Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK) understands that parenting is hard. Kids are rebellious and difficult at times. Sometimes they whine. Meantime parents may be stressed from work, sleep-deprived, or trying to balance too many things at once. The main thing for a parent to know is when to reach out for help, before they snap. The main thing for the public to know in this regard is how to spot child abuse and what to do about it. And that’s where PCAK comes in.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky works to prevent child abuse before it happens and gives parents the tools to deal with feelings that might lead to an abusive situation. PCAK is also works with officials to impact public policy on child abuse throughout the state of Kentucky. We know that being abused as a child has lifelong repercussions that can get in the way of a successful life. Supporting organizations in the fight against child abuse is important, and we were pleased to be able to lend an assist by way of our small grant program.
We spoke with Executive Director Jill Seyfred and Director of Operations and Prevention Education Janna Estep Jordan to find out more about this work:
Kars4Kids: What led to the founding of your organization?
Jill Seyfred Executive Director: Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky was formed by the merger of two organizations, one of whom had very strong statewide connections, the other with very strong national connections. Both organizations focused on child abuse prevention. So the merger was a natural fit for these two organizations to come together to form the Kentucky Council on Child Abuse. In 1999, our Board of Directors voted to change our name to Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to more closely align and brand our work.
Kars4Kids: How is child abuse defined, and where does Kentucky stack up in terms of child abuse statistics?
Janna Estep Jordan: If we were to compare Kentucky substantiations of abuse to other states, it would be like comparing apples to oranges. Kentucky is a mandated reporting state, which means everyone in the state is a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse. Other states may mandate that only certain professionals have this duty. Furthermore, state laws that define and substantiate child maltreatment in each state varies.
The best way to ensure the safety of our kids is to help everyone in our communities recognize what child abuse is and how to prevent it. Kentucky defines child maltreatment as a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child. Child abuse includes non-accidental physical injury, physical neglect, sexual and emotional abuse.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us about your hotline?
Janna Estep Jordan: 1-800-CHILDREN is a 24/7 hotline anyone can call Monday-Friday during business hours to locate parenting resources, prevention resources and more. Parenting is difficult and kids do not come with manuals, having a resource line parents can call is a vital.
Kars4Kids: How does advocacy fit in with the work of PCAK?
Jill Seyfred: About 10 years ago, our board started moving toward a more robust presence in the arena of public policy. We engage with government as well as non-profit organizations around issues, and, oftentimes, form a coalition to ensure our particular stance is represented to our elected officials. It is a misconception that 501(c)(3) organizations cannot engage in advocacy work; in fact, they can (being mindful of their budget and expenditures on advocacy). Impacting public policy is one of the most powerful and substantial ways in which a state can, collectively, impact the lives of their citizens. We have taken stances on issues ranging from budgets, to administrative regulations, the prohibition of corporal punishment in the schools, providing child abuse prevention training in the schools to establishing a statutorily mandated Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us about some of the events you’re hosting in April, Child Abuse Prevention Month?
Janna Estep Jordan: Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time where we use the publicity surrounding the month and its activities to onboard people to action. Friday, April 1st is known nationally and across the nation as “Wear Blue Day.” A day where we wear blue to promote prevention and what we can all do to prevent abuse from ever occurring. On April 11th at 10 AM, we will host a statewide kick-off at the State Capitol Building in Frankfort. The public is welcome to join.
Throughout the month we will host a door decorating contest and a scavenger hunt for families, individuals, and groups to become involved. PCAK maintains a statewide calendar on our website at https://pcaky.org/about/capm/. This calendar promotes events across the Commonwealth in local communities. We will also host a series of free trainings that help strengthen maltreatment prevention education for everyone. https://pcaky.org/training/training-list/
Kars4Kids: How does fatherhood fit in with child abuse prevention?
Janna Estep Jordan: Research tells us that positive father involvement can have significant impacts on children which include social emotional wellbeing, cognitive outcomes, educational attainment, and can also decrease substance use and behavioral issues in children/youth. Despite the growing recognition of the vital role fathers play in the lives of their children, most services were designed with only mothers in mind. The healthier connections a child has, the better off they are going to be and the stronger a family can be, thereby decreasing risk of abuse or neglect.
Kars4Kids: Tell us about The Kids Are Worth It® Conference.
Janna Estep Jordan: The annual Kids Are Worth It! Conference is the state’s largest educational event focused on child maltreatment education for all professionals. Each year, we average 400-650 attendees. Educational topics include strengthening families, implicit bias awareness, electronic crimes against children, child trafficking, fatherhood and more. Last year, 97% of all attendees who completed evaluations indicated that they learned of a new resource to support the prevention of maltreatment in the families they serve. The 2022 conference will be held September 12-13th at the Galt House in Louisville.
Kars4Kids: Can you give us an overview of your parent education program?
Janna Estep Jordan: Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky oversees parent education across the state of Kentucky through trained and dedicated service providers. Our parent education programming welcomes ALL caregivers including single parents, mothers, fathers, kinship providers, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, parents struggling with substance use issues, and more. This is a 12-week program designed to provide the skills necessary for improving the parent/child relationship. 95.36% of parents who complete this program believe they are a better parent because of the program. 84.91% state they have more people to support them than they did before and 81.28% believe their children are happier. For anyone interested they can visit our website at pcaky.org or call 1-800-CHILDREN for more information.
Kars4Kids: What is Partners in Prevention?
Janna Estep Jordan: Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK) relies on community partners at the local level to further our mission. The Partners in Prevention Network is 250+ members strong and includes businesses, state government, associations, medical groups, schools and much more. This partner network works collaboratively with PCAK to learn the latest research and tools available to support families and create community awareness from one family at a time to one county at a time.
Kars4Kids: How did the pandemic affect your operations? Has the pandemic affected child abuse statistics, and if so, how? Why would a pandemic affect child abuse statistics?
Janna Estep Jordan: Our agency continued services throughout the pandemic. Services adapted to virtual opportunities and the training arm of our agency saw a significant increase in participation. Research tells us when families lack resources and connections, maltreatment is more likely to occur. So, at the start of the pandemic and throughout, we worked diligently to provide educators and others with tools to not only identify and report abuse in virtual formats, but how to reach out to families and children to ensure they had healthy connections and supports during this difficult time.
We are still learning what outcomes the pandemic had on families and children. While reports of abuse declined, our medical partners indicated that the severity of cases increased for physical abuse and the need for mental health services increased.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky?
Jill Seyfred: Our work is guided by a 3-year board-approved strategic plan. While numerous issues surfaced during the Pandemic, we remain committed to tackling our identified gaps and building upon the service and program foundation we have established. We will continue to identify solutions and provide guidance as our state tackles the problem of child neglect, being mindful of not confusing neglect with poverty. We will expand our reach with our military community through Army Community Services at Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell and our National Guard. We are excited about increasing and enhancing how we engage with service providers, families and partners through educational campaigns, our website, the development of an app, and the expansion of our Partner network. The demand for our trainings exceeds our ability to respond to all requests, so we will continue to expand our ability to provide credentialed training to interested Kentuckians.