PFSA Blog Feed Latest Posts What Gratitude Means to Us on #GivingTuesday (and All Year ‘Round) “Expressing gratitude” is a term you hear a lot around the holidays, along with other phrases like “winter wonderland,” “holiday sales” and “maybe just one more piece of pie.”Of course,&#8230; Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:08:20 Z Jill Whitmyer <p>“Expressing gratitude” is a term you hear a lot around the holidays, along with other phrases like “winter wonderland,” “holiday sales” and “maybe just one more piece of pie.”</p><p>Of course, when you depend on the generosity of others to perform your work, gratitude becomes more than just an annual event. It’s something we experience daily, even if we’re more prone to saying it aloud during this time of year.</p><p>And so, in the spirit of #GivingTuesday, we want to voice our thanks to the many people who sustain Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.</p><p>Our mission focuses on protecting Pennsylvania children from abuse. And our gratitude extends to all those who support our efforts, on <span style="color: #3366ff">#GivingTuesday</span> and beyond.</p><p>The poet Edwin Arlington Robinson once pointed out there are two types of gratitude — the immediate kind we feel for what we get, and the larger kind we feel for what we give. These distinct forms of gratitude surround us. There’s the instantaneous response we have to the generosity of <span style="color: #3366ff">our donors</span>, whose backing enables us to fund programs such as:</p><ul><li>Educating professionals and volunteers through training on child abuse recognition and reporting</li><li> Supporting parents, families and children touched by addiction with the Families in Recovery program</li><li>Running <span style="color: #3366ff">The Front Porch Project</span>, where we help community members learn how to protect PA’s children</li></ul><p>Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance relies on all sorts of donors. We receive assistance from individuals and corporations. Businesses sponsor programs like the <span style="color: #3366ff">PA Blue Ribbon Champions for Safe Kids</span> that raise awareness of abuse and neglect of children, which unfortunately happens in every community.</p><p>Without each one of our donors, we could not do what we do. And for that support, we feel incredibly grateful.</p><p>In addition to monetary donations, we also receive help in other ways. And that is where the second type of gratitude comes in, the type we feel for what we can give.</p><p>PFSA “gives” the tools needed, including education and training, to prevent child abuse. And we feel a larger sense of gratitude for the families, parents and others who choose to assist children in the commonwealth.</p><p>It may be a grandparent stepping in to raise a grandchild while a parent recovers from addiction. It may be a community member calling ChildLine to report something troubling they saw. Or it may be a teacher who simply believes a child when they confide what’s happening at home.</p><p>When it comes to the wellbeing of children, none of us can afford to remain passive. And so we want you to know how appreciative we are for any role you play in carrying out our mission.</p><p>With gratitude both immediate and large, we thank you for believing in and supporting PFSA.</p> 0 2018-11-19 14:08 +00:00 2018-11-19 09:08 -05:00 Latest Posts A Plea to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Justices: Treat Pregnant, Drug-Addicted Moms with Compassion One evening during the blizzard of 1993, my biological mother surrendered me to the life-long care of my maternal grandmother. I was five-years old. She packed a bag, bundled me&#8230; Wed, 24 Oct 2018 18:14:53 Z Jill Whitmyer <p><a href=""><img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-546" src="" alt="" width="232" height="300" srcset=" 232w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 232px) 100vw, 232px" /></a></p><p>One evening during the blizzard of 1993, my biological mother surrendered me to the life-long care of my maternal grandmother. I was five-years old. She packed a bag, bundled me in layers, and walked me out the front door — instructing me to wait until someone came to pick me up. As an adult, I vividly recall the event and now grasp its reality: My mother was engaged in an insidious crack cocaine addiction. Left to her own devices, this was the best she was capable of doing for me.</p><p>Stories such as these were common during the crack epidemic between 1980 and 1996. Repeated news footage showed SWAT teams charging homes, incarcerated parents, soaring drug-related fatalities, children placed in kinship or foster care, and undeniable stigma flooded communities nationwide.</p><p>Today, amid a fearsome opioid epidemic, history repeats itself as we witness carousels of familiar images; families torn apart, children in crisis.</p><p>As a person in long-term recovery who was raised by a grandparent, I deeply empathize with anyone impacted by the disease of addiction.</p><p>In my role as director of prevention programs for the state leader in child abuse prevention, I appreciate the ethical dilemma Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices face in how to intervene with pregnant, substance-abusing women.</p><p>Last month, they heard oral arguments in a case involving a woman who gave birth in January 2017 in Williamsport Hospital, about 175 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The mother tested positive for marijuana, opioids, and antianxiety drugs that can heighten the effects of opioids, and her infant spent 19 days at the hospital being treated for drug-withdrawal symptoms. Clinton County Children and Youth Services (CYS) took the baby into custody, accusing the mother of child abuse under Pennsylvania&#8217;s Child Protective Services Law.</p><p>Criminalizing this behavior is not the answer. The threat of arrest and separation will only result in generations of substance-dependent individuals, promotion of stigma, and increased barriers to pre- and post-natal care.</p><p>CYS attorney Amanda Browning declared the current case before the court to be about “human rights, equal protection, and child welfare.” In my view, we can only uphold human rights and foster equal protection if we also include the welfare of the mother in the child-welfare equation.