Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, center, speaks as state lawmakers and children’s welfare advocates attend a Blue Shirt Day event at the Alaska State Capitol, honoring the beginning of Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, center, speaks as state lawmakers and children’s welfare advocates attend a Blue Shirt Day event at the Alaska State Capitol, honoring the beginning of Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau recognizes beginning of child abuse prevention month

Blue Shirt Day is a national day for child welfare advocacy.

Blue-shirted supporters of the Child Abuse Prevention Month gathered on the steps of the Alaska State Capital on Friday afternoon as lawmakers and advocates raised their voices decrying violence against children.

Go Blue Day comes as the Southeast Alaska Family Evaluation Child Advocacy Center seeks to increase awareness of child abuse in the community and give families the tools to prevent it.

“We’re trying to get the word about the CAC and what we do,” said Rikki DuBois, an outreach coordinator for the SAFE CAC. “Child abuse occurs in secrecy, behind closed doors. I want to reach the average parents.”

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This year, the CAC’s theme is “Every Child Safe — it shouldn’t hurt to be a child,” Dubois said.

The SAFE CAC, the only organization of its kind in Juneau, is a grant-funded program founded in 1996 and coming fully online in 2001. It falls under the umbrella of Catholic Community Service, said Claire Norman, a victim service assistant. The CAC assists other organizations with child abuse investigations, Norman said — a one-stop arrangement to minimize trauma to children.

“We’re just a neutral party to do the interview and they do the investigation. We also do advocacy for the family and follow up services,” Norman said. “It can be walking the family through the court process if it goes to court. It can be filing for victims of crime compensation. It can be referrals for therapy.”

There are CACs getting stood up in Sitka and Ketchikan, Norman said, but for now, Juneau is the only one around for many communities.

“Right now we’re the main CAC for Southeast Alaska,” Norman said. “Our community really needs the extra hands in this kind of work. It seems like cases have really been increasing in the last few years.”

In 2021, the CAC has 157 cases, Norman said, an increase of nearly 66% since 2016. Helping to get the information of what signs of abuse could be to parents can help prevent it from happening, DuBois said.

“I’ve got an aim of going out and talking to parents. We’ve got to meet at a community level to do community prevention,” DuBois said. “How do we as a community come together to support each other? Parents who are supported are better able to support.”

Members of the CAC took part in a Go Blue Day rally at the Capitol on Friday, and will be staffing a table at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center for the evening’s First Friday event. There will also be two online presentations in April for members of the community, with the specifics announced on the CAC’s social media at www.facebook.com/SAFEChildAdvocacyCenter.

“It’s a nationwide campaign and day,” Norman said. “It’s not just Alaska but we’ve definitely been pushing it a lot.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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