2010-04-15 / Front Page

Conference Launches Week Of The Young Child Here

Deputy secretary, PA Office of Children, Youth & Families, keynote speaker
By Lindsay R. Mellott STAFF WRITER

Richard Gold, deputy secretary, Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth & Families, reads to children at Fulton County Center for Families Monday morning following his keynote address at a conference celebrating the Week of the Young Child. Richard Gold, deputy secretary, Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth & Families, reads to children at Fulton County Center for Families Monday morning following his keynote address at a conference celebrating the Week of the Young Child. Childcare advocates from Fulton, Franklin and Bedford counties gathered on Monday in McConnellsburg to mark the beginning of the Week of the Young Child, held nationwide April 11-17.

The message they heard at the conference that was partnered by Fulton County Center for Families and Fulton County Services for Children was clear: Young children deserve the best that we can give them.

Jean Snyder, Fulton County human services administrator, interim director at Fulton County Services for Children and conference co-organizer, says that in Fulton County there are nearly 900 children 5 and under who deserve our best.

Monday’s meeting at the American Legion brought together more than 100 social service workers, educators, judges, healthcare workers and government officials. It not only celebrated the Week of the Young Child but recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month as well. And, according to co-organizer Elen Ott, executive director of Fulton Center for Families, was also a memorial for a 2-year-old Fulton County toddler and a 5- week-old Hancock, Md., infant who both died in recent months as a result of shaken baby syndrome.

Snyder said that she and Ott would like everyone to join their “relentless persuasion” campaign to end child abuse. “Help us to persuade, to send a message that we do not do this here!”

Saying it was a shame child abuse prevention is still discussed, conference keynote speaker Richard Gold, deputy secretary, state Department of Welfare, Office of Children, Youth & Families, said that in many ways people have lost the knowledge that they are part of a larger universe.

“We must regain that caring, that knowledge, that interest in your neighbor, in the kids down the street, or the kids in the daycare center or the kindergarten,” Gold said. “ ... If we know that something is happening behind the doors and don’t act to do something, we’re implicit in what’s happening behind those doors. Our attitude that we don’t want to get involved has to stop. We need to get involved.”

Gold visited Fulton and Franklin County children and youth service agencies just two weeks ago and said he saw the kind of partnership that communities need to really prevent child abuse. “You have the best here in Fulton County,” Gold said.

The deputy secretary urged his audience to reach out to kids. “Make sure they know you are there for them,” he said. “ ... Open your door a little bit more than it is today.”

Other conference speakers included Todd Lloyd, child welfare director, PA Partnerships for Children (PPC), who shared information about the state of Pennsylvania’s child welfare system.

“Part of this celebration,” Lloyd said, “is to highlight the positive things that are going on in Fulton County.”

Some of that positive data for Fulton County gathered for the PPC’s Porch Light Project, a year-period report ending in October 2009 will help the organization assess the state’s child welfare system and determine the direction its advocacy work should take, are, according to Lloyd:

• 0 incidents of repeat child abuse compared to 1 in 10 in other rural counties and 1 in 11 statewide;

• just 20 percent of children re-enter foster care in fewer than 12 months after reunification with parents or relatives compared to 21.8 percent in other rural counties and 27.8 percent statewide;

• high use of family settings for foster care;

• a high percentage, 36.4, of adoption compared to other rural counties and the state average; and

• fewer months, 28.8, until adoption compared to other rural counties and the state average, 33.5 and 31.7, respectively.

Lloyd made particular note of the working relationship shared by Center for Famlies and Services for Children. “It’s excellent that you have the partnership that you do. It really works in a prevention-oriented way.”

Also speaking at the conference were Angela Liddle of the Family Support Alliance and registered nurse Marie Killian, Hershey Medical Center Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Team.

An annual celebration, the Week of the Young Child was established in 1971 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children so that the importance of early childhood years as the foundation for children’s later success in life could be celebrated.

Child Abuse Prevention Month promotes child abuse and neglect awareness activities across the country during April of each year.

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