</p><p>After decades of sustained declines in foster care placements, there has been a trending incline since 2012 in the number of children placed in the system. Driving that train is the opioid epidemic. Children separated from parents face a myriad of holistic traumas due to interruption of nurture and attachment. These children are more likely to become substance-dependent. If this is the trending outcome and research proves it’s true, can we claim validity in a punitive approach under the guise rhetoric of “equal protection?”</p><p>Research conducted by licensed, trauma-focused therapists indicates that children who can remain with their parents during the treatment and early recovery process have healthier, stronger, positive attachment, and significantly lower ACE scores (adverse childhood experiences.) Children are significantly less likely to manifest conduct disorder, anxiety and depression — three conditions which often manifest in substance abuse.</p><p>Clinicians at Ohio State University found that when mothers and children were treated together, both were less likely to use substances in the future. In the United States, there are few licensed, evidence-based, inpatient programs allowing parents to enter treatment accompanied by children. Women seeking interventions are limited and threatened by the system and the possibility of losing their child upon admitting they need help. Attached to these barriers is the issue of funding and how they will afford a treatment stay or if treatment will be interrupted because of insurance terms.</p><p>We need a well-informed, cross-systems approach combined with services and interventions delivered through a scope of empathy, compassion, and empowerment. Professional systems must hold each other accountable to develop proactive policies for how to respond to this priority population and take initiative to achieve the most efficient collaboration between the criminal justice system, child welfare, treatment and social services agencies, and medical care providers.</p><p>We need public health nurses and master’s-level licensed clinicians to serve as advocates in these cases. We know that home visiting nursing programs play an integral role and create strong outcomes for at-risk populations. I urge the justices to consider why these professionals have not been asked to assist in guiding the courts to develop best practice standards for pregnant women with substance use disorder.</p><p>When I ponder that snowy night in my childhood and recall the times my grandmother struggled to make ends meet, I also consider my biological mother’s fraught decision. My heart aches for her. It’s clear to me now that many women in her position do not give up on their children. They give up on themselves. They are filled with fear and they lose hope.</p><p>For the voiceless children born into addiction, and for their mothers, it is my hope that prior to exacting punishment, those in power contribute to a mother- AND child-focused solution.</p><p>This case presents a highly emotional and divisive issue. I challenge my colleagues, my fellow Pennsylvanians, and these justices to be contemplative and compassionate. Always protect the child. Always. In doing so, please remember it is the sum of all actions and all decisions that writes the early pages of a child’s story.</p> 0 2018-10-24 18:14 +00:00 2018-10-24 14:14 -04:00 Latest Posts When it Comes to Child Sexual Abuse, We are Out of Forgiveness, Patience, and Time August 15, 2018Although the grand jury report’s findings have been speculated upon for months, the details it reveals of systemic and widespread sexual abuse of children by priests – and&#8230; Thu, 16 Aug 2018 18:11:03 Z Jill Whitmyer <p>August 15, 2018</p><p>Although the grand jury report’s findings have been speculated upon for months, the details it reveals of systemic and widespread sexual abuse of children by priests – and the cover-up of that abuse – in six dioceses in Pennsylvania are shocking and deeply offensive.<br />Childhood should be a time of innocence. Those who perpetrated these crimes were supposed to be pillars of goodness, kindness, mercy, and trust. Instead, they were pedophiles, predators, and thieves – stealing the precious wonder of our children – something that can never be returned.<br />There are lessons in this report for members of every faith and those who hold no religious beliefs. Chief among them is holding ourselves and others accountable to follow the safeguards lawmakers enacted after the Sandusky scandal in the form of amendments to our state’s Child Protective Services Law. Adults who care for our children must be vetted through background and criminal history checks, and obtain all required state and federal child abuse clearances. Organizations and institutions must have strong policies and practices that prohibit one adult with one child and rather must embrace a “two-deep leadership” philosophy. Finally, all staff and volunteers must have comprehensive training on child abuse recognition and reporting at the point of hire and ongoing through professional development opportunities. Parents must not be passive and assume those professionals who interact with their children are “safe.” They must take it upon themselves to ask to see the clearances and evidence that policies for maximum child protection are in place. Be engaged. Be proactive. Be vigilant. Your children’s innocence and safety demand nothing less.<br />The sad reality is that child abuse touches every community in Pennsylvania. And, as documented in the most recent PA Dept. of Human Services Child Protective Services Annual Report, child sexual abuse is involved in nearly half of the substantiated cases of child abuse in our state. Caseworkers documented more than 3,400 cases of child sexual abuse in 2017 alone.<br />It’s not just happening in Catholic parishes. Child sexual abuse can and does happen anywhere.<br />As community members, we each have a role to play in making sure that kids are safe. When children tell you they are being mistreated, believe them. When something strikes you as odd about how a child is being treated, don’t dismiss the hunch or your gut feeling. Make a report to ChildLine by calling 800-932-0313. Last year, 8,482 permissive reporters – average Pennsylvanians, not mandated reporters, made a report. We know that those folks made the difference in saving the lives of some of the 88 children who nearly died of abuse. Forty other abused kids were not so fortunate. They died from maltreatment.