What is your child’s school doing to keep them safe?

Talking with the Director
Just as you would talk with the director about curriculum, teachers, meals, and play safety, it’s also important to ask about policies and practices that will help keep your kids safe from sexual abuse. Please don’t let your discomfort stand in the way of this important back-to-school conversation. Ask the director about background checks for all adults in the building: teachers, staff and even volunteers. Most sex offenders, however, are never caught so they don’t end up on the National Sex Offender Registry. This means it’s also important to ask about reference checking and interviewing. Ideally, the director includes interview questions about the appropriate and inappropriate touch of children.

Also ask about these policies:
1)  Adults spending time alone with children
2)  Appropriate / inappropriate touch of children by adults
3)  Appropriate / inappropriate touch of children by children
4)  Diapering, toileting, and changing clothes

Because one-third to one-half of all sexual abuse is committed by youth, it’s also important to learn how staff intervene in children’s sexual behaviors, both appropriate and concerning. Ask questions about how staff are trained to recognize age-appropriate and harmful sexual behaviors, and the protocol for responding to both.

Policies, however, aren’t enough, so you might ask how practices are monitored. As you are talking with the director, look for open and forthcoming communication.

Touring the School
As you walk through the school, look at the physical layout and make sure there are no spaces where an adult could be alone with a child or a child could be alone with another child. All of the spaces where children study, play, and interact should be open and easily visible. Doors should have windows and bathrooms should not contain areas where children can be isolated. In preschool environments, pay close attention to diaper changing areas.

Meeting the Teacher
If you don’t have a chance to meet your child’s teacher before the first day of school, it’s never too late to have a conversation with him or her about your child’s body-safety rules. For example:

“I wanted to tell you that we have been teaching our son, Jamie, some body-safety rules. Perhaps you have heard him exclaim that he is the boss of his body! I also wanted to let you know that our son does not keep secrets. While we will encourage him to follow your safety rules, we have also told him that that if anyone asks him to do something that breaks one of his body-safety rules, he has permission to say ‘No’ and tell us right away.” 

Training for Staff, Parents & Children
The strongest child abuse prevention programs include regular education. At a minimum, look for annual staff training that covers myths and facts about sexual abuse, school policies, appropriate and inappropriate touch of children, and the warning signs that someone is abusing or being

If You Only Ask 1 Question…

Ask: What policies are in place to prevent child sexual abuse?

Look for policies that address:

  • Adults spending time alone with children (2 adults to 1 child).
  • Appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by adults.
  • Appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by other children.
  • Diapering, toileting, showering, and changing clothes.

In-home daycare providers should also have specific policies about how non-staff family members interact with children.

Policies, however, aren’t enough, so you also might ask how practices are monitored. As you are talking with the director, look for open and forthcoming communication!

Kids and Summer Safety

Summer is the time for fun in the sun. With thoughts of summer comes barbecues, lake days, and endless family get-togethers. Summer also brings a few months of kiddos running around while school is out. That means family camping trips, summer camps and programs, and kids spending time with friends. Throughout all these fun summer activities, it is important to remember to keep your child’s safety at the forefront of your mind. There are several ways to keep your kiddos safe from mental, emotional, and physical abuses that can come with summertime activities.

First, it is important to remember that sunblock can NEVER be overrated. No matter what else goes on that summer, it will not be near as fun if a sunburn is involved! It also needs to be said that children under 1 year need to be out of the sun as much as possible. Gotta beat that heat!

Second, make sure to keep First-Aid kits handy for any minor injuries that may occur. This is super important with kiddos running around!

Third, children should always be supervised when participating in water activities! No exceptions!

Speaking of water, make sure everyone drinks enough water and watch out for heat exhaustion. This can be helped by making sure kids wear lightweight clothing and take frequent water breaks.

Last, make sure to talk to your kids about keeping themselves safe whenever they are out of your sight. They need to know about keeping their minds and bodies safe, both from strangers and people close to them. They need to know what is and what is not okay and that they DO have a voice.

Summertime is wonderful, full of fun, and creates so many memories. Just make sure to keep everyone safe in the meantime!

#SupporterSpotlight – CourtHouse Concepts, Inc.

