Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tips to Keep Kids Safe Over the Holidays

Parents often wonder in response to the statement: “It’s an adult’s job to keep kids safe,” just what they can do to protect their kids.  So we thought the holidays, when visitors abound, schedules are off, and parents are overwhelmed, would be a great time to offer parents these tips regarding that very topic.

Tips for parents (or caregivers) to keep their kids safe….

Child sexual abuse prevention tips!

1.     1. Discuss boundaries – in general boundaries and respect are keys to empowering your kids to say no to unwanted touches, pictures, etc… by adults or other children (be sure to tell them other children may do things that are wrong also).
a.    Use the Speak Up Be Safe™ rule - "It’s My body", to help them learn what it means.  If you visit our website at and learn the five safety rules, you’ll see this first rule teaches kids their body is their own and they have the right to tell an adult No to uncomfortable touches, etc...  Give kids the tools to say no and practice! 
b.    During the holidays, lots of family members will be around and will want to hug your child, may want to play, tickle and even have your child sit on their lap.  Let both your child and the adults know this is a decision your child can make based on their comfort level, but if the child says no or stop, that is to be immediately respected!

2.     2. Pay attention to signals – a lot of times adults have a feeling that something is not quite right between an adult and a child, but they disregard that feeling because the adult in question is a family member or trusted friend, someone they think could never harm their child.  Truth is, 90% of children are sexually abused by someone they and the family knows very well, 70% by a family member.  Your child depends on you to keep them safe. If you have a gut feeling something is not right, ask questions, stop in, check back, and follow up. You owe it to your child to make sure you are paying attention and following up, not sweeping a feeling under the rug because it “couldn’t be” this person.

3.     3. Secrets have a way, especially bad secrets, of tearing families apart.  Teach your child that if someone asks them to keep a secret, they should tell them NO and then they should tell you.  Gifts as surprises until Christmas are okay, otherwise, families should adopt a “no secret” rule!

4.     4. Alone time between your child and another adult should be limited and then you should look for situations where that time is interruptible and observable and let the adult know you will follow up by asking your child lots of questions.  The fact that 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one adult – one child situations means that if you eliminate or minimize these situations, you have already protected your child better!

Remember, the key is early and ongoing communication.  Look for ways to start the conversations – extra guests sleeping in the house or trips to visit family and friends are both good ways to begin this type of conversation, and then look for ways to keep the communications going.  Two-way communications, where your child feels like they can come to you to ask questions must be ongoing! Parents must ensure the environment and the relationship is conducive to this happening!

Physical abuse increases during the holidays!
Increased time commitments and financial demands impact all families during the holidays, and sometimes, in some families, this may lead to physical abuse of a child. 

It’s important first of all, if you are feeling like you may hurt your own child to know there are things you can do to get help.
1.     Take a breather… sort of a time out for adults! Send your child to their room and/or you go to another room and take some time to de-stress and calm down when you are feeling like you are going to lose control.
2.     Call a friend and ask for support.  Often people don't want to ask others for help, but that’s what family and friends are for, and most of the time, they would be happy to help, they just don’t know what we need!  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and love for your child!!!
3.     If that is not enough, you can always reach out for more professional help.  Contact the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).
4.     Watch out for signs of increased stress and possible abuse in a friend or neighbor’s family.  If you suspect this is the case, talk to the adult and tell them you too feel increased pressure during the holidays, and ask if there is any way you can help lighten their load.
5.     If you suspect the child is being, or has been, harmed, you must call the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).  Remember, making a report is helping a family get the services they need!

Lastly, don’t neglect – neglect!
1.     It’s easy to put too much responsibility on kids that are too young with all we as parents have to do, or to leave kids too young at home alone, etc…  but the holidays are no time to neglect our kids simply because we as parents are busy and have more to do!  Reach out to neighbors and ask for help, share responsibilities with friends, but please don’t neglect your kids! 

