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Madison Heights

October 2, 2013

5k raises awareness for child abuse and neglect

Event at Stony Creek will shine light on national problem

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — Children are perhaps the most protected members of society, yet some face danger from their own families. That’s why more than 14,000 youth in Michigan have wound up in foster care, according to the Department of Human Services. They were pulled from their families due to abuse or neglect, but experts say thousands more cases go unreported and children continue to suffer in silence.

“In the U.S., child abuse claims the lives of five innocent children every day,” said Jennifer Brubaker, mentor program supervisor at Child Safe Michigan. “So for Michigan, we really need to spread awareness that child abuse and neglect is a huge issue. We need to do something to change things.”

Looking to drum up awareness and funds for their fostering, adoption and mentoring efforts around the state, Child Safe Michigan, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Madison Heights, is holding a 5k run/walk (3.1 miles) at Stony Creek Metro Park, 4300 Main Park Drive in Shelby Township, at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5.

Registration is from 7-8:30 a.m. and costs $25 the day of the event, and $20 for those who sign up in advance. The “Fun Walk” is $15 the day of the event and $10 in advance.

The Michigan Running Foundation, which will be timing the event, receives $2.50 for each registration fee. The rest goes to the cause, along with any pledges raised by the runners and walkers participating. Those not participating have the option to make direct donations, if they wish.

Called “Steppin’ Up for Kids,” the event will be a chance for child-abuse survivors, adoptive families and foster families to come together as one. But all are invited. 

Child Safe Michigan has been serving abused, neglected and at-risk youth since 2006. They receive referrals from the schools and from the Department of Human Services, and then try to match the homeless children to a fitting family willing to foster or adopt.

Currently, their foster care program has 33 kids in it. About 75-100 kids go through the foster care program each year. As for adoptions, they have 18 kids up for adoption right now; about 50 kids go through that process each year.

Then there is the community-based mentoring program, covering 53 kids at the moment, and the high school-based mentoring program, at the Breakfast Club in Hazel Park, where 42 kids receive college and career prep.

The money raised at the 5k assists Child Safe Michigan in helping the children. But there are other ways people can help.

Education is one way. Brubaker said her group is willing to meet with businesses, churches, schools and other organizations who would like Child Safe Michigan to talk to them about the plight of homeless children in the state.

Another way is by residents fulfilling their civic duty as a mandated reporter, which all citizens of Michigan are now obligated to do. This means that those who see a child who is likely suffering from abuse or neglect should report it to Child Protective Services. The burden no longer falls solely on social workers, teachers, counselors and the like.

As for what to watch out for, signs of trouble are many but could include fatigue, malnourishment, poor hygiene, marks on the body, the inability to focus in school, low self-esteem, a withdrawn personality and more. Such signs could be red flags.

Child abuse and neglect is a staggering problem that affects far more people than one may expect, said Ashley de Bear, office manager at Child Safe Michigan.

“Before working here, I really didn’t know much about the foster care system, but child abuse, you could say, is a best-kept secret, happening behind closed doors,” de Bear said. “You can’t imagine how many people it affects, and the kids who are affected, it’s not their fault — they were just dealt a bad hand. So they need people like us who are willing to speak up for them, stand up for them and raise awareness for them.”

Child Safe Michigan is located at 30680 Montpelier, Ste. 250, in Madison Heights, and can be reached at (248) 353-0921.

The “Steppin’ Up for Kids” 5k Run/Walk will be held at Stony Creek Metro Park, 4300 Main Park Drive in Shelby Township, at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. Registration is from 7-8:30 a.m. and costs $25 the day of the event, and $20 for those who sign up in advance. The “Fun Walk” is $15 the day of the event, and $10 in advance.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.