Printed on: April 02, 2013

Ready to face the world

Students learn about child abuse at Giving Fair

By J.E. Mathewson

Although child abuse can be difficult to discuss with children, students at Falls Valley Elementary School are prepared to recognize the warning signs.

At the second annual Giving Fair, nearly two dozen community groups came to the school March 8 to talk to sixth-grade students about child abuse and a variety of other topics.

"Child abuse is a serious topic and sometimes it's a topic that we want to pretend doesn't happen," said Holly Whitworth, prevention and parenting programs coordinator for Help Inc. "But the reality is that child abuse does happen in Idaho Falls.

"The reality is that the more we can talk to young people about it, the more knowledge they have about it (and) the more powerful they feel about it."

School Counselor DeAnna White said the Giving Fair was started last year by sixth-grade teacher Lyndell Bradshaw.

"We're trying to teach them about serving and about empathy," White said. "And we also teach them the academic side of being organized and interviewing someone that you don't know."

Elle Russon, 11, said talking to Whitworth about child abuse was important but also sad.

"They help people who have babies and they don't know how to take care of them and they get frustrated with them," Elle said. "They help parents be better parents. You need to have a good parent so they don't get frustrated and hurt them (their babies)."

Whitworth said it was important to discuss child abuse with the children so they feel empowered to ask for help.

"Children cannot protect themselves. It's up to responsible adults," she said. "Children cannot walk away from situations sometimes. They don't have the power to do that.

"So the more knowledge that we can give them about things, they can recognize things (an adult is doing is wrong) and seek help and to have the courage to talk about something if abuse is occurring."

Having students learn to help other students also is an important life skill, White said.

"They are interviewing (community members), to ask about the agency, what they do, who do they help, who can volunteer," White said. "A lot of our students have no clue what's out in the community and the people that are served and how much help is out there."

Last year, she said, many students came forward after the Giving Fair and discovered there was a program available to help a family member.

Abi Meek, 11, found a program that helps grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. She met with a representative from the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership.

"(The program) would really help grandparents get the money and supplies that they need for raising their grandchild," Abi said. "If you're a grandparent raising grandchildren, then sometimes there are budget problems."

Reporter Jen Mathewson can be reached at 542-6751.