HOUGHTON - Being a good parent and keeping children safe can be difficult for anyone, but some people need more help than others, which was the purpose of Parenting Awareness Month in March.
Rhys Edwards, Superior Child Abuse Prevention Council coordinator at Dial Help in Houghton, said PAM was a statewide effort, which was intended to draw attention to the importance of effective parenting as a way to prevent child abuse, celebrate people raising children and promote parenting resources.
Edwards said, locally, several organizations have joined to form the Copper Country Parent Task Force. The task force includes SCAPC, the Copper Country Great Start Collaborative, BHK Child Development Board, the Keweenaw Family Resource Center and the Copper Country Coalition for a Drug-Free Community.
March was Parenting Awareness Month in Michigan. One of the concepts demonstrated is keeping children safe, such as these boys drawing in the gymnasium at the Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School in the Hancock. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Kurt Hauglie)
The task force doesn't get directly involved with parenting issues, Edwards said, but rather points the way to local agencies and organizations which can provide specific help for parents.
"There is so much programming in the community, (some) people don't know who to contact," he said.
Edwards said the intent of the local PAM effort is to point parents facing difficulties in the direction of agencies and organizations which can help them be effective parents, which really comes down to providing love, a safe place to play and live, and providing rules which will help them stay safe.
"We show people how to be a healthy parent," he said.
Difficult economic times can make being a good parent even more of a challenge, Edwards said, and the Copper Country Parent Task Force will guide parents to people can help them get through without harming their children.
"Being a parent is difficult enough," he said.
The information provided by the members of the task force is for parents with children from birth through high school, Edwards said.
"The aim of the group is to target all parents," he said.
One of the goals of the task force, Edwards said, is to inform people effective parenting can reduce the possibility of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse among children.
"We have a substance program in the area," he said. "If (parents) ask the questions, we can tell them where to go."
Despite the publicity received by most of the organizations represented by the task force, Edwards said their may be some parents who aren't aware of them.
"Maybe the ones who know about the services are the ones who don't need them," he said.
However, Edwards said even children who do well in school and come from stable families may at some time face challenges, such as bullying, for which the task force could guide in the right direction for help.
Parents are the first line of defense for children who may somehow be at risk, Edwards said.
"Just listen to your kids," he said.
Stresses in a family can lead to child abuse, Edwards said, and locally about 100 cases are reported each year with many more going unreported. Some parents may know of abuse but do nothing about it.
"As adults, a lot of times we won't say something," he said. "There are things we can do."
Even something as simple as making a telephone call to police about known or suspected abuse can help, Edwards said.
The task force is providing some materials to promote Parenting Awareness Month, Edwards said, including restaurant placemats with names and telephone numbers of various agencies, a list of effective parenting tips and a calendar listing daily tips for building a child's self esteem.
Although Parenting Awareness Month is a short-term event, Edwards said help for parents is always available.
"Being a parent is something you do all year round," he said.