Remember, the holidays are about family and friends and we want it to be a safe and happy time as well. We at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children wish you and your entire family a safe and healthy 2012!  To learn more about the five Speak Up Be Safe™ Safety Rules and other resources to help you in your efforts to keep your child safe, visit our website at  Remember that $2.00 will also provide the complete program to a child.  To make a donation go to  Thanks for joining us as we work to Protect Florida’s Children!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do we need more awareness or do we need action to protect children from child sexual abuse?

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said last week he wants to work toward increasing awareness of child abuse.  A generous and thoughtful gesture to be sure, however I’d like to take a moment to point out some previous efforts at awareness and ask if more awareness is really what we need? 

In 1986 Oprah revealed her own childhood sexual abuse to her audience and in 2010 after Tyler Perry revealed his abuse on the Oprah show, Oprah hosted a 2-day event, “200 Adult Men who were Molested Come Forward.” And the awareness hasn’t stopped there.  This year alone several celebrities have published books revealing their own childhood sexual abuse and rape, including Shania Twain, Sugar Ray Leonard and Ashley Judd to name just a few.

In the United States there were slightly fewer than 66,000 reports of sexual abuse in 2009.   However, according to several experts in the field, only between 12% (Hanson, 1999) and 30% of child sexual abuse cases (Finkelhor, 2008) are ever reported to authorities, therefore, the actual number of children sexually abused each year in the US is more likely to be between 220,000 and 550,000.

According to the most widely quoted statistic in the field taken from retrospective studies, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006), this means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.  And considering we have, as of the 2010 census, 74,181,467 citizens under 18 in our country, and we look at an average of 1 in 5 children, if 1 out of every 5 of them are or will be sexually abused, that potentially could be….. almost 15 million children that will be sexually abused before they are 18. Really? According to Darkness to Light, “Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it.”

So clearly awareness is needed! But when is enough awareness enough?  Do we think people know by now that adults are using children for sexual gratification in our country?  People have known for years that adults are neglecting and physically abusing kids… and yet that continues; so the question now becomes – are they aware this type of terrible abuse happens, that voyeurism, taking obscene pictures and indecent liberties, molesting, abusing, and raping children happens? It happens every day in our great nation!  And I would say, most people know it happens.  They know it and they either don’t want to admit it, think it won’t happen to them so they aren’t really concerned about it, they don’t want to talk about it because it is so horrific to think about, or they just simply don’t know what to do about it.

Yes child sexual abuse is real, it happens to real kids who go on to have real problems!  And whether it impacts you directly or indirectly – IT DOES IMPACT YOU! So please, be courageous enough to talk about it and protect kids that are being groomed or victimized.  Do something – anything!

  1. Advocate for better child protection laws and prevention programs.
  2. Learn the indicators of abuse and speak up when you suspect a child is being maltreated.
  3. Learn more about the Monique Burr Foundation team and how we are protecting Florida’s children Now, and about references/research and resources at
  4. Call your school or district to see if our prevention program, Speak Up Be Safe™ (which addresses bullying, and the prevention of all types of child abuse, including child sexual abuse for children and all the relevant adults in their lives), is currently being implemented in elementary schools in your district, and if not tell them you want the program and give them our website!
  5. Make a donation to the Monique Burr Foundation for Children so we can continue to advocate for and educate children and communities, and better protect all children!

Because as I said awareness is a generous and thoughtful gesture – but action is real and gets results!  
The Monique Burr Foundation for Children believes in Protecting Florida’s Children – Let’s Do It Now!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Penn State Scandal and Child Abuse: “Turning Reaction Into Real Action”

Everyone is talking about the Penn State scandal, as they should be.  The range of emotions expressed by citizens across the US run the gamut - some are outraged, some are supportive of Coach Paterno, which has others even more outraged, some are just in shock that this would happen and go unreported, some are just saddened that kids suffer such horrendous acts at the hands of the very adults that are supposed to care for and protect them in the first place.

But it’s time to turn all of that emotional reaction into real action to protect kids.  We can spend our time ranting about the actions (or inactions) of those individuals at Penn State (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit as humans and as child advocates we’ve done our fair share of that privately), or we can make a conscious choice as a State and as a Nation to take this tragedy and do something, together, for once to better the lives of children in a very real, very now way!

