Students and teachers across the region donned their favourite purple hues on Wednesday for Go Purple Day, an initiative which raises awareness of child abuse in October in conjunction with child abuse prevention month.
Prior to Go Purple Day, Karen Spencer, director of client services at Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region, said it’s an important way to get youth involved and encourage people to speak up against child abuse and neglect.
“I think spreading the word that some kids in our community are in need of protection is helpful because there often is a stigma attached to families requiring our help,” Spencer said.
Both school boards in the region participated and principals were sent purple capes from the organization to wear for the day which say “Speak Up For Kids!”
She notes in more than 95 per cent of cases the families they assist don’t require the children to be taken into care. Instead, they remain with their families and FACS help the parents.
“What their parents need is some support in caring for their children for various reasons. Often it’s because the parents themselves have experienced some trauma in their own past. They may have addiction issues or mental health issues and so I think the really important message that we want to get across is that we are here to help families and primarily keep families together,” Spencer said.
They work with more than 1,200 local families in the region who are facing challenges for a variety of reasons. Child abuse can be physical, sexual and/or emotional. It also includes neglect.
And the schools play a vital role in protecting children and recognizing signs of abuse, since they see them five days a week during the school year.
“The schools are a really important partner in this work because teachers probably next to parents spend more time with kids than anybody else. We do get a lot of calls from schools. We do work very closely with schools and teachers can be an important aspect of support in a child’s life if there are some things going on at home,” Spencer said.
They recommend discussing with kids at a young age about being able to talk to adults that they trust, whether it’s a teacher, neighbour or grandparent.
FACS Waterloo is also planning their second annual Child Abuse Awareness Walk in Cambridge and Kitchener where participants will walk through their communities in their purple awareness t-shirts.
“If you’re worried about a child, a child’s safety, call us and don’t be afraid to call.”