A rainy Sunday didn’t stop tribal community members from turning out for the Walk to Protect Children on April 8 at Chief Leschi Schools. Carrying umbrellas, wearing raincoats and galoshes, families stepped out to enjoy the walk knowing that they were taking part in a most sacred effort – taking a public stance to defend children from abuse and neglect and to help families heal.
Organized by the Puyallup Tribe’s Children’s Services department in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a major focus of the Walk was to encourage Native families to take part in fostering Native children in any number of ways.
“There are more ways for people to help than becoming a foster parent – it doesn’t have to be a fulltime job necessarily,” said Children’s Services’ Mandy Morlin who, along with Ashley Howard, is a foster home licenser. “It can be weekends, giving foster parents a break for a week or so…. We work with applicants to see what they’re interested in and go from there.”
The point is to keep Native children connected to their culture and among their own people so that they gain strength from being Native and have access to powwows, cultural events and the like.
Inside Chief Leschi, walkers could come in out of the rain and visit informational booths staffed by representatives from
Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, Kwawachee Counseling Center and Puyallup Tribal Health Authority. Participation from these tribal entities showed that help is there for whole families, as child abuse is a complex matter that involves the adults as much as it does the little ones.
Children’s Services Executive Director Jill LaPointe addressed this in her remarks to the walkers gathered in the school cafeteria while lunch was being prepared. (Read Jill LaPointe’s entire presentation on pg. 5.)
“Child abuse prevention requires healing of all members of a family,” she said. “Child abuse is a family crisis. To put it another way, child abuse is a sign or indicator that a family is in crisis. Often the entire family needs healing.”
She spoke of how critically important it is for adults to speak up if they sense that a child is being abused or neglected.
“Many who have reported abuse before know firsthand that it can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do because reporting abuse often means reporting on a relative or close friend. In situations that involve those we love and care for, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that reporting abuse may be a much-needed lifeline for not only a child or children, but for the parents as well.”
Also speaking that day were Tribal Councilmembers David Bean and Annette Bryan, there to formally present the Puyallup Tribal Council’s official proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is reprinted here in full (pg. 3).
“We get a lot of support from our Tribal Council,” Jill LaPointe said. “They really value children and our services to provide early intervention, prevention and support to families and family reunification.”
Councilman Bean spoke of the importance of witnessing events like the Walk.
“I was taught that any event we attend, we’re witnesses. This means talking about the work that was done to those who are not there – to talk about how it was done for the benefit of the community. Today you are all witnesses and I challenge each and every one of you to go out and talk to 10 people about the work that was done here today and what we need to do to protect our children. If we’re talking about it, and we’re telling our friends about it, chances are they will have a conversation with their friends and family.”
Councilwoman Bryan opened up about her family’s struggles, which mirror those of other families trying to make it in this difficult world. “I have the beautiful honor of raising my grandchildren, three boys – a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 4-year-old. They’re in my care because circumstances are unfortunate and we have struggles in our family. A lot of us do have those struggles so we come together as a community to help each other – to raise each other’s children, to help our loved ones who are struggling. For those who are helping to raise our little ones, I raise my hands to you in gratitude that you open your heart and your love to these children who need us. It’s not easy – it’s a big sacrifice but we do it out of love.”
After the speakers, everyone enjoyed a nice lunch and lucky winners received cool prizes in the raffle.