<br />I also encourage you to take part in an awareness program like the Front Porch Project® offered by PFSA. Through interactive discussions and real-life scenarios, the Front Porch Project® teaches neighbors how to defuse potentially dangerous situations involving children.<br />To deepen your understanding of how to recognize and report suspected child abuse, consider taking a Mandated Reporter Training (MRT) course. Mandated reporters are professionals and volunteers who are required under state law to report suspected abuse. PFSA offers comprehensive and convenient bilingual MRT classes on-line, on-demand, or in-person.<br />If you’re a parent or a child’s caregiver who struggles with substance use disorder, take an important step in your recovery by joining our “Families in Recovery” initiative. This specialized parenting program helps moms and dads balance the demands of their recovery from addiction with the responsibilities of safe parenting. The goal is to keep kids safe.<br />The worst thing we can do upon reading this report is to ignore it. We’re out of patience. We’re out of forgiveness. And we’re out of time. Make child protection a paramount priority in this commonwealth. Right now. Because every child needs a champion and it can be YOU.</p><p>Angela M. Liddle, MPA<br />President and CEO<br />Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance<br />2000 Linglestown Road, Suite 301<br />Harrisburg, PA 17110<br />717-238-0937<br /></p> 0 2018-08-16 18:11 +00:00 2018-08-16 14:11 -04:00 Latest Posts Mister Rogers and The Recipe for Childhood Joy July 26, 2018I treated myself recently to one of my favorite slices of Americana; taking in a film at an old-fashioned downtown movie theater complete with the original marquee and&#8230; Wed, 01 Aug 2018 13:54:39 Z Jill Whitmyer <p>July 26, 2018</p><p>I treated myself recently to one of my favorite slices of Americana; taking in a film at an old-fashioned downtown movie theater complete with the original marquee and exactly one ticket booth. I was thrilled at how bustling things were in this small town on a Friday night. It was challenging to find parking and the line for the movie practically embraced the block. In a time when nearly every move we make is orchestrated with computerized synchronization, it was refreshing to experience a movie starting almost 20 minutes late, not because of extended trailers, but because it took longer just to seat the crowd. Even more affirming was knowing the folks were queued up to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the documentary about Fred Rogers.<br />It’s hard to grasp that a chubby kid, born into affluence and bullied throughout childhood, could become a national symbol of kindness and an advocate for all children. I grew up watching Mister Rogers hand-in-hand with many of the violent cartoons of that era that he rallied against. My father was the antithesis of Fred Rogers and I remember wondering why my dad was not so gentle. As an only child surrounded most often by adults much older than I, play was a very small sliver of my childhood pie. By age 10, I knew about the stock market and checkbooks but little about playing and relating to other kids. Children seemed sort of foreign to me until I became a mother. Then, those two little bundles of pink joy never once felt foreign &#8211; at least, not until they became teenagers.<br />Like many mothers, I was determined to approach my role with perfection – making sure their clothes were clean and the colors matched; creating home-cooked meals; writing little notes they’d find in their school lunches; being a Girl Scout leader and softball mom, and on it went. Reflecting on those days, I realize I gave my daughters lots of things they needed from a mother, but I never shared the experience of play in a Mr. Rogers sort of way.<br />We rarely get a redo with the important things in life, but sometimes we get a chance to learn the lesson we need. Such a moment came this summer in the person of a red-haired, over-the-top, wicked-smart, nine-year-old boy named Brody. We are connected to a uniquely-blended family that is both too complicated and yet simplistic to explain. Each year, we share space for extended periods of time. I’ve always liked this kid. Last summer, we had a great conversation about his thoughts on creationism versus evolution and I remain in awe at the speed of his fingers with the game Minecraft. But something was different this summer. Maybe I yearned for the pieces of childhood I had missed. Maybe I was missing my own granddaughter, Hailey, whom I don’t get to see very often. Whatever the reason, this summer I really connected with Brody, and this connection occurred around his world &#8211; the world of play.<br />We played air hockey, Monopoly, and backyard badminton in record heat. Each day, I gave Brody one riddle to solve and he challenged me with a knock-knock joke. We went camping &#8211; in a tent &#8211; in the rain. And when it came time for Brody to head home hundreds of miles away, I sobbed and sobbed. I chalked up the emotion to age and missing my granddaughter. But that wasn’t it at all.<br />As I watched the Fred Rogers documentary, I had an epiphany. I finally saw why Fred was so very good with children and I understood at last why my experience with Brody this summer was so transformative. Like Fred Rogers, I gave Brody what he and I needed most – the time simply and joyfully to P L A Y. Mr. Rogers gave children the greatest gift possible; someone to listen to them, laugh with them, calm their fears, and play beside them. Fred Rogers embodied what it means to be a friend and by extension, a good neighbor. This gentle and caring man developed a recipe for childhood joy.<br />Go see this film and find time to play with the children you love or the child within you. It’s really very simple.