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OPINION

Column: Protect children from abuse

Randy Richardville

Every 16 minutes, a child in Michigan is the victim of abuse or neglect. Through national and statewide research, we are learning that childhood trauma negatively affects a child’s developing brain and has lifelong consequences on physical and mental health in adulthood. Michigan Children’s Trust Fund (CTF) actively strives to provide community members with opportunities to make a difference in the lives of Michigan children.

The work CTF does is critical for Michigan and the next generation of families who will live in our state. Protecting our children often means stepping in early and providing the adults in their lives with the resources, support and solutions that can help them make better decisions. Far too many adults responsible for children face challenges that range from substance abuse to behavioral illnesses to joblessness. For too many of these families, these challenges bring them to the attention of the child welfare system.

Across Michigan, programs serving every county aim to do just that and prevent abuse and neglect before they happen. Through proactive programs and interventions, professionals and trained specialists work with families so they understand and respond to their children’s developmental needs and are connected to the support of family and community.

Coordinating this network and the staff and volunteers who prevent abuse and neglect is the Children’s Trust Fund, Michigan’s only independent statewide nonprofit agency. The work of CTF and its local community-based partners is heroic. The daily effort to keep our kids safe is grueling and often happens far from the spotlight. It goes on every day in small communities in the western Upper Peninsula, in neighborhoods in metro Grand Rapids or Detroit, in rural areas of mid-Michigan and just about everywhere else.

On May 17 at the Lansing Center, CTF held its annual Pam Posthumus Signature Auction Event. With about 650 people in attendance, this year’s event raised $410,000, bringing the total donations in the event’s history to more than $6 million. Funds from the event go to support the important work CTF does to prevent child abuse and neglect, and bring hope to countless families across Michigan. The event pays for services like respite care, home visitations, child development support and other targeted services so CTF’s 102 local partners can continue to provide education and other prevention programs. Every dollar CTF raises can educate 20 people about the dangers of shaking an infant. CTF funds help parents become more nurturing, connect kids to positive role models and so much more.

At the event, Steve Yager, the recently retired executive director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Services Agency, received the 2017 Children’s Advocate Award. For more than 30 years, Yager has been a strong advocate for the wellbeing and protection of children. Under his leadership, the value of the CTF prevention mission was strengthened and, now more than ever, they are a critical piece in the full continuum of children’s services.

Across Michigan, thousands of children and their families with few resources are getting help through CTF, which is extremely effective at stretching every dollar, spending only around 13 percent of total revenue on administrative costs.

Randy Richardville is board chairman of the Children’s Trust Fund.