Here at the Children’s Safety Center of Washington County, we are are often overwhelmed by the support we receive from our community. Our events like the annual Founders Crawfish Boil are a great way to see that support in action! Today’s #SupporterSpotlight is shined on our Gold Sponsor of the Crawfish Boil, CourtHouse Concepts, Inc. This will be their third year of choosing to support our Mission!

Paul Hickman, President of CourtHouse Concepts, Inc., that they love the “gratification of knowing the money is going to a worthy cause”. While they enjoy being able to give monetary sponsorship, they also “take pride in completing the background checks for the Children’s Safety Center”.

Like many others when asked, Mr. Hickman could not single out a specific favorite memory of Crawfish Boils because they’re always such great events!

When Mr. Hickman was asked what he was most looking forward to at this year’s Boil, he exclaimed that the “fellowship is wonderful, but I’m going to have to go with the crawfish!!”.

Thank you, CourtHouse Concepts, for your continued involvement!!

Our Mission: The Children’s Safety Center of Washington County empowers children to overcome abuse and begin to trust, hope, and heal.

#SupporterSpotlight – Harrison French and Associates

We would like to take this moment in time to shine a spotlight on another one of our amazing supporters who help make our annual Founders Crawfish Boil possible, Harrison French and Associates of Bentonville, Arkansas.

This wonderful company has been involved with the Children’s Safety Center of Washington County for four years. Our Platinum Sponsor’s CEO, Dave Wilgus, told us that their favorite thing about getting to be involved with the CSC is knowing they are helping the Center care for the abused children of our county.

When asked what their favorite way to get involved is, the answer was a hearty, “Sponsoring and attending the Crawfish Boils!”

We know that everyone has favorite memories from the previous Crawfish Boils. Thankfully, Dave’s favorite is one the crowd get to experience every year:

“Dan Arrington’s gumbo – it is the best gumbo in NWA!!! Dan’s always out there in the heat working behind that hot stove making it for us every year!”

While Dave was unable to attend this year, HFA was able to raffle off a whopping EIGHT tickets to the boil!

“I know those are coveted tickets every year, since the food and music are so great!” said Dave.

Harrison French and Associates, thank you so much for everything you do!

Mental Health in May

As May is coming to a close, we want to take a moment to remind everyone about the importance of mental health. This is a health concern that affects people of all ages, races, and genders. Even our kids are not immune.

20% of kids aged 13 – 18 are living with a mental health condition.

3.2% of kids aged 3 – 17 have been diagnosed with depression. That’s almost 1.9 million kids.

7.1% of kids aged 3 – 17 (almost 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety. That’s not counting each child who has yet to be diagnosed and getting the help they need.

Treatment rates vary depending on the diagnose mental disorder.

Nearly 8 out of 10 kids are received treatment for depression.

6 in 10 children with anxiety received treatment.

1 in 6 children aged 2 – 8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.

What Can You Do?

Parents: LISTEN to your kids. Always BELIEVE them. Always LOVE them.

Get professional help. Counselors, mentors, advocates, and so many more are here to help.

Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline: 844.SAVE.A.CHILD

#SupporterSpotlight – First National Bank

The annual Founder’s Crawfish Boil is almost upon us, and that means our amazing sponsors step up to help make it an event to remember! First National Bank is one of those sponsors and they have had an amazing impact on the CSC of Washington County throughout the years. When asked how long their organization has been involved with the CSC, the answer was a heart-warming 10+ years. That is at least 10 years of time, resources, and compassion poured out from their employees to help each child that walks through our doors.

“#weARblue #CSC”

Tanya Mims, the Market President of Washington County, took some time to answer of few of our questions!

What is your favorite thing about being a CSC Sponsor? We love partnering with CSC because we know that our contributions go directly toward helping these children. CSC helps to reduce their trauma so that they can heal and stop the cycle of abuse.

What is your favorite way you (or your company!) have gotten to be involved with the CSC? The annual Founder’s Crawfish Boil!

Favorite memory from Crawfish Boils past? All of them are unique and special. Each years gets better and better so we always look forward to the next year. However, the most memorable was the year rain tried to dampen our event. We just huddled up under the tent and continued having a great time!

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Crawfish Boil? We can’t wait for the fun comradery and knowing that we get to play a small part in helping make a difference in the lives of these children!