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a very real and dangerous problem in our world, and yes it is happening in your neighborhood too!  It happens for a variety of reasons and people turn their heads for a variety of reasons as well: denial, lack of education, fear, economic security.  The numbers vary depending on what study you are quoting, but experts tend to agree that approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.  So to put that into perspective, look at the average classroom in the US with about 20 kids and 4 kids in that class are, or will become a victim.  It’s sickening and it’s heartbreaking.  What it should be is motivating – but to most people – it just stops at sickening and heartbreaking.  But let’s change that! Let’s take this current level of awareness and motivation in the US and let’s move beyond sickness and heartbreak and let’s all make a commitment to do something to protect children!

First, all citizens should be aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect (and not just child sexual abuse) and should know where and how to report suspicions of abuse if they suspect it. We should all think of reporting as a form of prevention. It stops the abuse for the current victim and it prevents abuse for future victims.  In Florida, every citizen is a mandatory reporter, as is every citizen in 17 other states.  But whether you are mandated to report or not, it’s just the right thing to do!  To learn the signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect or how to report abuse in Florida, visit: Monique Burr Foundation Resources.

If you are not in Florida and you want to know your state’s statute on reporting and how to report, you can visit this website hosted by The Child Welfare Information Gateway to find out more information.  If your state law does not require every citizen to be a mandatory reporter, contact your state legislators and ask them to change the law immediately.

Secondly, prevention education needs to be a priority.  The US is a reactive society and we need to become a preventive society. With over 3.2 million reports of child abuse annually (and more abuse that goes unreported) this is an issue of public health crisis proportion with long-term negative health, mental health and societal consequences that last well into adulthood. However, there is ample research that shows prevention programs targeted at both children and adults is effective for primary and secondary prevention of child abuse and child sexual abuse.

In Florida, the legislature has mandated child abuse prevention education for all of Florida’s children through Florida Statute 39.  In response to that unfunded mandate, the Monique Burr Foundation for Children is providing a curriculum, Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS), as the Florida Department of Education approved safety and child abuse prevention program at no cost to public schools through active fundraising.  The SUBS curriculum also includes bullying, cyberbullying and technology safety information to help avoid and prevent other tragedies as well.

According to Finkelhor (2007), arguments against prevention education for children are unfounded and “the weight of currently available evidence shows that it is worth providing children with high-quality prevention education programs”, stating that “much research has suggested that children acquire the concepts; some research has suggested the programs promote disclosure and one study found lower rates of victimization for children who were exposed to these programs.” Finkelhor goes on to say despite arguments to the contrary, “a majority of reviews have found that children at all ages do acquire the key concepts that are being taught. In fact, younger children show more learning than older children.” And since we know the majority of abuse occurs in children under the age of 11, SUBS is taught to that target audience.

Speak Up Be Safe™ also follows the empirical findings and policy suggestions set forth in previous research1 to ensure the maximum efficacy and safety benefits for children in prevention programs. 

·      Programs are more effective when they occur on multiple occasions.
·      Programs are more effective when they allow children opportunities to practice skills.
·      Programs are more effective when they involve parents.
·      Programs should devote more emphasis to bullying prevention.

To move from the reactive society toward the preventive society mentioned earlier, EVERY school in Florida needs to implement SUBS in EVERY 1st – 5th grade classroom to get this essential information to EVERY child.  And the Monique Burr Foundation for Children needs EVERY citizen’s help to accomplish this.

Parents can inquire directly with their school or district to see if they are participating in the Speak Up Be Safe™ program and if not, request the program be used in their school.  Schools and districts can request SUBS and can include the program as a part of their standardized Guidance and Health curriculum to ensure uniform implementation across their district.  Community members and organizations can assist the Monique Burr Foundation and schools and districts with financial and implementation support. 

We must all work together to be successful in protecting kids, but the key is, THE TIME IS NOW.  We MUST Speak Up now to Keep Florida’s Kids Safe!  Contact us for more information at

Finkelhor, D. (2007). Prevention of Sexual Abuse Through Educational Programs Directed Toward Children. Pediatrics, 120(3): 640-645. Downloaded from on November 15, 2011.

