It Takes Teamwork

Sept. 25, 2003
It Takes Teamwork
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Alliance Program emphasizes teamwork to prevent child abuse

In Onondaga County alone 4,000 reports of suspected child abuse/neglect are filed with Children’s Protective Service each year. Although it is difficult to stop child abuse, the Alliance program, part of the family of programs administered by Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, is tackling the problem head-on. The best way to prevent child abuse and neglect is to support families and provide parents with the skills and resources they need. This is the philosophy that has been at the core of Alliance since it was created in 1972. The agency, a model for child abuse prevention across the nation, offers counseling, psychological evaluations and cognitive restructuring for child sex abusers in criminal and family courts to determine an abuser’s eligibility for community-based treatment. Alliance also works with families and provides treatment services for victims.

“The goal of child abuse prevention is simple –– to stop child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place, sparing the families emotional and physical trauma and decreasing the need for intervention and treatment services,” said C. Brian Walton, executive director of Catholic Charities of Onondaga County.

On Sept. 9 more than 200 community leaders attended the 30th Anniversary Reception for Alliance at the Landmark Theater to celebrate the good work the program is doing on behalf of child abuse prevention and to raise public awareness of child abuse prevention. The night’s theme was teamwork. Preventing child abuse takes the entire community, said Walton. “This anniversary observance is an opportunity to highlight the role that we all can play to support parents and families,” said Walton. Former NFL and Syracuse University quarterback Don McPherson led the evening as the featured speaker. McPherson, known for his advocacy against violence, credited Alliance for demonstrating innovation and leadership in child abuse prevention. “Don McPherson recognizes the relationship between violence and its impact on children,” said Mark Clary, director of Alliance. “Given his background, Don understands the meaning of teamwork.” The belief that it takes teamwork to prevent child abuse has been at the heart of Alliance for the past 30 years. Community agencies, both public and private, work together with Alliance as a team to prevent child abuse.

Clary explained, “When child abuse occurs in a family, several services from different agencies begin to work with the family concurrently to meet the individual needs of the family. Alliance works with over 80 agencies throughout Onondaga County to provide health, mental, health education or rehabilitation services depending on need.” This component of Alliance is called the coordination service; the other fundamental service is parent aide. The purpose of parent aide is to conduct intensive visits with families where the potential for abuse exists and teach them basic living and parenting skills. Target populations are individuals involved in child sexual abuse. However, because someone was abused does not necessarily make him/her an abuser, noted Clary. “Although there are common characteristics we see in families where child abuse occurs, a history of parents’ being abused themselves is one of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who was abused will abuse,” Clary said. “A lot depends on life experience and support they might have gotten.”

Clary cited characteristics including isolation, unrealistic expectations of children and crisis in the family as other potential factors that could indicate a possible abuse situation. “The more these characteristics are present, the higher the likelihood,” said Clary. “Since we work with many agencies, someone could call us for assistance before something happens and we could refer them to an appropriate agency,” he added.

Child abuse is a problem facing the entire community, not just those affected by the cycle of abuse. The 30th Anniversary Reception and other events held by Alliance throughout the year, including an open house and a child abuse conference, were developed to highlight the problem for the community in hopes that child abuse prevention will become a “team effort.” “I think that more people are aware of the issue,” said Clary. “They just don’t think it happens in their community. But it does…throughout the country.” For more information on Alliance, call (315) 424-1880.

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