</p><p>Angela M. Liddle, MPA<br />President and CEO<br />Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance<br />2000 Linglestown Road<br />Suite 301<br />Harrisburg, PA 17110</p><p>717-238-0937</p><p><a href=""><img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-533" src="" alt="" width="225" height="300" srcset=" 225w, 480w" sizes="(max-width: 225px) 100vw, 225px" /></a>                                    <a href=""><img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-532" src="" alt="" width="158" height="300" srcset=" 158w, 538w, 630w" sizes="(max-width: 158px) 100vw, 158px" /></a></p> 0 2018-08-01 13:54 +00:00 2018-08-01 09:54 -04:00 Latest Posts Protecting Infants, Supporting Mothers Even a quick scan of the daily news tells the story of the opioid epidemic that causes devastating harm to the substance user, her children and family, and the larger&#8230; Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:28:29 Z Beth Bitler <p>Even a quick scan of the daily news tells the story of the opioid epidemic that causes devastating harm to the substance user, her children and family, and the larger community. You don’t have to look far to find the story of a tragic death from overdose or a report on the harm that Substance Use Disorder (SUD) causes newborn babies exposed to drugs in utero. Everyone but the cruelest would agree that infants should be given the best start possible in life, and that entering the world with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS, “withdrawal” in newborns) is nowhere near that mark. And, it’s important to note that NAS exists not only in opioid addiction; withdrawal from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs also occurs.</p><p>One arena in which the issues effecting newborns is a “hot topic” is our state legislature. Recently, Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks County) introduced a bill that would help ensure that babies who are born dependent on controlled substances are safely cared for and receive critical medical and developmental services. The legislation would reverse a 2015 amendment to the state’s Child Protective Services Act that exempted health care providers from reporting infants born exposed to drugs when mothers were legally prescribed addictive narcotics during pregnancy. Clearly, the protection of the newborn is the most crucial of concerns, but that’s not where the concern ends.</p><p>Is it possible to care about babies and <strong>not</strong> their mothers? I don’t think so, and I don’t think it’s an either/or choice. So, how do we do both?</p><p><a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-521 alignright" src="" alt="Image of business partners hands on top of each other symbolizing companionship and unity" width="200" height="300" srcset=" 200w, 265w" sizes="(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px" /></a></p><p>In an ideal world, there would be readily available treatment for women who would seek help early, surrounded by a loving family to temporarily care for their kids and then provide support as they recover. Treatment would offer services aimed specifically at pregnant and postpartum women. This ideal world would not subject the substance user to the shame and stigma associated with SUD that stops many from asking for help. Women would not have to choose between getting prenatal care and losing their children. And babies would be kept near – not taken away from – their mothers in early recovery.</p><p>If only we lived in an ideal world.</p><p>In our <em>real world, </em>we often take an almost opposite approach. Less than a quarter of our nation’s SUD treatment centers offer specific services for pregnant and postpartum women, and even fewer offer recovery drugs to control cravings and withdrawal. Experts say that quitting drug use without the use of such medications has a higher incidence of relapse and can be stressful on a fetus, according to a recent article in the <em>Washington Post. </em>And opiate antagonist drugs like Vivitrol® show great promise preventing relapse. We’ve made a lot of progress in offering recovery medications in general, but pregnant women face resistance from doctors wary of harming the fetus, though some studies have shown few or no long-term effects from their use.</p><p>Today, only a fraction of family members of substance users receive education in SUD science and effective ways to support recovery.  And many people view the substance user as the enemy – who “asked for it” when addicted – because they do not understand, and cannot comprehend, the unbelievable power of the drug.</p><p>How do we reach the ideal world? Look at one aspect of the problem.</p><p>Mandated reporters rightly make reports when infants are exposed to harmful drugs, and our overburdened, underfunded child welfare system becomes involved.  According to the 2016 <em>Annual Child protective Services Report, (PA Department of Human Services)</em> the large majority of calls to General Protective Services (GPS, reports that don’t rise to the level of child abuse but services to prevent harm to children are needed) involve parental substance abuse, with mothers being the person most reported. As the opioid epidemic grows, the Commonwealth has not responded to the critical needs of children of substance users to the extent that is needed. The numbers of effected children are not declining; what are we waiting for?</p><p><a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-514 alignright" src="" alt="RF collage" width="195" height="300" srcset=" 195w, 407w" sizes="(max-width: 195px) 100vw, 195px" /></a>While services vary from county to county, some counties have no alternatives to removing children from the home. If it is safe – by providing ongoing treatment, support and education to mothers – to keep babies with their mothers, that should be the first goal of our child welfare and SUD treatment systems.</p><p>“These mothers will stay clean if we show them that they can bond with the baby, that they are successful,” says Kimberly Spence, a Missouri neonatologist recently quoted in the<em> Post </em>article<em>, </em>noting that taking the baby away can exacerbate the mother’s drug problem. “They no longer have a reason to stay clean.” She typically puts newborns with NAS on a tapering dose of morphine to reduce withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, mothers are offered recovery drugs to help them maintain their recovery as they commit to quit using drugs and become nurturing parents.</p><p>One way that PA Family Support Alliance is a part of the solution is our <em>Recovering Families</em> program, a parenting curriculum specific to parents as they recover from SUD. For people engaged in 12-step programs, the slogans and steps are discussed in the context of parenting.  