1Finkelhor, D. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Victimization Prevention Programs: A National Survey of Children’s Exposure and Reactions. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19,(2):129-139. Downloaded from on November 15, 2011. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Child Abuse is on the Rise.... Let's do something about it!

An Ohio teacher and Penn State coach in the news, child porn sweeps in NC and FL with teachers, military, fire chiefs arrested, a US Department of State Special Agent recently arrested, a Ph.D at the CDC recently arrested… everywhere you look you see headlines related to child abuse, child pornography and child sexual exploitation. This is a public health crisis that is affecting us all, because even if it is not directly impacting you today it is going to impact you in the future. YOU are going teach these children, live next to these children, your children are going to go to school with these children and your tax dollars are going to have to pay to HEAL these children and INCARCERATE these perpetrators! If you do not think prevention is important, you are mistaken! The US needs to refocus it's efforts on PREVENTION! We need to stop the demand and EDUCATE and EMPOWER children and adults!!!! This really needs to stop. Please get involved and do something. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hi ghostly parents and protectors!

Yes, it is that time of year, I’m sure you all know, because like those of us here at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) with kids, you’ve probably been readying costumes; and like all of us, with or without little trick-or-treaters at home, preparing jack-o-lanterns and candy as well!

But in our preparations, we would be remiss if we didn’t stop and take a few moments to give you some safety tips to keep your ghosts, goblins and (yes I know I’m out of touch with the latest and greatest costumes) trick-or-treaters safe on this scariest of nights out and about.  So here are MBF’s top safety rules:
  • Light and Bright Saves the Night - so your child can be seen – which increases their safety factor tremendously – if it’s a dark costume, put glow in the dark paint or tape on, or carry a glow stick.
  • Off the Beaten Path Means Deal with Parents’ Wrath – parents/caregivers should be with kids while out trick or treating, if possible (even with older kids,  and if it’s not cool… just hang back a little and give them some space, but at least you can watch out for them from a distance).  If for some reason you’re not going to be with the kids, let them know they are to stick to main roads and not deviate from the path or there will be consequences.  Better yet, sit down together and devise a map of their route with homes they will visit so that if needed, you can trace their path and easily find them.  Kids should not deviate from the agreed upon route or take shortcuts.
  • Safety Rules are Valuable Tools!  Teach your kids the 5 Speak Up Be Safe Safety Rules to help keep them safe  safe, review our Safety Rules online at and teach them to your kids.  Make sure they understand not to go into homes or cars with people – even people they may know to get more or special candy, teach them about “tricks” and “bribes” and teach them to stay with their group’s adults and other kids to be safe!  But on Halloween night, other safety rules are just as important so make sure you remind your kids of basic safety rules like look for cars before you cross the street, stay on the sidewalk, walk, don’t run, don’t walk in between cars, etc… You may think your child remembers the rules they’ve been taught, but on a night as important as Halloween where they’re focused on racking up as much candy as legally allowed, they may need a reminder of the safety rules!
  • Become a Stranger Danger Roving Ranger! – Okay, I know, with that one you’re thinking I’ve lost my mind… but I haven’t really.  More than 50,000 children are abducted each year in non-family related cases, so it is a real danger and on a night when so many kids are out and about in the streets, a predator could have easy access to a child who is lost or not paying attention, who wanders away from their “group,” or simply doesn’t follow the rules and goes inside with someone to get some “special candy.” So not only do we as adults need to look out for our own children, we should also be on alert for anything suspicious with any other child as well.  Let’s all work together on Halloween and watch out for all kids – Let’s all Speak Up and Keep Florida’s Children Safe!
Now go out there and have a Safe and Happy Halloween.  From All of US at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children – We wish you Treats, Treats and more Treats, No Tricking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


