By JENNIE ZEITLER, Staff Writer
“We’re a village — protect our children” is a scrolling message that has been seen around the county during the month of April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Safe Families of Morrison County is a non-profit organization which utilizes many community volunteers as well as staff from both the Public Health Department and Social Services.
“There are 27 members on our team,” said Outreach Coordinator Jenifer Drill. “Last year the number of volunteer hours donated by team members added up to more than 3,000.”
The team is made up of an executive board, an outreach committee and a case consultation group.
The Board makes the decisions and sets the focus and the budget for the coming year.
The Outreach Committee plans and carries out community events such as those happening during April and throughout the year.
Case consultation team members follow up with families usually referred by Social Services or law enforcement.
During the month of April, flyers will be sent out attached to the top of all Domino’s Pizza boxes and inserted into all Coborn’s Video bags.
Scrolling marquees at Pine Country Bank and Hilmerson RV in Little Falls have been spotted this month with the message “We’re a village — protect our children.”
The biggest event of the month is a “Fun”raiser on Sunday, April 29 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Little Falls from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. It’s an all-you-can-eat affair with freewill donations accepted.
There will be plenty of family fun including face painting, magic acts, animal balloons, a silent auction and a quilt raffle.
Throughout the year, outreach focus is given to Circle of Parents, four groups which all meet weekly to support family members and other care providers. These are mutual self-help groups.
One Circle of Parents group meets at the Tri-County Community Action (TCC) education site. Another group meets at one of the Life and Recovery sober homes in Little Falls, alternating weeks between male and female groups.
The other two groups meet at the jail weekly, one male and one female.
“Anyone who is interested is able and encouraged to attend a Circle of Parents meeting,” said Jan Weidenbach, Safe Families secretary.
Discussion includes positive parenting and caregiving techniques, focusing on such things as words of praise. Other topics like internet safety are also discussed.
Child care is provided at the meetings.
There are many community events during the year which are sponsored by and/or attended by Safe Families, including Kinship Jamboree, Great Pumpkin Party, Kids Day at the Fairgrounds, a County Fair booth and various school open houses.
“It’s a tangible way we can support our community, teaching parenting techniques and offering resources,” said Drill.
There is often a sign outside the main entrance of the Morrison County Courthouse which reads, “Morrison County loves our kids.” That is provided through Safe Families. It is a travelling sign which makes appearances at various communities around the county.
Safe Families receives referrals from schools, from public health representatives and from Love and Logic classes. Anyone in a caregiver role can be part of this group, and can attend classes offered.
All Morrison County schools now have a curriculum called “Talk About Touch” for kindergarten through third grade, and “Second Step” for fourth and fifth graders.
The lessons teach anti-bullying strategies, give social relationship tips and talk about good touch-bad touch.
“As a community, it takes all of us to protect our children,” Drill said. “Our team is just a sampling of all the people involved in doing this.”
“Every child is of value and deserves to be protected,” said Weidenbach. “Children are our future.”
For more information contact Jan at (320) 267-3790 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.