April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s a sobering topic that does not lend itself well to storytelling. Historically, child abuse mirrors the rate of unemployment, offset by about a year. If mom lost her job at the start of the pandemic and hasn’t been able to get back on her feet, home has become a pressure cooker. Social safety nets such as schools, food pantries and accessible health care have become scarce and over-burdened. Risk factors that were once marginal have been brought to a boil, stewing and brewing for a year, and the family is on a trajectory for explosion.
My mother is number three of seven children in her family. One day her mom was canning applesauce in the antique pressure cooker and the safety latch failed to engage. Not realizing, Grandma left the kitchen to tend to other matters while the pot gained steam. A few minutes later she returned to the kitchen at the same moment the latch gave out, causing the heavy metal lid to go flying, narrowly missing her head. It was a volcano of applesauce, broken glass, steam and scalding water. The perfect storm of ingredients and circumstance. My mom was so impacted by this near-disaster that she wouldn’t step foot in a kitchen with an operating pressure cooker for 40 years. She got an Instant Pot for Christmas, but preferred to keep it unopened in the box, safely tucked away deep in the pantry. The thought of what laid inside the box felt too overwhelming.
There are days when the problem of child abuse feels too overwhelming. Our notifications won’t stop buzzing, and we don’t have enough hands to cover the needs coming in from all corners of the Northwest. There are days – many days – when we hear nothing at all, and the silence is deafening. You and I both know there are not enough eyes on our vulnerable families. We are left to wait for word from the child or warning from a neighbor, or the peal of a siren declaring an emergency.
It seems there is nothing to do but watch the societal pot come to a boil, but I offer an alternative to the waiting. You can buy crayons.
We’ve partnered with OnPoint Community Credit Union to collect new crayon boxes for the children that we serve. These crayons will accompany a custom made activity book for each child entering foster care – a therapeutic coloring book that will make its way into the hands of children just in time for Foster Care Awareness month in May. By simply buying a pack of crayons, you are contributing to the health and healing of a child who has endured abuse. In buying a pack of crayons, you can bravely open the conversation with loved ones about what each individual can do to prevent child abuse. That is, we can wrap around our neighbors in love, we can learn their names, we can offer eye contact and a friendly ‘hello’ to let her know she’s not alone. We can be the village, because it takes a village to raise a child. And we can buy crayons.