The Parent Child Center of Tulsa (PCCT) works to prevent child abuse and neglect through education, treatment and advocacy. We spoke with President & CEO Regina Moon about the organization's approach to supporting families in crisis, common misconceptions about child abuse and neglect and how you can help children and families in need.
How does The Parent Child Center of Tulsa (PCCT) work to prevent child abuse and neglect?
Our philosophy is grounded in creating healthy, nurturing relationships between parents and children. Our clinical staff work with families who have already experienced trauma in the home. They focus on creating healthy pathways to positive parenting that prevent trauma from occurring again and strive to break the generational nature of child abuse.
Our compassionate team understands that parenting is hard, and even harder when parents have experienced difficult or scary events in their own childhoods. Helping parents understand how their own childhood experiences impact their parenting is the most protective buffer for preventing the maltreatment of their children. Through building relationships with parents, we support families in keeping and developing productive parenting practices. Most of our programs are voluntary and free of charge.
What keeps you motivated when working to solve a systemic problem like child abuse?
I know that the cutting-edge, innovative prevention programs we provide actually work. When families seek our services, they have a drastically reduced chance of incurring a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect. When people think of child abuse, they may become pessimistic about true systemic and culture change. I know the opposite to be true. I see our families every day thriving and excited about the future.
What are some common misconceptions about child abuse and neglect?
Many people do not realize that child abuse and neglect occur in all types of families. No matter what the family income is, what zip code they live in, or any other demographic, child abuse and neglect can and does occur.
In addition, some underestimate the far-reaching impacts of child abuse and neglect. We sometimes hear people say that “kids are resilient.” They believe that no matter what kids experience, they will just bounce back. The truth is that child abuse, neglect and other potentially traumatic experiences have been linked to negative outcomes such as risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death.
We remind people that child abuse and neglect are preventable, and we know how to reduce these behaviors in our community.
What advice would you give to others helping people in crisis?
When faced with great adversity, most people tend to become overwhelmed. It is important to identify strong and healthy support systems and create a personalized plan for families in crisis. Empathy is key. Sometimes the people we encounter in crisis aren’t at their best or most lovable. Our job is to recognize that this is a tough moment in their lives and to take a nonjudgmental approach.
What are some of the greatest successes and most promising developments in your work?
We are known in our community for our infant mental health (IMH) education effort, which supports the development of healthy social and emotional behaviors in young children between the ages of zero to three-years-old. A part of our effort in advancing IMH was our investment in creating Tulsa’s first Safe Babies Court Team, an initiative focused on improving how the courts, child welfare agencies and related child-serving organizations work together, share information and expedite services for young children in state custody. This collaborative team effort has led to a drastic reduction in the amount of time small children are in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and has helped protect babies from further harm and trauma.
What actions can people take to prevent child abuse and neglect in their community?
We encourage people to follow this advice:
- Educate yourself and others. Simple support for children and parents can be the best way to prevent child abuse. After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs and respite care are some of the many ways to keep children safe from harm. Be a voice in support of these efforts in your community.
- Know the signs. Unexplained injuries aren't the only signs of abuse. Depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy and hostility are often signs of family problems and may indicate a child is being neglected or physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
- Report abuse. If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, report the harm to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services by calling 1-800-522-3511 or a similar agency in your state. When talking to children about abuse, listen carefully, assure them that they did the right thing by telling an adult and affirm that they are not responsible for what happened. People should also know that when you make a report, it does not mean a child will automatically be removed from the home. It means instead that you are asking a professional to check in with the family to make sure the kids are safe.
- Invest in kids. Encourage leaders in the community to be supportive of children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to better protect our children and to improve their lives.
Regina Moon is the President & CEO of The Parent Child Center of Tulsa. Before joining the PCCT staff in 2018, she served on the executive staff for the local American Red Cross since 2009. Prior to that, she served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Griffin Communications, KOTV-Channel 6, in Tulsa.
Learn more about preventing child abuse and neglect at Haruv USA's Conference on Child Maltreatment in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 15-16.