When a child’s life is lost, it is a tragedy beyond comprehension. Even one child’s death is too many, but everyone can play a role in preventing these tragedies from occurring. We must all come together to support families and keep our youngest children from dying.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, families have been under more stress than ever before. Unemployment, food insecurity, instability in housing and lack of child care has pushed families to the brink. The Department of Family Services has offices in every county to assist families with various benefits during these times, but more needs to be done. So, what can you do?
The Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund and DFS asks everyone to get involved. If you know of a family with children, especially young children, reach out to them. Call, text or check in with them to ask what you can help with and to offer your support. Offer to take a meal to a family. Tell them you’re there for them. Offer to help with school work or laundry. Or, just be there to listen. Reconnect with those you have lost connections with and reach out to make new connections.
Call your local DFS or law enforcement office if you suspect abuse or neglect. Wyoming is a mandatory reporting state, meaning all citizens of Wyoming are obligated to call if they suspect abuse or neglect is happening. Do you have to know that abuse or neglect are happening for sure? No, but if you have reason to believe it is – reach out for help.
The WCTF provides communities with support through mandatory reporter training. WCTF has trained over 100 organizations on mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse/neglect and the importance of being mandatory supporters for children, youth and families. To get more information on training opportunities, contact the WCTF at email@example.com.
In addition to being mandatory reporters, we also have a civic duty as mandatory supporters to the families in our communities. Know the resources available in your community! Visit wyomingfamilies.com for information on home visiting programs that support families with young children in your area. Check with your schools and the school-based resources they offer. Connect with your local DFS office, domestic violence, community mental health, or substance abuse center to get additional support. You don’t have to be the expert – connecting families to resources could be the difference between life or death.
Ask for help. If you are in a position where you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. Call 2-1-1 to find the resources within your community and call those resources. Take that next step. Reach out to your family, friends or neighbors. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Every family needs help at some point, and especially now in these trying times.
Familiarize yourself with products to help keep your infant safe. One example is sleep sacks. Sleep sacks keep your baby comfortable by providing a nurturing sleeping environment while keeping loose blankets from covering their face and mouth which can inhibit breathing.
According to the Wyoming Vital Records Services, in 2020, 31 Wyoming children and adolescents lost their lives to unnatural causes. Of those, nine were children under the age of 2 and almost one-third of the deaths were babies.
We challenge each of you to step up and get involved. Get involved to help your family, friends, neighbors, community members and yourselves. Find out what resources are available and help those who need it. Don’t be afraid, instead rise to the challenge of keeping Wyoming children and families safe and thriving in their homes.
(Korin Schmidt is the DFS Director and Sara Serelson is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Wyoming.)