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DHS News April 2014     


Diffuse mistreatment with “One Kind Word”

About 40 Department of Human Services (DHS) employees recently attended a lunch time workshop on what do when witnessing potential child mistreatment in public.

The workshop in the Human Services Building (HSB), Downtown, included an introduction by Dr. Walter Smith Jr., Deputy Director of the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF).

Presented by Jennifer Polly of Family Resources’ Parent Education Network, the presentation used the “One Kind Word” curriculum that advocates distraction in assisting parents or caregivers and children in public situations. The curriculum was developed by Family Resources and Family Communications Inc. for training by retail employers, but the advice in “One Kind Word” fits many situations.

DHS staff watched a video that laid out several situations -- a harried mother who had to grocery shop after work and lost patience with her child; a man who allowed his daughter to stand up in a grocery cart – and then discussed whether and how they would react to those situations.

It is not necessary to make judgments about the people’s reactions, Walter said. Instead, the key is to distract the caregiver to prevent a situation from escalating.  “Success is about disrupting the intensity between the parent and child,” he said.

Jennifer outlined the approach, saying generally, people should look out for a caregiver who is overwhelmed, preoccupied or angry. Take a moment to “say something pleasant and helpful,” she said, to connect with a kind word; distract the caregiver from the situation; and offer assistance.

“Avoid taking over the situation – remember you’re a stranger,” Jennifer said. Walter cautioned against engaging with the child as well, for fear of making the caregiver feel defensive. Jennifer told audience members to not do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable and instead to find a manager or security guard.

“One Kind Word” is among programs featured by DHS during April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Visit the DHS Child Abuse Prevention Month page to learn more about many ways to nurture children.



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