I don't generally let the silly things on facebook or twitter make me upset. I think that social media is a brilliant way to communicate with large groups of people, but sometimes, things just go wrong.
This new "Change your profile picture to a cartoon" business actually made me angry. We have gotten so used to using Facebook as a form of identity that we think that changing your profile picture in order to fight child abuse and bring back warm fuzzy memories is the way to protect the hundreds of thousands of children in the US alone who suffer from abuse each year. "Well, I changed my profile pic for a couple days, done my good deed for the week." Hiding behind Facebook makes us feel like we have actually accomplished something. Like we are making a change.
If you want to change your profile picture to a cartoon, go ahead. But don't pretend like you are saving a child's life. How about raising awareness by introducing advocacy centers and shelters? How about educating people on the symptoms of abuse so anyone who comes into contact with children will know what to look for? And if they notice something, letting them know who they need to call and why it is important to actually do something.
So, in case you hadn't gathered, I am not changing my profile picture to a fun childhood cartoon. Because child abuse isn't fun. It isn't nostalgic. It kills thousands of children every year. Instead, here is some information on how you can get involved.
In Central Texas:
- Family Abuse Center- I spent 2 semesters volunteering at this center. We led group play therapy sessions for the kids while their moms were in their own group therapy. It was hard. The kids were in desperate need of healthy attention. But it was an incredible learning opportunity for me. The FAC does a great job at providing a clean, safe, and free place for families running away from abusive homes. They provide education for the moms, and stability for the kids. The FAC is always in need of donations. If you live in Central Texas and are interested in volunteering, they love that too. Just check out the VOLUNTEER section on the website.
- Talitha Koum- While TK is not specifically for child abuse victims, they do work with many children who suffer from neglect and abuse. These kids come from the poorest of poor neighborhoods in Waco. Talitha Koum provides a nurturing, healthy environment for the children to grow up in. They not only provide for the kids while they are in the nursery and preschool, but they continue to work with the schools as the children grow out of the programs, providing food, clothing, school supplies, and toys. They also hold weekly parenting meetings. Every child is part of play therapy and is under the watch of a child psychologist. Like the FAC, TK can also benefit from donations and volunteers. I worked here as a part of a research lab my senior year, and my life was seriously changed.
- Children's Advocacy Center
I do not have experience with the centers in the DFW area, so I am just going to post some links, and if you are interested, you can check them out!
- Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County- Plano
- Alliance for Children- Tarrant County
- Child Abuse Prevention Center- Dallas
- Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
- Dallas CASA
Finally, know the signs. This is something you can do with little time or sacrifice on your part. You think that children aren't abused where you are? You're wrong. I know it is easy to assume that my neighborhood and my city are "too nice" to be a place for something like this. But it just isn't true. HERE is a great website with information on how to spot child abuse.
It's better to act and be wrong, than to think everything is fine and be wrong. If you believe a child is being neglected or abused, you are breaking the law if you don't report it. (The same is true for someone over 65 and for those with disabilities). CLICK HERE for some Texas hotline numbers for Child Protective Services. You can also call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Please call 911 if you believe the child is in immediate danger.