So here we are, mid-way through National Bullying Prevention Month and instead of answering a question for you, I’m the one asking the question this time.  What are you doing to prevent or stop bullying?  Let me tell you some things I’ve learned recently that others are doing:
·        Facebook and Time Warner are joining forces to address cyberbullying: Facebook and Time Warner join forces
·        CBS recently aired an hour long special about the state of bullying in US schools that was quite an eye opener: Bullying: Words Can Kill
·        Sesame Street is even getting involved with younger kids with a new video and antibullying activities: Sesame Street: Stop Bullying
·        Philadelphia Eagles’ Player DeSean Jackson is working with a LA based non-profit to create an antibullying curriculum: DeSean Jackson - Antibullying Curriculum

And that’s just a small sample.  Call me a fish out of water, but in St. Augustine, FL this weekend, a generous group, led by Your Jacksonville Area Lexus Dealers, sponsored the annual El Pescado Billfish Tournament where anglers were fishing to raise money for the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. to implement our Speak Up Be Safe™ safety and child abuse prevention program.  The goal is to teach all 1st through 5th grade students in the state of Florida by the year 2015 to get involved and stop bullying!  So that’s what a great group of anglers did this weekend, that was their contribution to National Bullying Prevention Month… Fishing to Stop Bullying!

But does prevention work? Let’s look at the numbers… okay with the caveat these are just my rudimentary calculations, and remember I’m a social worker, not a math major, but consider for a moment that the state of Florida currently houses 102,319 prisoners at a cost of 19,469 each year.*  Because we know many bullies grow up to commit crimes, it is not unreasonable to think at least 15% of prisoners were childhood bullies (it’s probably higher, but I’m trying to be conservative here.)  We know the total Florida spends annually to house inmates is $1,992,048,611 and we can probably say that 15% of that is spent on prisoners who were childhood bullies. That would be $298,807,292.

In other words, conservatively speaking, Florida is spending almost $300 million a year to incarcerate childhood bullies that might not otherwise have turned to crime if we could have stopped them from bullying others and cared for them in the ways they needed as children before they turned to criminal behaviors. 

Would $300 million be better spent on prevention (or even a fraction of that money)?  Speak Up Be Safe™ can be offered to every elementary school student in the state of Florida for right around $1.00 per child per year, or $1.5 million, saving the state millions of dollars annually!

But more than that, saving the children… countless hours of suffering, countless physical and emotional wounds, long-term damage and consequences that impact society financially and socially for decades to come.

We are failing our children, and we must do better.  This weekend a group of anglers and sponsors stepped up by Fishing to Stop Bullying.  Now let me ask you – What are you going to do with the remainder of National Bullying Prevention Month to turn the tide for Florida’s children?

Friday, September 30, 2011

48 Hours examined the state of bullying & cyberbullying in our nation’s schools and what they found was alarming!

If you think bullying isn’t a serious problem in schools, or better yet, if you think bullying isn’t happening in your child’s school, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are sadly mistaken!  CBS’ 48 Hours recently aired a special: Bullying – Words Can Kill  (you can view it online at that depicted the state of bullying and cyberbullying in America.  They portrayed an in-depth look at bullying in one typical American middle school and what they witnessed and reported was eye-opening! Nice, normal, everyday kids are being bullied, harassed and tormented to the point they skip school, change schools or leave school altogether.  Some kids even go to an extreme to escape the devastating effects of the torment – they commit bullycide.
Bullycide is the fairly recent term used to describe a suicide committed by a child or teen in response to or after being bullied.  According to
The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
   Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
   Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
   A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
   10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above.
   According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

The research regarding this relationship is very young, but the truth is we don’t need the research to see that a relationship does exist and prevention is needed. Young teens and tweens inherently are trying to discover who they are and are desperately trying to fit in with their peers – developmentally speaking; it is a notoriously difficult time in their lives.  Add to that having to endure bullying and cyberbullying, and for many, it becomes unbearable. But by the time they reach middle school and high school it may be too late – the damage may be done, the window for prevention, for creating a generation of caring, empathetic kids who see the damage this does, long gone.

That’s why at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children we believe prevention regarding bullying and cyberbullying must start earlier, much earlier.  Our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) Program for 1st through 5th grades includes bullying and cyberbullying prevention and it discusses other forms of digital abuse and safety as well! Visit our website at to learn more about the program and how you can get involved or bring the SUBS program to your area!  This show also leads me to my next two “Question of the Day” blog entries: Why do kids bully? and Why do kids send sexually explicit pictures and misuse technology?  So stay tuned for those – coming soon!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Does Child Abuse Happen?

