Lisa Butt, CEO
The Society for the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC) has been working to protect children from abuse and neglect for 140 years. During that time we have seen many changes. As April has been designated Child Abuse Awareness month I began reflecting on SPCC’s history and how much our community has grown since the issue of child abuse was first recognized.
The first documented case of child abuse occurred in 1874, at a time when children were solely considered possessions of their parents or guardians and what happened in someone’s home was a private matter. However this changed in 1874 with the plight of a little girl named Mary Ellen who was being horribly abused by her caretakers in New York City. Thankfully Mary Ellen’s neighbors chose not to ignore her cries for help. However, when they reached out to authorities for help, they discovered that there were laws to protect animals but not children. Through the courage and passion of a few committed individuals, all this changed and the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) was created in New York City with the charge to protect children, specifically Mary Ellen. In their efforts to protect Mary Ellen, the authorities and those involved found a loving home for her in Rochester, NY and worked to establish the second chapter of SPCC in Rochester to ensure her continued safety.
Since that time, SPCC has continued to be a champion of children’s rights in various capacities. It was volunteers of our organization that advocated for the creation of the first Children’s Court – now known as Family Court here in Monroe County. SPCC was the first to provide child protective services and to organize foster care for abused children. Today we continue to offer best practice and evidence-based services balanced with deep respect, passion and creativity to children and families.
As a community we have learned a lot about child maltreatment and the impact of trauma. The entire child welfare system has evolved greatly in our efforts to protect children and effectively support families. Unfortunately, the work is not done. In 2012, an estimated 1,640 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States. Clearly, we still need to work together to help bring increased awareness of the prevalence of child maltreatment just as our colleagues at the SPCA have effectively raised the awareness of animal maltreatment. Cruelty in any form cannot be ignored or tolerated, and we especially owe it to our children to provide a safe world in which to grow.
Agencies such as SPCC work tirelessly to provide the most effective therapeutic services for children and families so they can heal and develop supportive healthy relationships. The staff’s care and commitment provides much needed safety to countless children and families. Child Abuse Awareness month seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to all of those who work to help children and families.
I’d also like to specifically thank our funders, partners, and supporters. Without each and every one of you SPCC would be unable to continue this essential work. As a community, we should be proud of our increased awareness, effective prevention efforts, high-quality interventions and most of all our collective passion and commitment to children and their families.
To learn more about Child Abuse Awareness Month, please visit this new Prevention Month website that highlights resources for protecting children and strengthening families.