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Good works ENCORE

Preventing Abuse

Kalamazoo CAN works to keep children safe by

Olga Bonfiglio

Brian Powers

Karen Hayter, a former Kalamazoo County assistant prosecutor, now oversees Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council.

After prosecuting crimes committed against women and children

for nearly three decades, Karen Hayter now works to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place. “We teach children how to be safe and when to ask for help,” says Hayter, executive director of the Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council (Kalamazoo CAN) and a former Kalamazoo County assistant prosecutor. “We teach parents how to spot the danger signs. We also provide specialized training for teachers, nurses and police so they can identify child abuse and report it quickly.”

20 | Encore JANUARY 2016

Kalamazoo CAN is not a social work or governmental agency, but a nonprofit resource and teaching agency focused on preventing child abuse in the county. It was started as a project of the Junior League of Kalamazoo in 1976 and today works closely with a wide range of public and private organizations to provide prevention programs. The organization consists of Hayter, program educator Cathy Hosner and more than 500 volunteers who provide about 40 hours a week working on education and fundraising projects, programs and campaigns. "Child abuse is 100 percent preventable if people are properly educated and adhere to what they learn,” Hayter says. “That’s what we do at Kalamazoo CAN.” According to the Kalamazoo CAN website, child abuse is “a large and growing problem in Kalamazoo County,” with an average of 13 new cases of child abuse and neglect reported each day. Hayter says there are generally more reports of child neglect than of abuse. Neglect occurs when a child’s health is not adequately taken care of. For example, children may not be dressed appropriately for the weather or may not receive adequate medical and dental care. They may live in unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods or be on the streets unsupervised at night. “This is not about poverty,” Hayter says. “Child abuse and neglect occur at all income levels. All parents love their children, but some struggle with knowing and learning essential parenting skills.” One issue Kalamazoo CAN has tackled is infant death related to unsafe sleeping environments. Crib death, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is the sudden unexplained death of a child less than 1 year old. Michigan has 120 to 150 crib deaths per year. Consequently, Kalamazoo CAN has initiated the Safe Sleep Program, which teaches parents and caregivers that the safest sleeping environment for an infant is on its back in a crib, with no bumper pads or toys. Another service the organization provides is training. In August, Kalamazoo CAN conducted a Mandatory Reporter Training class for 80 Head Start teachers so they could learn to identify, report and respond to suspected abuse in individual children. Sometimes a child reports the abuse to a teacher, and sometimes a teacher notices signs of abuse. Kalamazoo CAN promotes itself and its services by attending and distributing information at community events, including information on the stages of child development and tips on parenting, handling toilet accidents, holding a baby and dealing with bullying. “People find out about us and ask for our help,” Hayter says.


Encore January 2016