This is a question I am often asked.  Why does child abuse happen?  The last time I was asked was just a few days ago by my 10 year old, “Mom, why do people do those things to kids?” after she overheard me telling someone on the phone what workshops I recently attended at the 12th National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in New Orleans hosted by the National Children’s Advocacy Center.  Answering a 10 year old about sexual abuse is difficult but I gave it my best shot in my “I want to educate her but not freak her out” mom way.  Not sure how I did, but it did spark this idea for the blog; what about a “Question of the Day” series.  No one is ever really comfortable asking questions about child abuse, especially “why” questions, so I thought I’d tackle those hard to ask and answer questions, especially the why questions!  I’ll start with Why does child abuse happen? And over the next few weeks I’ll answer questions like, Why do kids bully?, Why are so many kids sexually abused/are those numbers real?, Why do kids send sext messages and cyberbully each other?, Why is Florida 4th in the nation for the number of child abuse reports?, and the biggie, Why don’t kids speak up?  And to give you some insight into the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Why was the Foundation formed and why do we do what we do?
So let’s start with “Why does child abuse happen?”  Are abusers simply terrible, evil people who shouldn’t be parents? Well that’s what many people think, and I guess the answer to that question depends on the type of abuse you’re thinking about – whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, or abandonment.  The media often depicts only the most heinous of abuse cases – the kids locked in closets and fed dog food, the kids sold by their parents and sexually exploited, and of course the tragedies like the Lauren Book and Jaycee Dugard cases – and many professionals and agencies perpetuate that stereotype by passing along those stories and scare statistics on their own blogs and social media sites.
But in reality, the majority of child abuse cases that are substantiated in the US are cases of neglect and not at the hands of evil, terrible parents, but parents or caregivers who lack education, resources and support to be better and do better.  There is an ecological model of risk and protective factors that explains what puts one child/family at a higher risk for abuse over another – quite simply when the risk factors outweigh the protective factors a parent, caregiver or family is at a higher risk of abusing their child(ren) or of their child becoming a victim of abuse or neglect.
Click Here for the social-Ecological Model of Child Abuse and Nelgect.
So while it is true that abuse and neglect can happen to anyone, there are reasons it happens in some families and  in some homes and not others, and this is important because it gives us a knowledge base from which to prevent abuse and neglect – and here at the Monique Burr Foundation, that is what we are all about!  So now you have a better understanding of “Why abuse happens”.  Stay tuned to a future post where I’ll address what you can do about it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Veto Violence – a Great Example of Getting it Right in Child Abuse Prevention!

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. has a simple mission:
To make a positive impact on the community at large, to create change in a family’s life for the better, and to give hope in the life of a child by providing safety and child abuse prevention education that is relevant to issues facing children today, including all forms of abuse, neglect, bullying and internet safety. While it may seem a simple mission, its implementation is quite complex and takes the efforts of not only our Foundation team but also parents, schools, and community partners to make it happen.
Working together in the field of child abuse prevention is a necessary and worthwhile effort if the goal is to truly reduce or stop abuse; however in the past there was little “togetherness” in effort or energy.  That tide is turning though.  Conferences are bringing together professionals to share their successes, agencies are collaborating to share resources, and organizations are developing programs and strategies to help professionals in the field do more with less and impact children in a way like never before.
One of those organizations is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with their injury and violence prevention programs.  The CDC recognizes violence, including child maltreatment, as a serious public health concern and has stepped up with research and programs designed to study the problem, look for solutions and educate the public on prevention.  The newest tool in their arsenal is the VETO violence project (Violence Education Tools Online).  You can find their website at: and their Facebook page at:
You can take an online course titled: Principles of Prevention (and even earn CEU’s), learn prevention basics, and more!  Truly a fabulous resource for parents and professionals alike.  Hope you check it out!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Jersey Passes Toughest Anti-Bullying Legislation in US – But how does it Prevent Bullying?