Thank you so much to our amazing sponsors at First National Bank! We appreciate everything you do!

#SupporterSpotlight w. Little Guys Movers

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we are highlighting community supporters that are all about our mission, our programs and our kids. Little Guys Movers and Jake Ladue do just that.

Whether it is helping with our Dream Big Charity Gala, helping a family move in a time of need, or putting office furniture together, Little Guys are always there. We were proud to honor them with the Children’s Safety Center’s Partner + Prevention award at this years Partners + Prevention luncheon.

Little Guys Movers started in Denton, Texas in 1994, with the mindset of treating people with respect and in a professional manner, during a very stressful time of their lives. Relocating is in the top five major life events that happen to a person/family, and often that transition is somewhat stressful. Our goal is to make that process as pleasant as possible.

One thing I deeply appreciate about the culture of Little Guys, is that they are always there to lend a helping hand for a great cause. I came to Little Guys November of 2011; I had just gotten out of school and was geared to teach at a local elementary school. Marcus Watson (the owner) gave me a call to meet me for an interview. During that time in my life, I was highly involved in running my nonprofit that helps children, and was somewhat hesitant on taking on a role at the company. Little Guys worked around my teaching schedule and never once asked me to step away. Little Guys also gave me the opportunity to meet other great people in the community that had the same mindset of helping others. As a Northwest Arkansas native, my community is extremely important to me. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to help – not only in our community, but also across the nation. All of our stores are highly involved in helping those in need: From natural disasters, to being active donation drop-off points, to transporting food, water, and other basic necessities, no matter the distance.

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center? I became involved with the Children’s Safety Center through the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. I was asked to help out with a few events and have continued to jump at every opportunity.

Why do you continue to stay involved? Having a less than ideal childhood myself, helping children is something that I’m very passionate about.

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center? That’s a very deep question for me. I know the importance (on a personal level) of the service that they provide to children and their families during their time of need. It’s important that these children have a safe place and are surrounded by people that they are comfortable with to talk to.

Why is it important to spread the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to the community? Simply put, it needs to be a household name. I know that sounds a little ambitious or bold, but necessary. As a child, I fell through the cracks in the system; I didn’t have the opportunity or even know that such an option existed. If we can put the Children’s Safety Center in the spotlight, maybe we can save a  few more like myself, that needed their service and guidance in a time of need. It’s important to know that they are not alone and there are people who not only care, but truly want to help.

Fun Fact that people may not know about you and/or Little Guys? I get the most pleasure out of our young guys and gals that work with us. I know I won’t have them for long, but while I do, it brings me so much joy getting them involved in the community, teaching them the meaning of a hard day’s work, and the benefits that come along with it. We are a foundation for many future leaders in our community and other communities. Moving is just what we do in order to have the opportunity to hang out with each other – once a Little Guy always a Little Guy!

Child Abuse Myths and The Truth

Myth: It’s only abuse if it’s violent

Truth: Physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Child neglect, sexual and emotional abuse can inflict just as much damage, and since they’re not always as obvious, others are less likely to intervene.

Types of abuse the Children’s Safety Center saw in 2018

Myth: Abuse doesn’t happen in “good” families

Truth: Abuse and neglect doesn’t only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. These behaviors cross all racial, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who seem to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.

Myth: Most child abusers are strangers

Truth: While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or others close to the family.

The abuser is almost always someone the child knows and trusts

Myth: Abused children always grow up to be abusers

Truth: It is true that abused children are more likely to repeat the cycle as adults, unconsciously repeating what they experienced as children. On the other hand, many adult survivors of child abuse have a strong motivation to protect their children against what they went through and become excellent parents. This is why mental health therapy is so important. The Children’s Safety Center offers trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, child parent psychotherapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing along with various types of art therapy.

Myth: Child abuse doesn’t happen here

Truth: The Children’s Safety Center saw a total of 838 children in 2018. That is a 24% increase from 2017. Most were child sexual abuse cases.

Child abuse across Washington County in 2018

For more information, download our 2018 annual impact report

#SupporterSaturday w. Life Family Chiropractic

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we are highlighting community supporters that are all about our mission, our programs and our kids. Life Family Chiropractic and Dr. Chris Akey does just that. And has been for 16 years!