It covers topics like how to talk to children about SUD and recovery, the importance of balancing parenting responsibilities with the needs of recovery, and the impact of substance use on child development. We provide materials and training to organizations who work with parents in recovery; these local providers now offer <em>Recovering Families</em> across Pennsylvania and several other states.</p><p>As we each have a role to play in preventing child abuse, we each have a role to play in helping children – and parents – effected by drug use. September is National Recovery Month, a great time to become part of the movement toward an ideal world.</p><p>To learn more about <em>Recovering Families</em> <a href="">visit our website</a>, or call us at 717-238-0937.</p><p><img class=" wp-image-517 aligncenter" src="" alt="2017-recovery-month-horizontal-web-banner" width="443" height="102" srcset=" 300w, 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 443px) 100vw, 443px" /></p><p>&nbsp;</p> 0 2017-08-17 17:28 +00:00 2017-08-17 13:28 -04:00 Latest Posts Full Stop: Children Cannot Consent to Sex with an Adult. Ever. I have long heard that as people age, the shock factor decreases and very little about human behavior is surprising. That was not my experience as I heard Milo Yiannopoulos’&#8230; Wed, 01 Mar 2017 16:19:43 Z Beth Bitler <p>I have long heard that as people age, the shock factor decreases and very little about human behavior is surprising. That was not my experience as I heard Milo Yiannopoulos’ comments seemingly advocating for sex between young teens and adults. I mean seriously, what the hell is this man thinking? I am uncertain if he should be considered a fool or a misguided idiot in asserting the notion that adults who have sexual relations with children under age 18 are somehow helping them “experiment with their sexuality” and that the sex was “consensual.” The only thing that brought my blood pressure down into normal range was reading and hearing the outrage expressed around the country. That, and the fact that he lost his job too.<br />In fact, Milo’s assertion is a gross affront to any moral and legal interpretation of children’s rights. Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, wrote brilliantly about the Milo controversy, “…fascinating as it is to recount Milo’s many other transgressions, his gut-churning comments about child sexual abuse reveal a vile and all-too-common myth: that children can somehow consent to sex with adults. They can’t. Full stop.” Excellent comment. Remember it and repeat it if ever you hear another fool or misguided idiot suggest that children can consent to sex with adults. You can add it to the list of things children under age 18 cannot do. They cannot vote. They cannot purchase tobacco products. They cannot consume alcohol. Stands to reason, does it not, children cannot consent to sex with an adult. Full stop!<br />The sexual abuse of children &#8211; and that is exactly what it is &#8211; is a major black eye for the state of Pennsylvania. When you consider Jerry Sandusky’s serial sexual predation of children, the multiple ongoing grand jury investigations into child sexual abuse in the Catholic dioceses around the state, and the daily news reports of allegations of institutional sexual abuse in our schools and other organizations, Pennsylvania has rightfully been termed by some observers as Ground Zero &#8211; an epicenter &#8211; for the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.<br />Sexual abuse was involved in 47 percent (1,960) of all substantiated reports of child abuse in the 2015 Annual Child Protective Services Report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Let’s be clear about this: These 1,960 children were not building their résumé of sexual experiences. They were being abused by adults who damn well should have known better. These adults were perpetrators and should feel the full force of our state’s law. And these children were victims and they deserved to be safe and cared for in the communities in which they lived, went to school, and played.<br />Almost immediately after hearing about Milo’s very bad day when he should have remained silent, I read an equally impactful article in the Baltimore Jewish Times by Toby Tabachnick. I was not half way through the article when I decided to be a huge fan of Toby. And the reason is simple. She was telling about one more situation where a teacher was accused of sexually abusing students, this time at Yeshiva Boys School of Pittsburgh. However, rather than sensationalize the situation for news circulation, she told the facts about what the school had done as soon as they learned of the abuse from a member of the community who saw the teacher “touching a child inappropriately” in the school library. Yeshiva followed a near textbook proper response. The administration immediately removed the rabbi from the school, contacted ChildLine (PA’s hotline for reporting child abuse), and cooperated fully with law enforcement. Yeshiva communicated with parents after consulting law enforcement and held a meeting with the broader school community. School leaders prepared for the worst by having their staff fully trained on child abuse prevention, recognition, and reporting. Quite simply, Yeshiva chose to put the care and protection of their students above their own convenience as an institution. How different the current battle around the elimination of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims might look if other organizations and institutions had been so honorable. So, kudos to Yeshiva and Toby Tabachnick for reminding us all there should be zero tolerance for the abuse of children, that community members have a critical role to play in child protection, and that there really are institutions that do the right thing for children.<br />I have spent the past 30 years working in child abuse prevention and I certainly was not surprised to read about these champions for children, but it sure was nice to read. Let’s each do our part to make sure there are more stories where folks knew what to do to best protect children &#8211; and did just that. To learn how to do your part, please visit</p> 0 2017-03-01 16:19 +00:00 2017-03-01 11:19 -05:00 Latest Posts Every Child in PA Deserves and Needs a Champion I’ve noticed lately that I’m weary from “bad news.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we gloss over the dangers and atrocities in our communities.  