't, so just do it and you don't have to worry."  However, her son did worry.  A lot.  He tried to guess what this mystery problem was.  Maybe his face would fall off.  Maybe he wouldn't be able to taste anything ever again.

And then one day the unthinkable happened.  He got a cavity.  His tooth hurt so badly, and he didn't know why.  He was scared to tell his mom, because he knew she would freak out.  She had told him bad things would happen if he didn't take care of his teeth, but he had no idea it would feel like this.  He felt like it was all his fault.  He shouldn't have eaten that snickerdoodle cookie.  Or maybe he should have used a little more toothpaste.  He was miserable, inside and out.

After a few weeks, his mother noticed that it was taking him a long time to eat his dinner.  "What's taking you so long?" she asked.  "Oh, nothing," he said, eyes watering in pain.  She continued to pressure him until finally he broke down and told her about his tooth.  As he had anticipated, she was mortified.  She quizzed him on his teeth-brushing regiment and sugar intake.  She remorsefully called the dentist and scheduled an appointment.  "I hoped it would never come to this!" she exclaimed.

When he went to the dentist he learned several things that made him feel better.  He learned that what he was experiencing was called a cavity, and that this was something a lot of kids had problems with.  He was stunned.  He thought he was the only person in the world who had this problem.  When he told the dentist how much he brushed his teeth and how he tried hard to avoid sugary foods, the dentist assured him that he had nothing to be ashamed of.  Cavities sometimes happen, and they can be fixed.  The boy was relieved.  Although he knew he definitely didn't want to get another cavity, learning what a cavity was and how to prevent and fix it made him a lot less scared.

Thanks for enduring my ridiculous little story.  Sometimes I get a little carried away in my story telling.  Anyway, we can safely say that the mother in the story had misguided good intentions.  She wanted to protect her child from cavities by not telling him about cavities.  However, this makes no sense.  Everyone knows that you need to teach kids about cavities not only so they know how to prevent them, but also so they know what happens if they get a cavity.

Ironically, some parents deal with sexual abuse the same way the crazy mother in my story dealt with cavities.  They believe if they watch their child closely enough, sexual abuse won't be a problem.  If their kids do bring it up, they shroud the problem with mystery.  This isn't comforting for a child--it's confusing and scary.  If a child does have a problem with sexual abuse, this mystery will likely make the child not want to tell, for fear of getting in trouble.  Often, sexually abused children feel that nobody else in the world has this problem and that it was their fault.  No parent wants their child to feel that way.

When kids are taught about sexual abuse in an appropriate way, it becomes something that empowers them instead of scaring them.  Here are some important points for parents to discuss with their children:
  • Sexual abuse is a sad problem that some kids have.
  • Sexual abuse is forced or tricked touch of private body parts.  Sexual abuse can also be looking at private body parts.
  • Force is when someone is making you do something you don't want to do or don't understand
  • Tricking is when someone is lying to you, fooling you, or calling something a game that isn't really a game.
  • Private body parts are the parts of your body covered by a swimming suit.
  • If a child is sexually abused, it doesn't mean they are bad.
  • Kids are usually sexually abused by someone they know.  However, sexual abuse is never ok, no matter who does it.
In addition, here are some important body safety rules that every child should know:
  1. It's my body.  I decide who I share my body with.
  2. The Uh-Oh Feeling lets me know if a touch is not ok.  If I feel the Uh-Oh Feeling, I have the right to ask questions.
  3. If someone is touching me in a way I don't like, I can say "No!" and get away from that person.
  4. I can tell someone I trust if someone is hurting me or touching me in a way I don't like.  If the person I tell doesn't believe me, I can keep telling until somebody does believe me.
  5. It's never my fault if someone sexually abuses me.
Here are a few things parents should know about sexual abuse:
  • Since sexual abuse is done by someone the child knows 90% of the time, often the abuser takes the time to scout out what kind of relationship the child has with his/her parents.  If the abuser notes a close relationship, it's likely the abuser will avoid abusing that child.  The abuser doesn't want to get caught, so the abuser will find children that don't seem to have open communication with their parents.
  • Abusers tend to target children who appear to be depressed, lonely, or seeking attention.  These children are more easily tricked because perhaps the abuser is offering attention the child isn't receiving at home.
  • Many (if not most) sexual abusers started out with a pornography addiction.  Pornography perpetuates sexual abuse.  Check out this website to find out how to help stop pornography
  •  A resource that should be used wisely is the U.S. Sex Offender Registry.  You can look up your address to see if any sexual abusers are living near you.  This is a valuable tool, but should be used carefully.  Not all of the men and women registered are a real threat to you, so look closely at what their offense was and how long ago it happened.  Use your best judgement, and if you see someone you know, don't use it as a reason to be unkind to them. Everyone makes mistakes, and some mistakes are more public than others.
  • 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18.  It's a bigger problem that most people realize.
There you go.  Start talking about sexual abuse.