A little background and history of you and Life Family Chiropractic:

I  wanted to be a Chiropractor because I was a chiropractic patient as a kid and it helped me from severe asthma, allergies and curvature of the spine. I knew I wanted to focus on helping kids and families since I was helped so much as a child.  Life Family Chiropractic was established in 2002  and I have been in practice for 20 years this year.

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

Every child that receives services at the Children’s Safety Center gets to pick out a stuffed animal to take home before they leave. I do a Teddy Bear drive every February and was trying to find a place that would benefit kids and also be a non-profit. Once I read what the Children’s Safety Center was about, I knew they were the place to donate to.

Why do you continue to stay involved?

I continue to stay involved because of the impact that Children’s Safety Center has on our community and the great need for their services. We have been donating the stuffed animals for 16 years and I have donated financially for years as well. I will continue both for years to come.

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center?

Their highly committed staff. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and expand their services for the kids in our community. Have you seen a Children’s Safety Center Facebook post? Check one out and you will see for yourself.

Why is it important to spread the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to our community?

It is so unfortunate that there has to be a need but it is because of this need that the mission of Children’s Safety Center has to continue on. The Children’s Safety Center has made a positive impact from their public education and services that are provided to the kids in our community.

Fun Fact that people may not know about you?

My wife and I have 8 kids

#SpotlightSunday w. Michael McHenry

The Ordinary Hero Award was developed by the Children’s Safety Center in 2008, as a way for the members of the Washington County Multi-Disciplinary Team to honor one of their own. The MDT is comprised of Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigators, local law enforcement, the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, DHS’s Division of Children & Family Services, and Children’s Safety Center staff.

This past March at our 4th annual Partners + Prevention luncheon we presented the Ordinary Hero Award to Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigator, Michael McHenry.

Michael is a person who is determined. He has a “firmness of purpose and a resolve to achieve a goal, no matter the obstacles.”

A co-worker of Michael’s shared the following: “Though I haven’t been here long, I have noticed Michael’s dedication to being at every MDT meeting.  He gives detailed, concise information about the cases he is working.  He looks at every angle when investigating cases and is very thorough.  He works well with all agencies.  He genuinely cares and takes to heart the abuse our victims go through.” 

Another MDT member noted, “As a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center I don’t spend as much time with Michael as some people do but from my experience working with him and seeing him in MDT meetings, Michael truly puts his entire heart into his cases. He invests himself in each and every case to make sure that the children we work with are taken care of and protected. Michael is extraordinary at his job and the children he works with are lucky to have him on their side.”

A colleague told Children’s Safety Center development director, “Michael is so passionate about his job! He puts 110% into each case he works and truly cares for the children involved in these cases. He understands the need and importance of a multidisciplinary team when it comes to his role. He sees the bigger picture for these children and wants all the agencies involved to work together to do their part to serve the victims and their families. I admire the hard work he puts in and the extra mile that he goes each and every day! THANK YOU MICHAEL for continuing to fight for children who don’t have a voice!”

Another description of Michael is, “He goes above and beyond for EVERY case he works. He is not ‘just’ an investigator, but also an advocate for child abuse victims and their non-offender caregivers. It does not go unnoticed by his fellow MDT members, nor the caregivers of the children he advocates for! His passion shines bright and radiates onto others around him. He deserves the Ordinary Hero Award for putting up an extraordinary fight against child abuse!”

Here is Michael in his own words:

How does it feel being chosen as the Children’s Safety Center’s 2019 Ordinary Hero?

I was surprised and deeply honored to accept this year’s award for Ordinary Hero.  I feel that everyone on the MDT team shares the same passion and drive to do hard work in this field.  CACD’s involvement on each case helps everyone on the team, especially DHS, local law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and our community.    

A little background and history of you and your job with Arkansas State Police is:

A little background about me is that I joined the ranks of ASP/CACD in January 2018. My duties include being a forensic interviewer for child abuse victims and helping local law enforcement agencies investigate these crimes.  I thoroughly enjoy this field because it is meaningful and rewarding to see cases acted upon very swiftly by multiple agencies, but it is even more amazing to see how information sharing and cooperation between various agencies leads to successful results in every single case.