You know&#8230; Wed, 25 Jan 2017 14:05:50 Z Beth Bitler <p>I’ve noticed lately that I’m weary from “bad news.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we gloss over the dangers and atrocities in our communities.  You know what I mean; the kind of news that tells us despite all our good works, bad things happen that we can scarcely imagine before we view it on television, hear about it on social media, or read about it in those nearly-extinct publications called newspapers.  I am suggesting we bring a greater balance into our daily conscience, like appreciating the moments that bring joy to our lives. There’ve been a few things that have made me smile broadly in recent days; people and situations that have made me feel proud to be part of this human race &#8211; literally and figuratively speaking.</p><p><a href=""><img class="alignright wp-image-505 " src="" alt="blog 1" width="348" height="196" srcset=" 300w, 1024w, 1051w" sizes="(max-width: 348px) 100vw, 348px" /></a>I just finished a radio interview with RJ Harris at WHP 580 iHeart Media in Harrisburg to tell central PA listeners about PFSA’s kick off to our new PA Blue Ribbon Champion for Kids campaign.  The goal is quite simple:  To shine the light on everyday heroes who do their best to protect children. We ask Pennsylvanians from every region of this commonwealth to help us highlight those individuals &#8211; teachers, social workers, doctors, neighbors, regular folks &#8211; who have done something special to protect a child.  Maybe their act was truly one of heroism by stepping in during a crisis to save a child from imminent death; maybe it was simply being aware of a need and ensuring that a child was properly fed or clothed; or maybe it was just being present in a child’s life as a tutor, mentor, coach, or volunteer in a community organization or sports team. In other words, we are looking for folks who did the right thing, at the right time, and it made all the difference in the life of a child.</p><p>When I explained this concept to RJ, he smiled the most genuine smile and said, “Isn’t that nice?”   And it really is.  It’s time for us to acknowledge the good that is around us.  Maybe when we see and hear what others do for children, it will motivate each of us to do more than we believe we are capable of doing.</p><p>I opened my local paper recently and read about a very humble man who saved a five-year-old girl during a bizarre attack at a day care center.  I’m not sure I would have been as courageous given such a dangerous situation, but I would like to think I would have stepped in and done what was needed.</p><p>What I do know is I am both grateful and proud of this man who had no legal obligation to take action on behalf of that little girl.  Somewhere inside his soul, instincts of goodness and valor arose and he acted upon them. I believe we all have the grace, kindness, and humanity to cheer one another to do the right things by the children in our midst.</p><p><a href=""><img class=" wp-image-506 alignleft" src="" alt="" width="129" height="221" srcset=" 175w, 597w, 603w" sizes="(max-width: 129px) 100vw, 129px" /></a>So, I ask you, please, to think about the people in your community who act on behalf of the best interests of children. And then, nominate one of these heroes as a #PABlueRibbonChamp. You can do so by visiting <a href=""></a>, download the nomination form, and make sure to return it to PFSA by February 27<sup>th </sup>. Finally, please follow and support our campaign on social media and in your communities because every child deserves and needs a champion!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> 0 2017-01-25 14:05 +00:00 2017-01-25 09:05 -05:00 Latest Posts A Champion for Children It seems like a lifetime ago, and in many respects it was.  I was a tender, 25-year-old administrator of a crisis nursery in York County. On so many levels, I&#8230; Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:58:44 Z Beth Bitler <p>It seems like a lifetime ago, and in many respects it was.  I was a tender, 25-year-old administrator of a crisis nursery in York County. On so many levels, I was in over my head. I knew little about county government, much less state or federal.  Truth be known, I am not sure I had ever been to Harrisburg.  But I was trying to stabilize a small nonprofit, develop programs that helped families, and  launch my career.  What I did possess was lots of energy and undying determination.  I courted away from the employment of a major health corporation a dynamic, young woman who was one of the few known registered art therapists in the area.  Common sense told me that young children who had been sexually abused, especially those who were pre-verbal, needed a different type of therapy and I felt in my gut that this woman could hold the key to much healing.</p><p>We launched an art therapy program to complement respite care, case management services, and a comprehensive parent education and support program, but I needed funding and fast. In the early 1990’s, most of us were just learning about a form of Medicaid funding called Early &amp; Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment, or EPSDT.  I read and learned voraciously about this funding and I spent hours completing an application. To my dismay and anger, it was denied.  For reasons I can no longer recall, someone in a position of authority determined this funding stream was not applicable for art therapy.  I turned for funding assistance to a state senator and state representative – my first-ever visit to legislative offices. These legislators agreed to work together to bring a positive resolution to my funding crisis, and before I knew it, I was given a date and time to meet with staff from the then-PA Department of Public Welfare.</p><p>I remember the meeting day as if it were yesterday.  I wore a blue suit, held a briefcase ( yes, women used them back then) that contained a few notes jotted on a legal pad that summarized key funding points, steps I had taken, the answers given, and, of course, my argument for why it should be applicable.  With quarters in hand for the parking meter, (Don’t we all miss those days when one quarter got us through a meeting in Harrisburg!) I found my way to Labor and Industry and the designated conference room filled with more than a dozen people &#8211; none of whom I knew, except for the senator. At the appropriate time, all eyes looked toward the entrance door and in walked a woman named Karen Snider, Secretary of Public Welfare.  