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Area Kids' Houses Observe 'From Blue to Better' To Prevent Child Abuse

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and two local organizations plan to turn Escambia and Santa Rosa County blue during those 30 days.

Gulf Coast and Santa Rosa Kids’ Houses are teaming up for the “From Blue to Better” program. Organizer Stacy Kostevicki says that includes “street teams” to help raise awareness.

“You don’t have to be super qualified or anything,” said Kostevicki. “You just have to be willing to talk to strangers and businesses, and ask them to support child abuse awareness by sporting a blue bow, or putting a prevention message on their marquee.”

Using blue for Child Abuse Awareness in April is modeled after Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October when pink is used in everything from ribbons to items on NFL uniforms.

“We want people to wear as much blue as possible,” said Megan Chapman, Outreach and Development Director at Gulf Coast Kid's House.

“Blue hair strands, blue T-shirts, whatever you can think of,” said Chapman. “Shoelaces, stickers, and all that kind of good stuff. We will be presenting swag to many people around the community.”

But the fun stuff and the swag also carry a serious message. Gulf Coast Kids House reported about 4,800 suspected child abuse cases in Escambia County last year. Santa Rosa Kids' House reported more than 2,400. That begs the question: are the numbers high because they’re high, or because the reporting is more prevalent? Chapman is rooting for the latter.

“We know that the abuse is happening, regardless of whether it’s being reported or not,” said Chapman. “We do think the reporting numbers are up, because of the education programs that we have in place. And people are getting educated and realizing the signs of [child abuse] and making those reports.”

Stacy Kostevicki says they crunched the numbers before and after last April, and found that more child abuse reports are made in April and May, after the awareness month. One of the challenges for the area’s Kids Houses is getting people to come forward and report suspected child abuse. But Chapman says many are hesitant out of fear they’ll be proved wrong and stigmatize the family.

“There’s a hotline – 800-96-ABUSE, completely anonymous and 24/7,” Chapman said. “You’re not really hurting the family by reporting these things. There are professionals that evaluating the things that happened, but making the first step is reporting and having a strong voice for that child who may not be able to themselves.”

The Kids Houses combine several different agencies under one child-friendly roof, including the State Attorney’s Office for legal matters, and Lutheran Services of Florida for mental health screening.

Besides the stuff and posters, Gulf and Santa Rosa Kids Houses will also provide training on recognizing the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it.

“Anyone who works in any capacity with children over the summer – summer camp counseling, daycare workers – [are invited] to come out to one of those classes, said Chapman, ”They’re completely free, they’re on a monthly basis and one our website www.gulfcoastkidshouse.org as to when t hose dates are available.”

To join a street team and to get more information about “From Blue to Better,” visit the program’s website, www.frombluetobetter.org