How do Arkansas State Police and the Children’s Safety Center work together and why is it important?

Successful partnerships between various agencies are always the glue that keeps people focused on the finish line for every case.  Not only does the CSC provide an incredibly trusted resource for victims of child abuse but they also continue to support the family for years.  The CSC was built for a reason, which is to provide a single, safe, neutral entity that children can go to in order for the child to feel safe and supported, but also help the family start to recover and heal from the most traumatic experiences they’ve ever lived through.  Building bridges with every agency and organization in this field is essential to successful results.

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center?

My favorite thing about the Children Safety Center is the fact that it employs some of the most devoted individuals in this field that focus on one thing:  helping the child.  Not only this, but the CSC is a central resource for the entire community, providing resources that help families in every aspect of their lives.  I am very thankful for how quickly each advocate and interviewer responds to each case that I work with them.  Without the CSC, I feel that my job would be so much more difficult. 

Why is it important to spread awareness of the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to the community?

In many cases that I work, families are still unaware of what the CSC is and what they do to help the victim and the victim’s family.  Spreading awareness of the mission of what the CSC does every day helps show the victim, their family, and the entire community that no one has to go through this journey alone. 

Fun Fact that people may not know about you:

In 2012, I won an Emmy for a syndicated television show project in Fayetteville that I was a part of that shined light on how drug courts in America help with the ever-growing problem of substance abuse in our local community.  Ever since then, I have continued my interest in the creative field, hoping to one day win an Oscar…stay tuned

Below is Michael’s Ordinary Hero Award acceptance speech:

Something that I would like to start with is a little story by Shel Silverstein, that I’m sure we have all read at some point in our lives:

“I cannot go to school today”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There’s a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is …
What? What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is ………….. Saturday?

G’bye, I’m going out to play!” 
― Shel Silverstein

Mr. Silverstein may not have fully understood the fact that children are affected by more than just a dry throat and enlarged tonsils.  Some problems are much worse, and don’t allow children to go out and play like they used too…or even allow them to go to a safe home. 

I started in this position a little over a year ago and I have never had a real opportunity to work with children in previous law enforcement positions throughout my entire career.

I can still remember the first child that was interviewed on my first day at work, which I observed at the CSC in Springdale.  He was a young man, about 12 years old, and he had autism.  Throughout the interview with Karen, I noticed that he would not answer a tough question unless he placed his foot on top of her foot…this tiny little movement seemed to give him the courage to move forward in the conversation, even with tears in his eyes.  I was heartbroken when he told his story that day.

From that first day through today, I could not have done this job without the help of this entire team of professionals.  Some days, as we have all experienced, are much worse than others.  However, it is through the cooperation, communication, daily uplifting, and partnership that I’ve spent the past year working on with each of you in order to help save the lives of children in our communities.  I believe in partnerships and building bridges, but sometimes bridges need to be rebuilt on a foundation of trust, encouragement, and support.  In short, I could not have done this job without all of your expertise, patience, and assistance. 

Some of you I’ve harassed with multiple phone calls, that I always followed up with long and exhausting voicemails, hundreds of text messages, pages of emails, and then even a personal visit to your office where I would either find you, wait for you, or put a mountain of sticky notes on your desk…all of this in a matter of an hour or less sometimes.  As most of you know, I am persistent, but I have the best of intentions, because what drives me is the health and well-being of those that can’t protect or help themselves.  I remain approachable even if we disagree, because I can’t learn how to better protect children if you don’t provide me constructive feedback.  I get tunnel vision sometimes, as we all do, but I never lose focus. 

I don’t have enough time up here to thank each of you by name, because there are a lot of names, but if you are in this room, as well as those that could not be here today, please stand and give each other a round of applause for the work that we do every day.

Lastly, I would like to personally thank the Children Safety Center in Springdale for your daily encouragement and words of wisdom…and, of course, your patience in allowing me to use your conference room many times as my office.  Without each of you, this job could have been much more challenging.  Whether a child is 2 years old or 17 years old, the Children Safety Center remains one of, if not the best option, to help children of all ages get the resources they need to start healing from their trauma. 

A quote that drives each and every one of us, stands firmly today:  “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”