Update:  I forgot to mention that my child-friendly info I used in this post comes from the Good-Touch/Bad-Touch curriculum.  It is a program by Childhelp that is being replaced by a new program called Speak Up Be Safe, so they don't have too much information about GTBT anymore on the Childhelp website.  However, we continue to use use Good-Touch/Bad-Touch at my agency.


Monday, April 16, 2012

(Practically) Stuffed French Toast

I feel like my blog is depressing this month.  Well, I don't think it's depressing (I wasn't kidding when I said I'm super obsessive about preventing child abuse), but it's probably a bit much for normal people.  Thus, we're going to switch it up for this post and talk about something far less depressing:  stuffed French toast.
I came across this tutorial for stuffed French toast on Pinterest.  It was so delicious.  However, it was kind of a pain in the butt to make.  The directions said to get a loaf of French bread and cut it into X inch wide slices, then cut a X inch wide and deep slit into each slice, and then somehow shovel your fruity cream cheese into these slits without squishing or tearing the bread.  After much foot stomping and frustrated bread-hacking with my paring knife, I couldn't help but feel like there should be an easier way to make stuffed French toast.

I have good news.  There is an easier way!  A much easier way.  No cutting.  No slitting.  No stuffing.  How is it stuffed french toast without doing any stuffing?  You shall see.

As a side note, I'm also kind of grammar/punctuation/spelling Nazi, and I can't decide whether the "French" in "stuffed French toast" should be capitalized.  I think it looks weird, but I'm fairly sure the rule is that it should be capitalized.  Thus, I will begrudgingly capitalize.  Not that I have a problem with the French, but I just think it's a little unfair to "stuffed" and "toast" which are both very important parts of this recipe.  I would capitalize all of it, but that just seems excessive.  Oh, the dilemmas of the English language.

Here are your ingredients:
Bread (normal store-bought pre-sliced bread)
Vegetable Oil or Spray
Cream Cheese
Fresh Fruit or Jam (or both)
Powdered Sugar

First of all, make some normal French toast with normal bread.  My rule of thumb is that 1 egg will make two slices of French toast.  You need two slices of bread for one stuffed French toast masterpiece.  So you can use that to gauge how many eggs to use.  As for the milk, a splash will do.  The fewer the eggs, the smaller the splash.  If you're using more eggs, do a bigger splash.  Then do some drips of vanilla and sprinkles of cinnamon.  Maybe this is weird, but in my family we never measure our French toast ingredients.  I mean the eggs aren't really much to measure, but as far as the milk, vanilla, and cinnamon go, a splash or sprinkle works for me every time.  Some splashes and sprinkles are smaller or bigger than others, but it always tastes good.  French toast is very forgiving.  However, if you're nervous and need more structure, the above-mentioned frustrating stuffed French toast tutorial links to a more structured recipe.
(Now is a good time to assert that my photography is less than desirable, but it does the trick)
After you've got your egg-milk-cinnamon mixture all sufficiently mixed, get your frying pan or griddle heated up (at about medium heat) and pour/spray some vegetable oil on there.  I like to use a lot of oil because it makes it taste sooooo good.  Really, my French toast turns out kind of deep fried.  But hey, French toast really isn't all that healthy anyway, so you might as well make it freaking delicious while you're at it.  You can use a lesser degree of oil if you're trying to be more healthy.
(Note the obscene amount of oil)
Dip both sides of your bread in the egg mixture and get it frying right away.  Don't dip your bread unless you're going to put it directly on your hot pan.  Premature dipping leads to soggy gross French toast.  You don't want that.  Unless you like it that way.  Your call. 
 Fry up both sides until it's cooked through and pleasantly browned, and then turn the heat down to low-ish.
Here's where the stuffed part comes in.  Get out a butter knife and cut off a dab of cream cheese from the block.  Put the dab on a piece of cooked French toast.  Don't bother trying to spread it around; just put it on the toast.  Put some more dabs on your toast until you achieve a satisfactory level of cream cheese. 
After that, put some fruit or jam on the same slice of toast.  If you're using jam, don't worry too much about spreading it around.  As long as it's distributed somewhat evenly it'll taste wonderful.  If you choose to use fresh fruit (like strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries) I'd recommend stirring some granulated sugar into the washed (and cut, if necessary) fruit and then letting it sit for a few minutes to let the sugar dissolve and soak in.  Apply cream cheese and fruit on half of the cooked toasts.
Here's the final step.  Take a slice of plain cooked toast and put it on top of your cream cheese-y, fruity slice of toast.  All of the sudden it's magically stuffed without doing any stuffing!  How simple is that?  I like to leave it on the warm pan for a little while to let the cream cheese get soft and warm.
Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top, and garnish with more jam or fruit if you'd like, and you're ready to serve!  No syrup required--it's sweet enough without it.  This tastes exactly like the difficult version.  But it's infinitely easier and faster.  And I make it way too often.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Preventing Neglect and Physical Abuse

