By Rick Morwick
Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected virtually every industry and organization in the U.S.
The Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse & Suicide is no exception as it navigates the challenges of protecting at-risk youth during an especially vulnerable time.
“Right now, there are children quarantined and isolated in their home with an abuser without the opportunity to go to school to talk about anything with a trusted adult,” said Maggie Owens, the nonprofit’s director of education and community relations. “Research shows that 80 percent of reported abuse happens within the home or with someone that the family knows and trusts.
“My heart breaks for these kids.”
With Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order in effect until at least April 20, and schools closed for the remainder of the academic year, the ICPYAS has had to come up with alternative ways to execute its mission of preventing youth abuse and suicide – an especially daunting task for an organization that relies heavily on personal interaction.
Fittingly, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Much like everyone else, we have been finding ways to fulfill our daily operations,” Owens said. “Without schools being in session, we are unable to implement our classroom based-activities.”
Because of the pandemic, ICPYAS staff are working remotely. Consequently, the organization is doing what it can through technology and other creative means to reach at-risk youth and provide online educational tools and resources – such as Stewards of Children and QPR – for adults and guardians.
“We are, ultimately, learning to be flexible and rely on technology to still impact our community,” Owens said. “We are offering Stewards of Children and QPR virtually as well as providing resources to families and schools.
“With the utilization of Zoom and other digital platforms, we can still meet with our community partners, school administration and (other partners).”
Despite the challenges and limitations of social distancing and working remotely, the ICPYAS can still accept – and welcomes – community support for accomplishing its mission.
“The biggest way that people can help us during this time is to become a donor,” Owens said. “There are multiple options for giving, including becoming a monthly donor. Besides that, taking our web-based training is a great way to be educated on these important topics (and) continue to check on your neighbors and family, at a physical distance, of course, because these are difficult times for everyone.”