October is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario. Started by one Children’s Aid Society, the campaign has been observed for more than 20 years and has grown to include over 40 communities and Children’s Aid Societies across the province. According to the Child Abuse Prevention Committee, the goals of the campaign are: “to raise awareness about the role of Children’s Aid Societies in the community; to provide tools and resources to help citizens identify and report suspected child abuse and neglect; to reinforce the importance of prevention and early intervention; to build relationships with community partners to strengthen our collective ability to protect children and youth; to enhance the network of resources and supports around children and families; and to mobilize community members at all levels to be mindful of our shared responsibility in protecting children and youth” (http://www.preventchildabuse.ca/HOME/ChildAbusePreventionMonth2016/WhatisChildAbusePreventionMonth/tabid/169/Default.aspx).
In honour of Child Abuse Prevention month, today we’re sharing a little bit about how child abuse prevention is part of the work that we do at Art as Therapy. The goals of the campaign align closely with our goals when working with families. We believe in a holistic approach to wellbeing, meaning that we recognize the interconnectedness of physical, emotional and mental health. Our vision is for every individual to recognize their inner power and potential, and to feel confident in facing and overcoming life challenges, circumstances and difficult emotions. While we offer art therapy for emotional and behavioural needs, our vision extends far beyond the art therapy sessions. We believe that as clients build a sense of capacity it will positively influence all areas of life.
Because we are invested in the overall wellbeing of our clients, we carefully consider each piece of the puzzle and explore how the different areas of life are impacting each other (i.e. home environment, nutrition, sleep patterns, school environment, sibling dynamics, medical health, sensory processing, or previous life experiences). We greatly value our relationships with other support networks, service providers and community organizations and are always looking for ways that we can work together to offer multi disciplinary, wrap around support for families. Teachers, autism support workers, pediatricians, occupational therapists, naturopaths, parents, grandparents, foster families, and children’s aid societies are invaluable partners in our work with children and youth. When families are supported in a holistic way, they are better equipped to face challenges and navigate difficult emotions.
Art as Therapy recognizes the importance of prevention and early intervention when it comes to child abuse and neglect. We believe that a big part of prevention is education – that’s really our vision with this blog. We hope to share information and practical strategies or resources for parents and caregivers with the goal of empowering families to build healthy relationships. For example, here’s a post we shared with listening tips for building healthy relationships: http://artastherapy.ca/7-listening-tips-to-build-healthy-relationships/.
Healthy relationships are built on safety and trust. When we experience safety in relationships, we are free to explore, express ourselves, and grow into our full potential. Part of Art as Therapy’s role at times can be to support families in building, re-establishing, or reinforcing physical and/ or emotional safety for children and youth. This process can begin in the art therapy sessions (see our blog post about how the therapeutic relationship is built: http://artastherapy.ca/a-basic-roadmap-for-the-course-of-art-therapy/ ). When children and youth are provided with a safe space, they can feel empowered to find their voice and speak up if something is going on or if they are being harmed in some way.
Part of our role in keeping kids safe is our duty to report any disclosures or suspicion of child abuse or neglect (http://dcafs.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/Brochure-CAPM-2015-MCYS.pdf). When we are faced with a situation that requires a report to child protection services, our motivation is to find out how we can offer more effective support and empower the child and/or family to access any resources that they may need. While Art as Therapy’s therapists communicate regularly with parents and will step in if there is something that a parent needs to know, our ultimate goal is to empower our clients to share with parents themselves. This applies beyond a child protection context – here are some tips for how to empower your child to share with you about their artwork: http://artastherapy.ca/how-to-empower-children-to-share-about-their-artwork/.
Finally, at Art as Therapy we strive to increase awareness and decrease stigma by starting conversations and sharing information about issues related to mental health and wellbeing. We support campaigns like Child Abuse Prevention Month that seek to raise awareness on a larger scale. Here are some ideas for how you can join us at Art as Therapy and get involved to show your support this month:
- Purple represents Child Abuse Prevention. A purple ribbon symbolizes the need for communities to work together to keep children and youth safe. Participate in GO PURPLE day on October 19 by wearing something purple to show your support for vulnerable children and youth in our community. Many schools and agencies across the province will be participating – you can find more information here: http://www.oacas.org/childrens-aid-child-protection/child-abuse-prevention/go-purple-day-campaign/). Ask your kids about it and plan your purple outfits together!
- Learn more about the signs of child abuse and neglect, and what your role may be in helping to keep children and youth safe. Check out the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies website for lots of great information and a free brochure: http://www.oacas.org/childrens-aid-child-protection/what-is-abuse/.
- Do something intentional to build your relationships with your family. Plan an art activity using purple art materials in honour of Child Abuse Prevention. Make time to talk about your artwork – focus on asking empowering questions and intentionally listening.
- Call Art as Therapy (1-519-307-9000) or email us today (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about how we may be able to partner with you or with a family you know to offer emotional or behavioural support.
Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, Art Therapist at Art as Therapy