 This is the moment you've been waiting for.  We are going to talk about how YOU can prevent the neglect and physical abuse of children!  Brace yourself for this, because it's so easy it'll blow your mind.

A huge factor in neglect and physical abuse is stress.  Financial, health, and emotional issues are just a few things that can cause this stress.  When parents are stressed out, they are much more likely to abuse or neglect their children.  Thus, if we help families reduce this stress, child abuse can be prevented!

Prevent Child Abuse America has a few easy ideas on how to help reduce stress in families with kids:
  • Be a friend to a parents in your community.  Listen to them and support them in their struggles.
  • If a parent you know seems overwhelmed, offer to babysit so they can have a break.
  • Be a friend to a child.  Ask them about their day and encourage them.
  • Donate unneeded clothing, furniture, or toys to families in your neighborhood that might need them.
  • Be kind to parents when their children throw tantrums in public places.
  • Watch out for the children in your neighborhood.  If you see a child get hurt, go help them.  If you see a child doing something unsafe, go stop them.
Another way to prevent child abuse is to know and pay attention to the signs of child abuse.  Listen to your gut feeling.  If you suspect abuse, do not hesitate to call the National Child Abuse Hotline.  Don't worry about being wrong--the most important thing is making sure children are safe.  Child protective service workers are often perceived as cruel people who tear children from the arms of their parents at every chance they get, and this can scare people away from making reports.  This perception about CPS is incorrect.  The government could never afford to do that anyway.  Removal only occurs when the child is in immediate danger or the parents are in police custody.  When a report is made, CPS workers go into the home to investigate the situation.  If they find no evidence of abuse, it's not a big deal.  If issues are identified, the worker then helps the family resolve these issues in various ways (taking classes, cleaning up the house, etc.).  Essentially, if you have honest concerns about a child, there is absolutely no harm in reporting.

Last of all, it is so important to simply know about resources in your area that help prevent child abuse.  Not long ago, in a community near where I live, it was made known that several trees were to be cut down from Main Street.  The LDS Church had requested the removal of these trees, and the city granted it since the young trees were sick.  In cutting the sick ones down, the healthy 80-year-old trees would have more room to thrive.  This made sense to me, but there was an outcry from some of the citizens of that city.  Although there was nothing underhanded about the removal of the trees, people were upset that this was happening.  People signed petitions and attended a city council meeting to voice their disapproval in the removal of these sick trees.  In a news interview, one woman said something to the effect of, "We teach our children to save the environment, but then we cut down these trees!  It's so sad to cut down something living!"

When I heard about this, I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief that 6 trees had caused such a big stir in that community.  A few months prior, a 30-year-old program at my agency was cut.  This child abuse prevention program had helped hundreds and hundreds of families throughout the years.  My agency is a private non-profit agency, and thus this program had been funded by grants from the government.  When the grant was unexpectedly discontinued, the tried and true program screeched to a halt.  It was devastating to those of us who knew what an important program it was for the community.  However, unlike the trees, this program was felled silently.  There was no public outcry.  To my knowledge, there were no petitions.  It didn't appear in the ten-o-clock news.  The program just quietly ceased.

The contrast between these two incidents is sad to me.  I don't think any community really values its trees more than its families and children.  But it's funny which of the two got the most attention.  Honestly, I think my community didn't notice the program's disappearance because it didn't know the program even existed.  Many communities simply do not know about the jewels nestled in their midst.

In order to keep child abuse prevention resources in the community, the community needs to be aware of these resources.  Even if you don't directly use these resources in your community, know about them.  Support these resources.  Recommend these resources to families that do need them.

