Relief Nursery Shows Child Abuse Can Be Prevented

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Deborah Herron and Mike Solomon For The Register-Guard

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, which usually prompts a column filled with daunting statistics such as `a child in Oregon dies before his or her first birthday every day,' and `a child in Oregon is abused or neglected every 57 minutes.' According to the Children's Defense Fund, these are facts.

But today we have good news to share. We want to tell a story of hope. It is a story born from our community, which banded together 30 years ago to help children and families rewrite their futures free of fear and full of promise.

In 1976, child abuse and neglect was a problem in our community. Worse yet, few services were available to families and children until after a child had been victimized. The primary response was to remove children from their families and put them into foster care.

To many people, that didn't seem like an enlightened approach. Why not offer preventive services? Why not support children and families so that the abuse and neglect didn't happen in the first place?

A group of community leaders took a stand and said, `We can do better for our children.' Peggy Hoyt and the women of the Junior League of Eugene joined with Lynn Frohnmayer and Mary Ellen Eiler of Child Protective Services, and they created the Relief Nursery, a private nonprofit agency dedicated to supporting families and keeping children safe.

At first, a handful of children were in the program, which met in borrowed space in churches. Word spread, more families came and the Relief Nursery grew. Our community gathered around its vulnerable citizens and said, `We will not let our fragile families get hurt.'

As our community's needs grew, so did the Relief Nursery. In 1993, our community came together again under the leadership of John Sheppard. He successfully chaired a capital campaign for a Relief Nursery building. The campaign captured the essence of what the Relief Nursery is still about: a group of dedicated volunteers who realize that our community's health depends upon the health of our children and their families.

Under the guidance of Jean Phelps, executive director for 22 years, the Relief Nursery grew from a small respite program to a comprehensive child abuse prevention program that was recognized in 2003 as innovative by the United States Office of Child Abuse and Neglect. …