For just a moment, picture a child in your neighborhood -- perhaps a child who is on a team you coach or who attends your religious organization or who you have recently seen shopping in your local grocery store. Now, imagine seeing an interaction or behavior directed toward that child which causes you discomfort or worry ... and causes the child fear or pain. If you thought this child might be in danger of harm, or the adult in some need of assistance, wouldn’t you want to do something to help?
There is widespread agreement among child welfare professionals and concerned citizens across the United States that children are valuable members of our communities and that they deserve to grow up free from abuse and neglect. And yet, for many children -- those who go to your neighborhood school, who play on your child’s sports team, and who live on your street -- experiences of abuse and neglect are an everyday reality. The United States is fortunate to have a mandatory public system of child protection. However, the fact remains that, since 1976, America has seen a more than threefold increase in the number of children who are abused or neglected by caretakers. According to 2009 national statistics, an estimated 763,000 children were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect in the United States. Of these 763,000 children::
And those are just the children who came to the attention of our child protection systems.
Child welfare professionals are working at full capacity to protect our nation’s children. But, from these statistics, it is clear that the problem is too great and too important to be delegated entirely to these valiant workers. Concerned individuals, families and communities must become involved and take on the civic and personal responsibility in protecting children and supporting families in their own neighborhoods. Responding to families in trouble must blend the provision of governmental service with leadership and intervention from the broader community. Children and their families need you!
Research conducted by Prevent Child Abuse America shows that a majority of Americans -- more than half of the general public and two-thirds of all parents -- are willing to become involved in helping prevent child abuse and neglect. However, these respondents feel uncomfortable because they lack the knowledge and skills that would enable them to intervene safely and effectively. They also recognize the size of the problem and believe that without community support they are powerless to make a difference.
That’s where the Front Porch Project comes in! We believe it is time to bring citizens back into the arena of child protection and abuse and neglect prevention. Our goal is to thoroughly affect large-scale, enduring, systemic change. Responding to families in trouble must blend the provision of government child protective services with leadership from the broader community.