There you have it.  Preventing neglect and physical abuse is easy.  Find ways to reduce stress in families with kids, report suspected abuse, and be aware of and support the resources in your community.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Four Horsemen of Child Abuse

The first step in preventing child abuse is defining it.

Abuse is when something or someone is being mistreated, misused, disrespected, harmed, or hurt. According to the 2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report, in 2010, an estimated 695,000 children in the United States were abused. Parents are the perpetrators in 81% of child abuse cases. 57% of child abuse victims are 7 years old or younger.

The first of the four horsemen of abuse is neglect. Neglect accounts for 78% of child abuse. Neglect is when basic needs are not met. Basic needs are food, shelter, clothing, age appropriate care, love, and education. We typically picture neglect as a skeleton child who sleeps on the streets, but most neglect isn't that severe. For example, if a parent feeds and clothes an infant adequately, but keeps the infant strapped in a car seat for much of the day on a daily basis, this is neglect. As the infant's head rests hours upon hours in the same position on the car seat, eventually the back of the infant's soft head will flatten. It is also likely that the child will have severe diaper rash from being changed infrequently. If this confinement becomes a long-term daily pattern, the child will become developmentally delayed, both physically and emotionally, from a lack of stimulation (being held, playing, wiggling, etc.). Seventy-eight percent may seem high, but when we consider that much of neglect is a direct result of parental substance abuse, this number is right on track. Substance abuse is a huge problem and naturally, some addicts have children. Drugs and alcohol greatly impair a parent's ability to care for his or her child appropriately. Another form of neglect that falls under a slightly different category is medical neglect. Approximately 2% of child abuse is medical neglect. This is when a caregiver fails to provide adequate health care to a child, although they are financially able.

The second horseman is physical abuse. 18% of child abuse is physical abuse. Any physical contact that causes major bodily harm (such as bruises, welts, internal or external bleeding, or broken bones) is physical abuse. This includes the shaking of infants. The use of objects (like belts, spoons, or whips) to strike a child is also physical abuse. That being said, a normal spanking (using just a hand) is not physical abuse. Normal spankings do not leave any marks on the body, and usually do not cause pain for more than a few seconds. On a related note, in some states it is child maltreatment for a child witness domestic violence.

The third, and perhaps most disgusting type of abuse is sexual abuse. Around 9% of abuse is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is forced or tricked touch of private body parts--whether it is the child's private body parts or the perpetrator's private body parts. Sexual abuse can also happen without touch. If a child is forced or tricked into showing another person his or her private body parts, this is sexual abuse. It is also sexual abuse when a child is forced or tricked to look at another person's private body parts or at pornographic material. It is a common misconception that sexual abuse is normally something done by a complete stranger, but this is false. 90% of sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.

The final horseman of child abuse is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse (also known as verbal or mental abuse) is the manipulation of a child through words or actions. It can also be "excessive demands on a child's performance" (2010 Child Maltreatment Report). 8% of child abuse is emotional. I believe emotional abuse is very under-reported, considering that some degree of emotional distress occurs in every type of child abuse. In light of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect, I think emotional abuse sometimes gets shrugged away. It doesn't seem as dangerous as the other types of abuse, so it gets ignored. Emotional abuse has it's own unique dangers, but they aren't as visible. Emotionally abused children can become very reluctant to trust others, which can have a negative impact on relationships with family, peers, etc. It can also have an effect on the child's self-perception. If a child is told he is ugly, useless, and stupid, eventually he might start believing he is all those things. And if a child believes he's ugly, useless, and stupid, eventually he might act in these ways. It's important to mention that discipline, when carried out appropriately (in the spirit of loving correction), is not emotional abuse. I'll explain this further in another post, so stay tuned for that.

Another 10% of child abuse doesn't quite fall under any of the four major types of abuse. This includes, but is definitely not limited to, abandonment, threats of harm, or congenital drug addiction (when a pregnant mother uses drugs).

Regardless of how child abuse happens, it is wrong.
Child abuse must be stopped!

(all of my stats come from the 2010 Child Maltreatment Report)


Monday, April 2, 2012

The River

I forgot to mention it in my last post, but my blog changed!  It's yellow!  Yes, it's bright and obnoxious, but I like it.  It's cheerful.  Cheerful is a good thing.