In response to Rutgers Freshman Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide after webcam images were taken and posted of him on the internet, the New Jersey legislature passed the toughest anti-bullying legislation in the nation. Those requirements, which impact all public schools in New Jersey, go into effect today and there is plenty of debate about their practicality and effectiveness. While no one, including me, in any way is minimizing the devastating effects of the bullying on Tyler or any other child or youth, they are questioning the effectiveness of the requirements of this law and whether they would have prevented the incident that led to Tyler’s suicide.  Additionally, others in the education field are questioning the feasibility of asking schools to implement such drastic measures on already burdened schools.
The law requires every school to have an anti-bullying specialist and a safety team. It requires teachers or other school personnel to complete reports on any and all incidents within 24 hours and investigations to be started immediately and completed within 10 days. The problem is, who defines what they considering bullying and where is social media or cyberbullying, often now called digital abuse, in this effort? There are a growing number of children who are bullied via online and other digital technologies and the law doesn’t include those types of incidents at all.
My biggest concern with this legislation, while I applaud New Jersey for taking a stand, being active and doing something, is once again it is reactive rather than proactive.  It does not require an education component to prevent bullying.  There is no program being implemented to stop bullying in the first place, so kids still have to suffer from the bullying before anyone is going to intervene! The damage will already be done! The consequences unknown – FOR NOW.
In Florida, Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) is attempting just the opposite.  SUBS is a prevention education program that addresses safety and all forms of child abuse, bullying and digital abuse – including internet and cell phone dangers. The program includes tools for parents, school personnel and the community in an attempt to empower and motivate all adults to protect children. Offered throughout the state to all 1st through 5th grade students by the year 2015 by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc., the program is in the process of expanding state-wide as a collaborative effort with the Office of the Governor of the State of Florida, the State Department of Education, the State Department of Health, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Ounce of Prevention and other sponsors and partners. Finally a proactive approach – I love it!
To find out more about SUBS and MBF or to help us bring SUBS to your area sooner and prevent bullying at your school – visit

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bullying Prevention

It was a simple Facebook post I happened to read while taking a break from working:
“School is starting, so if you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because he/she doesn't have many friends or because they are shy or not as pretty or not dressed in name brand clothes PLEASE step up.  Say hi or at least smile at them in the hallway.  You never know what that person might be facing outside of school.  It might just make a BIG difference in someone's life!”
Wow was all I could think…my own kids are thrilled about going back to school, they’ve got new backpacks, new lunchboxes, new clothes and shoes, bags full of school supplies, they know who their teachers are, we’ve been practicing multiplication facts, making bike-riding plans with other neighborhood kids, they can’t wait to see all of their friends – I don’t think the excitement level could get much higher.  And then it hit me, some kids are probably dreading going back to school.  For them, school is filled with days of being taunted, ridiculed, and bullied.  They don’t have friends, they don’t fit in, there is no happiness, no excitement, and my heart sank.  That any child should feel that is simply unimaginable and unjustified.  Yet we know it happens in schools every day with research stating almost 1 in 3 students will experience some sort of bullying or cyberbullying while in school.*
Sufficiently depressed, I got off Facebook and got back to work editing documents for our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) program.  SUBS is a safety and child abuse prevention program that includes prevention education for Florida’s 1st through 5th grade students on all types of child abuse, Internet Safety, and BULLYING.  It teaches kids about tricks and force, bullying and cyberbulling – and it teaches them strategies to use if they find themselves in unsafe situations facing these things.  Research tells us that half or more of all bullying CAN BE PREVENTED, and knowing that The Foundation is working hard to provide Speak Up Be Safe™ to all elementary children in Florida certainly made me feel better!
So here’s a reminder:  Speak Up Be Safe™ and the work of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children staff, the Speak Up Be Safe™ facilitators, our partners, our donors, and schools can change this!  We can help create the next generation of students that care, that don’t taunt, ridicule or bully, that will say hi and smile at that student in the hallway who is struggling to make friends, is shy, or isn’t dressed in designer clothes, so they can be just as excited to go back to school as my girls are!  What a great day that will be not only for them, but for everyone who cares about kids as well!