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Personalize these and send to your local newspapers. Check for your local papers at the CA Opinion Press List. Be sure to check submission guidelines of each paper. For more help, go to the Advocacy chapter of Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents’ Guide, which includes working with media, at www.preparetomorrowsparents.org/guide5.pdf, or contact Prepare Tomorrow's Parents at info@preparetomorrowsparents.org or 1-561/620-0256.

Prevent Child Abuse by Preparing Tomorrow’s Parents
(Adapt before submitting to your local papers)

From high profile celebrity videos to senseless deaths of young children, the news from California makes clear the need to address child abuse and neglect.

A recently widowed soldier left active duty when his wife suddenly died after childbirth; overwhelmed with grief and suddenly raising his children awaits trial for the infant’s death from a head injury the father claims was an accident due to moving the baby too suddenly.

A college student awaits trial for abuse of her newborn, whose body was found in a trash bin, one of many such cases over time.

There is no shortage of such tragic outcomes for in our state, and countless more babies and children are harmed physically and emotionally; with nearly 500,000 California reports of child abuse and neglect occurring each year, and many more unreported. California spends over a billion dollars on services to assist children who are abused or at risk, and the costs continue for their lifetimes.

California does care. The governor publicly proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, stating, "To make certain that our State's next generation consists of well-adjusted, contributing members to society, we must take the necessary steps to prevent child abuse. This month, I applaud the strides we are making as a State to reduce the risk of child abuse and the continuing work we will accomplish -- one child and one family at a time."

The San Francisco mayor has introduced legislation to improve family violence prevention efforts and increase services for survivors. Other bills would extend the time period during which a newborn can be surrendered at a safe haven, and make it easier to share information about abuse and neglect.

A couple whose toddler daughter died as a result of “Shaken Baby Syndrome” in the hands of her caregiver has launched a foundation and works tirelessly to prevent this from devastating other families.

But can we do more to protect our infants from harm? We can do much more. One effective measure that California is overlooking in its prevention efforts is to prepare parents and potential caretakers of infants with the knowledge they need to keep infants in their care safe. All of us are potential caretakers of infants. 80% of us become parents. We must reach everyone before they have vulnerable infant’s well-being in their sole control.

Childrearing classes for all children while they are in elementary and/or middle school and high school could reach all potential caretakers. Some programs exist in California and are often taught by Family and Consumer Science Teachers. We want to encourage California boys and girls to take these classes. Ideally, there needs to be parenting classes available for all students.

Children learn about the responsibilities of parenting, child development and caring skills improving their ability to nurture and relate to others. The panicking new young mother would have learned that her baby could be brought to a safe haven at a church or fire house. The overwhelmed widowed dad would have learned about high maintenance infants, handling babies, to monitor his care when under stress, and to reach out for help.

To responsibly take care of our youngest citizens, let’s encourage our legislators and schools to consider adding child rearing classes for their students, most of whom will at some point in their lives need to take care of an infant. Students can learn how to repair a car, cook meals and learn woodshop skills in school. They also need to take classes that prepare them for the most important job they will ever have if they become parents Extensive research tells us that parenting classes help lower violence in the home and community and reduce the number of teen pregnancies. Also, costs to the state for social programs are greatly reduced when children grow up knowing how to communicate and care effectively for their families. More information can be found at www.preparetomorrowsparents.org

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