Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness–
Being walkers with the sun and morning.
–Langston Hughes

cacApril is National Poetry Month. Poetry celebrates with  words all that is beautiful and exquisite, intense and  powerful. Poetry expresses the full range of feelings  we experience in our lives. There are moments of pain  and sadness, but also times of bliss, unconditional love, playfulness  and hope.

Imagine if all poetry expressed only despair and hopelessness,  but none of the simple joys of just being alive? That’s what it’s like  for more than 2,200 children brought to the Children’s Advocacy  Center of Collier County every year. Many have spent their entire  young lives experiencing only pain and fear as victims of physical  and sexual abuse.

So maybe it’s no coincidence that National Poetry Month  should coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It is also the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Advocacy Center.  For 30 years, the CAC has been dedicated to improving the lives
of abused children; to help them out of that dark place of pain  and hopelessness, as expressed in this beautiful poem by angston
Hughes, into a place where they can walk in a place of light,  without fear.

CAC typically serves children referred by law enforcement or  the Florida Department of Children and Families. These are the  most severe or complex cases of child abuse and child witnesses of violent crime. CAC’s immediate action is to mobilize its  Child Protection Team to make sure these children are safe  and receive the medical treatment they need, and then to  provide staff counseling and psychological services as well  as family counseling and support, while its legal advocates  remain with the children through the court process and  beyond.

The long-term vision of the Children’s Advocacy Center  is to create a community where child abuse is not tolerated.  Both the City of Naples and Collier County wholeheartedly  support this goal, and to honor this nonprofit organization’s  30 years of service to our youngest citizens, April 2016 has  been proclaimed Children’s Advocacy Center Month.

This month, dialogues about child abuse and its solutions  are being held publicly and privately in every community  throughout the country. How can we each protect our  children, grandchildren or a child we know against abuse?

How do we recognize signs of abuse in our community, and  what are the resources to help? What can one person or one  group do to help bring the simple poetic concepts of safety,  love, joy and hope into the lives of the most vulnerable  among us? The staff of the CAC offer these 10 ways we can  all share the vision, beginning right now during National  Child Abuse Prevention Month.

  1. PLAY  Children learn that it’s okay to laugh and be silly from the   adults they love. Get your face painted at the festival, too! Laughter is bonding, and conversation flows easier.  If you have more than one child, do something special  with each one individually. Walk the dog and talk, grab a  sandwich and talk, window shop on 5th Avenue and talk.  “Just me time” provides the opportunity for a child to be  comfortable in sharing their feelings.
  2. ASK Be curious, and let them know you love hearing the little  details from their school day, activity or play date. A
    conversation starter such as “What was the funniest thing  that happened today?” could lead to “What was the hardest
    thing you had to do,” or “What was the scariest thing?”
  3. LISTEN  Often, a child will try to tell a trusted adult something  indirectly. If she says she “hates” someone, keep listening for  clues without pushing too hard. When a child doesn’t want  to go home from school, or activities, or when he tends to
    avoid one particular adult or older child, there is always a  reason. It may be as simple as “he smells funny,” but it could
    be something much more dangerous. Make sure that child  is not alone with such a person until you find out what is
    causing the feelings.
  4. NOTICE  Inappropriate clothing, such as long sleeves on a hot day,  could be hiding marks or bruises. A sudden change in  behavior, poor hygiene, or provocative talk, dress or actions  could be a sign of abuse.
  5. CALL  If you know or suspect a child is being abused, do not wait!  Please call 1(800) 96-abuse.  By state and federal child protection laws, adults can be held  accountable for failure to act on behalf of an abused child, or  even for allowing a child to witness domestic violence.
  6. REASSURE  If a child is being bullied or abused, let them know that it is  not their fault.
  7. VOLUNTEER  Whatever your talent or interest; whatever time you have  to give, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County  has many opportunities to help make a difference. While  volunteers cannot be assigned to work directly with the
    children, volunteers are needed in the office, to serve on  committees, to help with special events, and to staff Olivia’s
    Closet, which provides clothing for the children served. To  find out more about the CAC programs call 239.263.8383.
  8. SUPPORT  Individuals can donate new clothing with tags or new  stuffed animals, or buy tickets to special fundraisers such
    as the annual CAC Golf Classic coming up in May. Retail  establishments can place donation boxes at their cash  registers. Companies and organizations can host fundraisers  or become event sponsors.
  9. SPEAK OUT  If you, a member of your family or someone you love has  ever been a victim of abuse, sharing your story and providing  resource materials can help empower others.
  10. INVEST  Make a financial contribution that will help accomplish the  vision to make Collier County a community where child abuse is not tolerated. Typically, intervention occurs only  after abuse is reported. Greater investments in positive
    parenting, education and family support programs have  been proven to prevent abuse before it starts. For more  information, visit or call Jackie Stephens,  CEO, 239. 263.8383.
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