Program Report: Non-Profits Working Against Child Abuse


As school kids, we tried to ace our tests, thanks in large part to homes where we felt safe and loved without condition.

As adults, at club lunch on Monday, we learned a more alarming use of the word – as an acronym for “Adverse Childhood Experience,” or child abuse. In professional parlance, “ACE” stems from a national research study that documents links between adverse childhood experiences and adult health and social problems.

Four leaders at Triangle-based non-profit organizations working to mitigate child abuse locally and across North Carolina, in a joint appearance, described the enormous human, social and economic costs of unchecked child abuse and ways we can help. Providing the updates to underscore April’s designation as National Child Abuse Prevention Month were fellow Rotarians Kevin Spears and Rachel Galanter, both at the helm of two non-profits. Joining them were Wanda Boone, a visiting presenter, and Muffy Grant, another visiting presenter standing in for Rotarian Sharon Hirsch.

Spears, director of development at The Center for Child and Family Health, said more than 20 percent of homes in North Carolina report having teenagers who have described experiencing three or more adverse childhood experiences.

ACEs includes abuse physically, emotionally or sexually; neglect in physical or emotional forms; and household problems including parental divorce, incarceration, substance abuse, mental illness or mothers who are being treated violently. ACE victims are more prone to obesity, smoking, heart disease and sexually transmitted disease. “The more ACEs someone experiences, the more likely these outcomes are,” Spears said, noting that the costs to Durham County alone are estimated to range from $41 million to more than double that in a given year.

Galanter, executive director at Exchange Family Center, said the organization works to inform families, create support groups, build social connections, encourage resilience and help entire families understand how environment affects the development of a child’s social and emotional skills.

Grant, representing Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, the statewide chapter of the national organization, encouraged members to provide financial support, take part of community events to raise funds and awareness and to watch “Resilience,” a documentary film now in current circulation that showcases the problem, the consequences and efforts to mitigate ACEs.

Boone, director of Together for Resilient Youth, said her organization works as a “coalition of coalitions” to coordinate wide-ranging efforts to help abused children and to build emotional resilience.  “You are more than the worst thing that ever happened to you,” Boone said.

With good forces in fight against child abuse, Rotarians spent several minutes in questions-and-answers discussing ways the organizations can coordinate their specific missions with each other.

Submitted by Mark Lazenby

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