I nearly fainted.  It never occurred to me to ask who would be participating in the meeting and I could not understand why so many people were needed for such a small issue.  Truth be known, I still struggle to understand.</p><p>Secretary Snider sat down, introductions were quickly given, and then she looked at me and said, “Angela, will you please review the circumstances that bring us here today?”  In my calmest, most determined voice I went through the points I had scribbled on paper.  When I finished, the Secretary asked if there were questions.  Silence.  The complete absence of sound <span style="text-decoration: line-through"> </span> I broke into a cold sweat; had I sounded foolish?  Did I say something that offended someone? Were my points all factually correct?  Goodness, I was out of my league and over my head on this one!  And then with seamless grace the Secretary stood and looked at me and said, “This all seems like a very reasonable request, thank you for bringing this to my attention and for meeting with me today.” With a broad smile and nod, she looked at those assembled and said, “Gentlemen, would you please see that this it taken care of?”  And she walked out of the room.  Welcome to state government – Karen Snider-style!  Welcome to my first lesson in learning what both determination and the power of one person with common sense and authority can bring!</p><p>I went back to my office and with little effort from that day forward, EPSDT funding flowed into the crisis nursery and hundreds, if not thousands, of children received therapeutic care in response to acts more horrific than most of us can imagine.</p><p>After several years, it was time for me to work in a larger pond and I assumed leadership of PA Family Support Alliance.  I became reacquainted with Karen Snider in 2012 at an event for Child Abuse Prevention Month sponsored by PFSA.  She was still graceful, very complimentary of our work, and I took the opportunity to sit with her and tell her about the 25 year-old-woman who sat in front of her decades before.  She smiled, hugged me, and said, “I remember and I’m so glad I did not scare you off!”  We continued to cross paths as PFSA worked in partnership with the Girl Scouts on child protection policies and training; Karen Snider was a member of their governing board. Then, PFSA worked on a multi-year family engagement initiative within Harrisburg School District, where she led the Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation. For many years our offices were in the same building and she was ever present on Sundays &#8211; her favorite time to do office work. We’d sometimes talk in the parking lot; we’d always smile and nod in a way that made us both recall a different time.</p><p>Though I now have gray hair, wrinkles, and am a grandmother, I always still felt much like a “kid” in her presence.  Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. She cheered me on that day in 1993 surrounded by men who were nearly twice my age.    What I learned during that very first meeting in Harrisburg is that one person can do the right thing for children and make a difference.  Karen made a choice to be a champion for kids throughout her lifetime- as an entry level social worker, then as Secretary of Public Welfare, and finally as a volunteer.  I’m sure she had lots of choices and she chose to be a champion for PA’s children.  Lots of folks gathered at a church in Camp Hill this week to say a final thank you and goodbye to Karen.  She died peacefully in her sleep and I’m sure she did so with lots of things she still wanted to accomplish.  We each have a choice about the issues we support.  Our state now has one less champion for children and I’m inviting you today to stand up and assume that role.  Live Karen Snider’s example and be a champion for children who are being abused and neglected.</p><p><a href="">Join our cause,</a> because every kid needs a champion.</p> 0 2017-01-19 18:58 +00:00 2017-01-19 13:58 -05:00 Latest Posts A Shocking Case of Child Neglect The allegation that a Halifax Township couple locked three children in a room, denied them food which left them within days of starving to death, shocks our conscience. The children,&#8230; Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:49:37 Z Beth Bitler <p>The allegation that a Halifax Township couple locked three children in a room, denied them food which left them within days of starving to death, shocks our conscience. The children, ages 4, 5, and 6 whose weights ranged from 23 to 27 pounds at the time they were removed from the urine-, feces-, and bug-infested home in northern Dauphin County, are part of an extremely  vulnerable demographic group. Research has shown that kids in the toddler years to primary school-enrollment age are in a prime window for abuse and neglect. As Ivey DeJesus noted in a Patriot-News/  report on the case, “Mandated reporters &#8211; professionals such as teachers and doctors who work with children &#8211; are by law required to report suspected abuse, but very young children may not have that connection.” The Halifax children had passed the age of initial checkups by medical professionals who could detect nutritional and physical problems and were required to report suspected abuse. At the same time, they were not yet age 8, when compulsory school attendance might have brought them to the attention of district officials who also are mandated to recognize and report child abuse in Pennsylvania.</p><p>What this terrible story points out is the need for each of us to play a role in child protection. If a neighbor has children’s toys strewn in the yard but you see no evidence of children, or sporadic evidence of children, what should you do?  If you see those adult neighbors occasionally with young children who look unhappy, unkempt, and fearful, what should you do?  If a family has a school-age young child but you notice that the child does not appear to be going to class, what should you do? Where is the line between being a nosy neighbor and a child protector?</p><p>The answer is that when it comes to the protection of children, we have to err on the side of the child – not the convenience or needs of adults.  