May 8, 2019 — When Child Abuse Prevention Month closed, 90by30, a community-wide effort to reduce child abuse and neglect in Lane County by 90 percent by the year 2030, reflected on the efforts the program and the community have made to help raise awareness, and discussed future programs it hopes to implement.
“We had a fabulous Child Abuse Prevention Month in the community,” said Suzanne Mann-Heintz, co-chair of 90by30’s West Lane district.
There were nearly 4,000 blue pinwheels planted throughout the community in recognition of the month, with twice as many placed around town than last year. The pinwheels, a representation of a carefree childhood, are planted to bring about awareness of child abuse in the community.
“Several local businesses requested those, and paid for their own pinwheels, which was wonderful,” Mann-Heintz said. “We had the pinwheel bouquets at a lot of businesses that didn’t have the pinwheel gardens out front. They had the bouquets on their reception desks, including the City of Florence. And the Mapleton community responded beautifully. There were several businesses along 126 there that didn’t have pinwheels last year that had them this year. By the time 126 hits the intersection, and turns toward Florence, there were pinwheels for half a mile. That was cool.”
90by30 serves the western portions of Lane County, representing just one of the group’s regions within the county. A dozen volunteers live or work within Florence, Mapleton and Deadwood.
“I think we need to be aware,” Mann-Heintz said. “I see much more community awareness that this community wants to take care of its children. Obviously, the show of support indicates that it’s a big deal for the community.”
Awareness, and creating an environment of empathy for children in the community, is a key goal of 90by30, which has instituted multiple programs to help create a safe environment for children and families. While Mann-Heintz stated the organization has not done research into what the programs have done statistically to prevent or curtail child abuse, the feedback from programs has been encouraging. For example, the Roots of Empathy program has garnered positive results as it allows first-grade students in Siuslaw and Mapleton school districts to interact with newborn infants.
“We’ve heard overwhelming support and appreciation for the change in the dynamics of the first-grade classrooms,” Mann-Heintz said. “The young students are being kinder to each other, and they’re developing strategies for telling people how they feel. And problem solving.”
The program’s curriculum stresses the notion of accepting and appreciating peers, taking in the point of view of others and being kinder.
“Creating a kinder, gentler world,” Mann-Heintz summarized. “The feedback from that has been very positive. We’re kind of wrapping up now. We’ll be having our last classroom baby visits in May and some of the babies are turning one, so it will be birthday celebrations as well.”
90by30 is currently searching for new babies to be in next year’s program, which begins in September. The babies should be between the ages of two and four months old to be eligible.
“So babies that are born now, between May and August, would be the right age for next year’s babies. We’re looking for five,” Mann-Heintz said.
The Welcome Baby Box Program, which 90by30 is doing in partnership with PeaceHealth, has delivered 31 baby boxes to new parents since the program’s inception two years ago.
“We have quite a number of young families that are having babies and a lot of times they aren’t far enough in their lives to have created a very stable economic base,” Mann-Heintz said. “The items that are in the boxes that give them a place for the baby to sleep and some clothes and some hygiene kits and information. All those things are very much appreciated, so we’re very happy with that.”
Regarding new programs, Mann-Heintz touted the new K(NO)W More Lane County website, which gives information on how “a connected child is a protected child,” and emphasized the importance of children not being left alone to deal with abuse and neglect.
As far as future programs, 90by30 is focusing on middle-school-aged children.
“There are resources in the community to address older kids,” Mann-Heintz said. “But the thing left out is the middle school kids. And so, next year we have two programs that we’re going to be implementing.”
The first program is titled 40 Developmental Assets.
“It’s a kind of an inventory of interpersonal skills that all of us need,” said Mann-Heintz. “The research is very dramatic. If you have between 30 and 40 of these skills, then you only have a one percent chance of getting into big trouble, in terms of relationships and acting out against others or yourself. There are circumstances like being able to have an argument and then resolve it, being able to disagree with someone without overreacting, being able to make plans for something and then carry it out. It’s life skills which a lot of us could still develop. This particular program focuses directly on identifying and teaching those skills.”
According to 90by30, middle school is an optimal age to learn these skills, since the children are beginning to think about their relationships to others and discovering their independence, or lack thereof.
“It’s a perfect time for them to start doing introspection about their own feelings and their own relationships and what things they need to know to be able to function normally and more true to themselves,” Mann-Heintz said.
The second program would involve foster-grandparents.
“There’s a lot of people in the community who are already retired and very interested in assisting with programs for young people,” Mann-Heintz said. “Our hope would be that we would be able to set it up so there would be children in the schools that need a listening ear and a caring adult in their lives, and that they would be able to get teamed up with someone who would be a safe supporter. There’s a lot of research that says it only takes one solid, strong relationship in one person’s life for them to overcome a whole lot of hurdles.”
90by30 is still looking at different program models that would best fit the West Lane community.
For more information on 90by30, visit 90by30.com or knowmorelanecounty.org, or attend a regional leadership team meeting, which meets once a month of the fourth Tuesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Siuslaw School District office, 2111 Oak St.
“Anybody who’s interested in knowing more, or just wants to come and listen or volunteer, or is interested in a particular area of service, we’re happy to talk to talk to them,” Mann-Heintz said.