It's April, so it's officially Child Abuse Prevention Month!  Not only is it my personal blog theme for the month, it's actually a nationally recognized thing!  I know not everyone is as obsessive about child abuse prevention as I am, so let me explain some of the big names in preventing child abuse.  Prevent Child Abuse America is a national organization with 47 state-wide chapters.  They've recently started a campaign called Pinwheels for Prevention.  This campaign has designated the pinwheel as the official symbol for child abuse prevention.  I like this as a symbol.  Child abuse prevention preserves the innocence of childhood, and the pinwheel is a good portrayal of this simple innocence.  Child abuse has always been a somewhat scary and taboo subject, so people tend to shy away when it's talked about.  They like to believe it doesn't really happen.  The pinwheel is a subtle reminder that child abuse is indeed a problem, but we need not be afraid of preventing it.

In order to explain the importance of prevention, I'd like to preface this month's theme with a story I heard last week at a conference:

A man was walking along the banks of a river when he heard a large splash and a cry for help.  He ran, following the sound of the cries until he came upon a child floundering in the middle of the deep river.  He wasted no time; he jumped in and pulled the child to safety.  He noted the child was not breathing, so he performed CPR.  Shortly afterward, the child gave a sputter and cough and began to breathe on his own.  Relieved, the man scooped up the child in his arms and took him to the hospital.

The next day, the man was once again walking along the same river when once again there was a large splash.  Once again, he raced to help and found another child drowning in the exact same spot in the river.  Once again, he pulled the child to safety, gave her CPR, then carried her to the hospital.

The exact same thing happened again the following day, with only one major difference--there were two children this time.  The man performed honorably--he hoisted not one, but two children to safety and miraculously performed CPR on both children until they were breathing.  He summed up his remaining strength and carried the two children to the hospital.

The man noted a pattern--all these near drownings occurred in the same area of the river.  He also noticed that the number of near drownings was increasing.  He felt a certain responsibility to rescue the children who fell in the river, but knew he wouldn't be able to do it alone.  Rescuing one child single-handedly had been difficult; rescuing two children on his own had been nothing short of miraculous.  Thus he employed the help of several friends.  Together they kept watch over the river and rescued each and every child that fell in the river.

The number of children falling into the river continued to increase.  Soon the man and his friends were overwhelmed.  They needed more help.  They went to the mayor and explained what was happening.  The mayor was sympathetic and assigned a group of emergency personnel to assist the man and his friends.

After a few weeks, a member of the emergency personnel had a brilliant idea.  She had noted that the path they were taking to the hospital was a very indirect route.  She suggested that they create a new path to the hospital.  This would decrease the time it took to make the commute to and from the hospital.  All agreed, and they went to work making this new path.  Just as they had suspected, the new path definitely helped to streamline their rescuing process.

However, even after these improvements the problem continued.  The group was flabbergasted.  They didn't know what else to do.  Thus, they called in the local drowning expert.  They explained everything they'd been doing to save the drowning children.  They showed her the life-saving equipment they'd acquired, and told her of the CPR trainings they'd attended.  They even showed her the data they'd collected on how much time they were saving with the new path to the hospital.

After she'd seen everything, the expert stood on the riverbank gazing at the river.  She had just one question, "But why are the children falling in?"  One group member pointed out the cliff that hung over the "trouble spot" in this river.  He said, "They fall off that cliff."  The expert scratched her chin and suggested that they investigate what was happening at the top of this cliff.

When they got to the top of the cliff, they found a soccer field packed with soccer-playing children.  The soccer field was precariously close to the edge of this cliff.  "When they play too closely to the edge of the cliff, they tend to fall off," the expert explained to the rescue crew.  "Rescuing the children who have fallen off the cliff is good, but it is better to prevent children from falling in the first place.  If we build a fence along the edge of this cliff, the children wouldn't fall off.  They won't be in danger of drowning.  They won't need to be rescued.  That will solve your problem."

And so a fence was built along the edge of the cliff.  Suddenly, children stopped falling into the river.  All it took was a simple chain-link fence to keep the children safe.

As a society, we have a way of making problems more complicated than they need to be.  We devise elaborate plans and methods of saving those who have metaphorically fallen off the cliff, but sometimes we forget to ask why they're falling off the cliff.  Often, it is much simpler (and more inexpensive) to stop a problem before it happens than to remedy to a problem that has already occurred.

I am a social worker and my current job is in child abuse prevention, so it's something I do and think about a lot.  However, the responsibility to prevent child abuse doesn't lie solely on the shoulders of social workers, and other helping professionals.  This is everybody's problem to solve!  Is this daunting?  Absolutely.  It's easy to support child abuse prevention, but how does the average person actually prevent child abuse?  For the next several weeks I'll be talking about how the average, everyday person can actively prevent child abuse in his or her community.  Let's build some fences!