Prevent Child Abuse NJ to Host Annual Walk-A-Thon to Benefit Child Abuse Prevention Programs

Participants warming up for last year’s Walk-A-Thon. Photo courtesy of Mihiri Pathirana.

Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCA-NJ) is the only state-wide charitable organization that is dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect in all forms for all New Jersey children,” PCA-NJ Director of Development and Communications Pamela DePompo said. PCA-NJ is hosting its Fourth Annual Footsteps for Families Walk-A-Thon on Saturday, Oct. 18 to benefit the non-profit.

PCA-NJ was incorporated in 1979 as the ninth chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. The main office is located in New Brunswick but there is an office in Newark as well. DePompo said that the organization’s programs are in 21 counties and have served 43,000 children and families state-wide. She said PCA-NJ has partnerships with a lot of other non-profit organizations and hospitals throughout the state.

“Our programs encompass supporting parents by providing education and training to parents, caregivers, professionals and other non-profit organizations and youth serving organizations,” said DePompo.

The organization has many different programs it uses to help children and families throughout the state. DePompo said there is a program to help prevent child sexual abuse, human trafficking and exploitation of children and teens. DePompo said that for that program, the organization goes into group homes for children and teens who are either estranged from their families because they are runaways or because they have behavioral or health challenges. She said representatives in and do 10-week intensive programs and training sessions directly with the teens about how to prevent themselves from becoming a part of human trafficking or prostitution.

“A lot of our programs are working directly with other non-profit organizations that serve children and families. We are designated by let’s say the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to be the training agency and technical assistance provider and the quality assurance provider. For example, in Gloucester County, we might have home visiting programs where families are identified, whether they are pregnant women or families who have recently had a baby. So from pregnancy to the age of 3 for a child, different providers, other non-profits and social workers identify that they have this family that’s vulnerable or at risk for some reason, whether they are financially strained or there’s only one parent in the household or other stressors,” said DePompo. “So employees from a non-profit in Gloucester County will have their staff be the family home visitors that would go in and meet with these families once per week and as time progresses, every other week, every three weeks, monthly, and then it tapers off as they issue the support that they need and the families stabilize and connect. Our organization trains, supervises and supports all of the family workers and home visitors. We are the agency that the state designates to monitor the progress and train all of the home visitors that are employed by the other entities.”

Another program created by PCA-NJ is the Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Program. Currently, the program is in eight hospitals in New Jersey and a ninth hospital will have the program implemented in the next couple of months, said DePompo. For this program, DePompo said that PCA-NJ goes in and trains people in the maternity wards and the neonatal nurses. She said when babies are born in those hospitals, the parents go home after having been spoken to one-on-one and with a DVD that is in the language that they speak and it educates about how to cope with a baby that cries six hours a day, how to take care of yourself while you are exhausted and dealing with a crying baby and that it is OK to step out of the room and close the door and let the baby cry. She said typically developing, healthy babies cry five to six hours a day and that is completely normal. DePompo said that having the DVD and the information helps the parents educate any caregivers that might be taking care of their child, such as babysitters or other family members. DePompo said that PCA-NJ hopes to extend the program to every hospital in New Jersey.

Sponsors of the Walk-A-Thon, the sister of the Ramapo College chapter of Sigma Delta Tau National Sorority, at last year’s Walk-A-Thon. Photo Courtesy of Mihiri Pathirana.

“The most important thing is that it is very gratifying to know that our staff and volunteers make a difference in ensuring that all New Jersey children have a safe, happy and healthy childhood. That is our goal that we work toward and being part of the team to achieve that is very rewarding to me,” said DePompo.

PCA-NJ hosts many fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for their programs. DePompo said that in April, for Child Abuse Prevention Month, PCA-NJ hosts a 5K and Children’s Fun Run in Piscataway that the Rutgers University chapter of Sigma Delta Tau National Sorority sponsors. DePompo said on May 28, PCA-NJ will be hosting its annual gala in New Brunswick, which is its largest event of the year.

Coming up on Saturday, Oct. 18, PCA-NJ will be hosting its Fourth Annual Footsteps for Families Walk-A-Thon at The Outlets at The Bergen Town Center in Paramus, at the Whole Foods entrance. DePompo said that the event is very family friendly. The event is sponsored by the Ramapo College chapter of Sigma Delta Tau National Sorority. Registration for the walk will begin at 8 a.m. and the walk will begin at 9 a.m. A personal trainer from Blink Fitness will be there to do a warm-up before the walk. Refreshments will be provided by Whole Foods and Starbucks. There will be tables with activities, information and some other groups from the community will be represented there, as well as Miss New Jersey. The walk will be about five laps around the mall and afterwards, Frozen Peaks will provide frozen yogurt. It is free to register for the walk and donations will be accepted. Participants can register for the walk here.

Banner for the Walk-A-Thon. Photo courtesy of Mihiri Pathirana.