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Children have power, upstream issues, and single parent support – takeaways from HRC’s child abuse prevention event

Above: A panel of child abuse prevention experts and local leaders gathered at the Patti Leach Youth Center in Lansing on April 3, 2024. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

LANSING, Ill. (April 4, 2024) – About 60 people crowded the Patti Leach Youth Center in Lansing on April 3 to pray about, discuss, and educate on various topics related to preventing child abuse.

In its third year, the event was hosted by the Lansing Human Relations Commission in partnership with the Village of Lansing. This year, as in past years, the event was spearheaded by Lansing HRC chairperson Valerie McDaniels.

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Valerie McDaniels is the chair of the Lansing Human Relations Commission, and an advocate for child abuse prevention. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Recognizing and preventing child abuse

The panel at Wednesday’s event included a variety of child abuse prevention experts, who shared personal stories, successes and challenges of their organizations, and tips for preventing child abuse.

Denise Jones-Williams, a marriage and family therapist and former child welfare specialist,  provided some practical advice to those in attendance. She said unexplained marks on a child should be warning signs, and adults should be quick to explore more if they sense something might be wrong. Sudden introversion, fear of the dark, memory loss, infantile behavior, lack of personal care, and changes in eating habits can all be signs of abuse, she said.

“Please don’t hesitate to take action. Every moment that you waste in reporting abuse can be very detrimental and can lead to several more abuses by the perpetrator, or even death,” Jones-Williams said, adding that an estimated 70% of child abuse instances go unreported, and a child tells an average of seven adults they’re being abused before a report is filed.

At a child abuse prevention event Wednesday, Denise Jones-Williams said empowering kids to speak out and feel heard is critical in preventing abuse. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

From a protection standpoint, Jones-Williams said empowering kids is crucial.

“Send children the message they have power,” she said. “Children can feel like they’re small in many ways. … We can send the message that they do have a voice, and we are listening.”

Jones-Williams said creating safe spaces in a family’s home that allows for the genuine sharing of feelings is important, as such an environment allows a child to feel safe talking about questionable behavior. This can lead to child abuse to be prevented early, or before it even begins.

Thinking “upstream” about child abuse prevention

Anna Calix, Founder and Director of Gifts from Liam in Park Forest, challenged those in attendance to think “upstream” about child abuse, looking at the cause and effect chain that ultimately leads to child abuse.

“There are systemic factors or issues that are going on that are the true cause of child neglect and abuse,” she said. “These systems disproportionately impact people of color, and especially Black people.”

child abuse
Anna Calix, Founder and Director, Gifts from Liam in Park Forest challenged those in attendance to think “upstream” about child abuse causes. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Calix cited a study that said a Black child’s injuries are nine times more likely to be recorded as resulting from abuse when compared to a white child’s injuries.

“Black and brown people are very aware of this bias, so anytime our children get hurt, we have to consider, is taking them to a doctor or a hospital putting me at risk of being reported and starting an investigation? We know we’re more likely to be looked at as the one who inflicted that injury,” she said.

Challenging these biases, creating a more equitable system of reporting and investigating, and changing the economic factors that cause a higher percentage of Black children to be raised in poverty than white children are important upstream ways to prevent child abuse, Calix said.

Not knowing what our kids are doing, supporting parents, and avoiding childhood trauma

Ashley Frederick is the Survivor Director at SAFECHR THRIVE Program in Indiana, where she works with women and children who have been trafficked. She shared a story of her own daughter being groomed online by a child predator.

“Everything in schools is all technology. We need more help for our kids,” she said, adding that it’s hard to know what children are doing when they’re using internet-enabled devices.

Ashley Frederick is the Survivor Director at SAFECHR THRIVE Program in Indiana. She shared a story of her own daughter being groomed online by a child predator. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Dr. Ruby E. Powell is the Executive Director of Oasis Empowerment Zone, Inc. in Lansing, and is a former employee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She said she has heard many stories of single mothers saying they were hopeless, and works to help mothers as a result.

“Our mission is to try to help single mothers find self-sufficiency,” Powell said. “If you protect a mother, she can protect her children.”

Dr. Ruby E. Powell is the Executive Director of Oasis Empowerment Zone and works to empower single mothers. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Karen Abbott-Trimuel is a consultant and coach and KGT Live Productions and Women Are Rising in Lansing. She encouraged those in attendance to be very intentional about how they relate to their children.

“Be careful how you criticize [children]. Yelling and screaming — who wants to be yelled at? That’s trauma. That creates trauma,” Abbott-Trimuel said. “Do not ignore their feelings. A lot of times kids won’t tell you what’s going on with them because you’re not paying attention anyway.”

“I come into contact with a lot of people through coaching and they say, ‘Well, my mother didn’t say she loved me, my family didn’t show love.’ That’s trauma. That’s traumatic. And that continues through a family cycle when you continue to do that and not show love,” she said.

Karen Abbott-Trimuel urged parents to be wary of being unloving toward their children, resulting in trauma. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Lansing Police Chief Al Phillips invited Detective Linda Monthie to share her experience responding to a case of infant child abuse in Lansing last year.

LPD Detective Linda Monthie shared her experience responding to a case of infant child abuse. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“It can happen here. It can happen anywhere,” Phillips said.

Full list of speakers

The full list of speakers at Wednesday’s event is below:

  • Belinda Farr, Prevention Specialist, Prevent Child Abuse Illinois
  • Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam
  • Ashley Frederick, Survivor Director, SAFECHR THRIVE Program, Indiana
  • Monica Czajkowski, LPC, Supervisor of Training and MDT Services, La Rabida Children’s Advocacy Center, Park Forest
  • Denise Jones-Williams, MA, LPC, Marriage and Family Therapist, New Leaf Resources, Lansing
  • Karen Abbott-Trimuel, Creator, consultant, and coach, KGT Live Productions and WAR, Lansing
  • Dr. Ruby E. Powell, Executive Director, Oasis Empowerment Zone, Inc, Lansing
  • Anna Calix, MPH, Founder and Director, Gifts from Liam, Park Forest
  • Mac, Bikers Against Child Abuse

The opening prayer was provided by Jerry Zeldenrust, an elder at First Church PCA in Lansing. The closing prayer was offered by Pastor Juan Chamberlain, of Mt. Zion Ministries in Lansing.

Bikers Against Child Abuse was present at Wednesday’s event. More information on the group is available here. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Blue around town

Blue is the color of Prevent Child Abuse Month, which runs through the end of April. Earlier this week, Village officials tied blue ribbons on light poles in downtown Lansing, and following Wednesday’s event, participants placed blue pinwheels outside the Lansing Municipal Center. Blue pinwheels have also been placed outside the Lansing Library.

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Village Clerk Vivian Payne (left) and Mayor Patty Eidam tie a blue bow around a light pole on Ridge Road in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

According to the Village, Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware has donated blue lightbulbs that are available free to Lansing residents, one per household, on a first-come, first-served basis, at the Lansing Municipal Center. Residents can use the bulbs to replace one of their outdoor lights to “light the way against child abuse.”

Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware, located at 3455 Ridge Road, will have additional blue bulbs available for 99 cents plus tax.

Additionally, Calumet Bakery, 18349 Torrence Avenue, and Kdulche Café, 3521 Ridge Road, are supporting the month with blue decorated pastries for patrons to purchase.

Report child abuse and learn more

To report child abuse in Illinois, call 1-800-25ABUSE.

To learn more about child abuse and prevention, visit


Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.


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