Prevent Child Abuse Porter County: Make a Difference

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized


Published on February 09, 2011 with No Comments

Nationally, three children die each day because of maltreatment, and most are under the age of 3, according to a study conducted by Prevent Child Abuse America.

The same study also concluded that each year in Indiana, 50,000 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported. Hoosier children die at a rate of almost one each week, and on average, all are victims of abuse and neglect.

The figures are staggering and disturbing, but they are true. Such facts are probably not as well-known as they should be, but there is one organization in Northwest Indiana dedicated to educating the public and preventing child abuse and neglect in all forms.

And their name says it all ñ Prevent Child Abuse Porter County.

In 1994, local concerned citizens, dedicated to protecting and safeguarding the health and well-being of children in the community, established PCAPC. PCAPC is a not-for-profit organization completely made up of volunteers that provides education and raises awareness about the nature and causes of child abuse. They do so by creating, coordinating and sponsoring seminars, programs, events and fundraisers.

Russell Shirley, president of PCAPC, said many of the cases of child abuse and neglect he witnessed in the 14 years he worked as a detective with the Valparaiso Police Department could have been prevented.

ìA lot of the cases wouldíve never happened if the parents were just educated about this stuff,î he said.

The information Shirley is referring to is, for example, that even a child as old as 5 who is shaken is vulnerable to brain damage, broken bones, seizure, mental retardation, paralysis, blindness or death.

Last year, PCAPC helped spread awareness by distributing 500 informational kits to parents of newborns. They also started a billboard campaign, with one billboard positioned just on the outskirts of downtown Valparaiso along Lincoln Highway.

While the organization is small in numbers, their outreach efforts have been very successful thus far.

ìWeíre in the background,î Russelís wife LuAnn, secretary for PCAPC, said. ìWeíre a catalyst to get things done that will benefit children. We are such a small group, but we get things done.î

LuAnn Shirley was on the founding board for PCAPC and said it is just a part of her life.

ìI feel everyone can make a difference and I know Iím making a difference in this way,î she said. ìEveryone has a special gift. If they want to sponsor us then maybe thatís their special way of helping.î

Both LuAnn and Russell said organization welcomes volunteers, but they are adamant about the determination and level of dedication of the group they have now.

ìIíve never met a finer group of people,î LuAnn Shirley said. ìWe all roll up our sleeves and get involved.î

The organization meets every second Tuesday of the month from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Greg Phillips Emergency Services Building, located at 1995 S State Road 2 in Valparaiso, next to the Porter County Animal Shelter (entrance is through the back door). At these meetings, members discuss progress and ideas and plan the many events PCAPC either organizes or sponsors. The meetings are open to the public.

PCAPCs 12th annual Mardi Gras Gala is right around the corner, set to take place Feb. 26 at the Old Town Banquet Center in Valparaiso. Besides being an important fundraiser for the organization, it is also an opportunity for them to give out their Hero for Children Award, something they have done since 2003.

The award is given to someone who devotes selfless time to improving the lives of children in Porter County, beyond family and workplace responsibilities; demonstrates creativity and a willingness to respond to the needs of children; serves in areas that are less attractive to others but are invaluable to a childís learning or support system, and is an inspiration and role model to children.

PCAPC chooses a recipient for the award by reviewing nominations submitted by the public. Bill Eckert, a local Boy Scout leader, was last yearís recipient.

The organization plans and organizes numerous other events throughout the year such as a candle light vigil and Blue Ribbon Campaign that coincide with Child Abuse Awareness Month each April. The blue ribbons represent the color of a childís bruise.

PCAPC also hosts an annual Memorial display in memory of Hoosier children who died as a result of abuse and neglect, and they provide scholarships for local law enforcement and legal personnel to attend the nationally recognized ìFinding Wordsî program. They sponsor numerous seminars and events and they also created a Speakerís Bureau to provide preventative presentations about topics such as shaken baby syndrome.

In May of 2008, the New Sights Child Advocacy Center, located in Valparaiso, opened its doors to provide a comfortable environment to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect while they are interviewed by police and other court officials.

ìIt feels safer to them than a police station,î LuAnn Shirley said.

PCAPC played a major role in securing and renovating the location and they continue to support the facility both financially and through the use of volunteers.

PCAPC is providing an invaluable service to the community and receiving little attention for doing so. But since the results mean more to the PCAPC volunteers than any praise ever could, the hard work will not be letting up any time soon.

ìWeíre going to continue to reach out to schools and churches, and just educate as many people in the community as we can,î Russell Shirley said.

For more information about PCAPC, their Mardi Gras Gala or any of their events, or to find out how you can help, call 219-531-9012, visit PCAPC can also be found on Facebook.

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