Our community-based, research- supported Front Porch Project presents real-life scenarios where potential harm to a child is possible and offers suggestions on how to safely intervene and defuse the situation. In situations like the one in Halifax, here are some ideas: Bring that neighbor a food item to share. Start a conversation. See what you can observe about the condition of the children and the home. Ask the parents casually about school plans for the kids. Then, if you feel that child abuse is afoot, call the professionals at ChildLine – 800-932-0313 – and share your observations and concerns. The county Children and Youth agency will then, do a thorough investigation.</p><p>We know that people who abuse and neglect children live among us and often rely on neighbors to “mind their own business,” to disbelieve that someone is capable of this kind of inhumanity to children. Sadly, that is not true.  Child neglect is the most frequent form of child maltreatment. In Pennsylvania in 2015, there were more than 66,000 reports of children suspected to be in need of General Protective Services (mostly neglect). More than 24,000 of these reports, involving more than 34,000 children, were determined to be valid. Reports to General Protective Services are assessed and many kinds of help are provided to the family – help with basic needs, educational programs for example, as well as out-of-home placement for children whose parents are unable to care for them. In the same time period, there were 40,590 substantiated reports of suspected child abuse. As serious as physical and sexual abuse is, we often do not realize the extent of child neglect in our communities.</p><p>Become a PA Blue Ribbon Champion for Kids and report suspected child abuse and neglect to professionals. Not every child can be saved. Not every case of abuse can be detected. But if each one of us commits to put child safety first, we can save more children from the horrors of abuse and neglect.  And, if you’d like to help heal the malnourished and abused children found in Halifax, please contact Dauphin County Children and Youth Services at 717-780-7200. They are accepting gift cards, clothing, toys and other items for the children.</p> 0 2017-01-03 16:49 +00:00 2017-01-03 11:49 -05:00 Latest Posts Let It Be Resolved One of the lessons we can take from this season of light and enlightenment is that even Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch were transformed from their miserable states to a&#8230; Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:51:09 Z Beth Bitler <p>One of the lessons we can take from this season of light and enlightenment is that even Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch were transformed from their miserable states to a place of joy and peace. In each case, their hearts grew bigger, their souls softer. I’ve felt jostled around a good bit this year with more challenges and detours from my comfort zone than I can count. Perhaps I have not lived in the miserable state of Scrooge and Grinch but most certainly I have not experienced nearly enough belly laughter and levity.</p><p>Earlier this evening, my four-year old granddaughter Hailey and I upheld what she now counts on as tradition at Mae Mae’s house &#8211; the decorating of her very own tree.</p><p><a href=""><img class="alignright wp-image-484" src="" alt="dec-blog-1" width="202" height="202" /></a>he danced around to holiday music, gently touched her special ornaments, and the mere reflection of tree lights on her face successfully brought tears to mine. We cuddled on the couch and read most of her Christmas books; she listened as if hearing the stories for the very first time and in watching her, perhaps they were new reads for me too. And so it is that each of us can start anew. We can mark the turning of the calendar to a New Year and become less burdened by disappointment, hate, jealousy, and rejection. We have to make room in our lives for a little love and levity. How do we do it?</p><p>Well, just as our children learned to walk, we have to take baby steps. For example, 2016 has taught me that I can wade my way through a lot of change and be mostly graceful through the process. None of us enjoys extended times of upheaval brought on by moving to a new community or work projects that seem to take longer than expected or planned. But in these times we can learn to trust the process and we can have within us a sense of determination that we can see things through to completion, or perhaps a sense of comfort once again.</p><p>I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions but I am big on always striving for improvement and that takes resolve. As I gladly wind down this calendar year and look to a new one, I resolve to be more patient with myself and search for laughter if it does not come easily to me on its own. I resolve to be generous, both with myself and others, even when every instinct tells me to be stingy &#8211; with my time, my energy, and my financial resources. A giving heart fortifies itself.  The Grinch’s heart grew three times and Ebenezer Scrooge’s icy heart melted when they began lifting the spirits of those around them. I commit to giving more of my time to the people I hold most dear.</p><p><a href=""><img class=" wp-image-485 size-medium alignleft" src="" alt="dec-blog-2" width="208" height="300" srcset=" 208w, 710w, 753w" sizes="(max-width: 208px) 100vw, 208px" /></a>Spend some time thinking about your own words, “Let it be resolved …” Whatever you identify as spots within yourself and your life that could use a little “perking up,” make sure you include enough room for adding joy. What makes you laugh out loud? For me, it’s a silly 30-minute TV show called <em>The Big Bang Theory</em>. Other days, it is almost anything my daughter Kelsey says because she has a way of reaching my funny bone. Whatever sparks your joyful moment, relish it. Celebrate it. Find the time and space to indulge in the guilty pleasure of laughing heartily.  Charlie Chaplin put it perfectly, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  And remember, your children needed your help and encouragement with every developmental milestone and you will add to their good health by demonstrating the place laughter and levity have in life.</p><p>Don’t waste a single day of 2017.  Be it resolved.  I will live, love, and laugh my way through the New Year.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> 0 2016-12-08 22:51 +00:00 2016-12-08 17:51 -05:00