A few days after the election aftermath, I found myself driving along the Pacific Ocean to attend an event at The Biltmore Hotel. It felt strange to put on a fancy maternity dress and a pair of nice heels that morning when there were so many people in my community who were feeling intense emotions after such a heated election. I also knew that I would likely be rubbing elbows with other community members who may have voted differently or had differing opinions than I do about various political issues. However, I also knew that we were all driving down that gorgeous shoreline road on that perfect Santa Barbara day for the same exact reason. Regardless of how we felt about the election results, we had common ground to stand upon that day, and that was our support for an organization called CALM. Ironically enough, the event was actually called CALM at HEART: Awakening, which felt perfectly fitting to remind all of us to continue to keep our hearts focused on important issues.
As a mother, there is nothing more important than providing a safe and healthy environment for my children, and there is nothing that breaks my heart more than knowing that there are so many children who are not experiencing either environment. The very acronym of CALM is something I can stand strongly behind: Child Abuse Listening Mediation.
Their mission is not only to respond to child abuse cases, but to prevent child abuse from ever happening in the first place. I was intrigued by this idea of child abuse prevention because I had never considered what this prevention model might look like.
When I was a teacher in the public school system in Goleta and Santa Barbara County, part of my job was to ensure the safety and well being of every child that walked through the doors of my classroom. In fact, as a teacher, I am what is called a Mandatory Reporter, which means that I am legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect I see happening in any child. I had been trained on the signs and symptoms that child abuse may be occurring in a child’s life, but I had no idea what happened after that dreadful phone call to CPS occurred. In my many years of teaching preschool, elementary school, and training student-teachers, I have unfortunately had to make a handful of phone calls to CPS to report my suspicion of child abuse or neglect in a student.
I had to make one phone call about a young preschooler who was showing multiple signs of sexual abuse, and I cried for days about it because I never saw her back in my classroom again. I can only pray that this child was protected by an organization such as CALM. Another phone call ended up having such a happy ending that I cried tears of joy! After reporting to CPS that a boy told me about some inappropriate consequences going on at home, a home-welfare check from CPS ensued. They found no evidence of abuse happening yet, but they did find a family who was desperate for parenting resources and support but did not know where to turn. They were likely at a high risk of child abuse occurring within their home, not because they didn’t love their children or were not good parents, but simply because parenthood is hard and treacherous territory-especially when you have a son with many behavior issues. They began working with CALM and now get regular visits from qualified therapists who have taught them parenting strategies that work for their family. CALM has essentially equipped this family with the support and resources they need in order to prevent a child abuse situation from ever occurring in the first place. These types of stories are plentiful at CALM, and when I attended the CALM at HEART event, my heart was bursting and my eyes were watering at the beautiful stories about how CALM intervened at a crucial moment in a child’s life and changed their outcome from tragic to hopeful. I simply cannot say enough about this incredible organization that we are fortunate to have access to right here on the Central Coast.
CALM provides support along the Central Coast to prevent, assess, and treat child abuse. Their vision for our community is BIG and full of hope: They plan to work tirelessly and relentlessly until child abuse no longer exists. Did you catch that? CHILD. ABUSE. NO. LONGER. EXISTS….Let that vision for our community sink in for a moment….
I love it when people and companies dream BIGGER than life, and I feel honored to be an advocate for a place whose intention is to help create the best possible home environment for children. To date, CALM therapists are capable of treating more than 1,500 individuals each year, but their studies estimate that about 75% of traumatized children are suffering in silence. They are at the park you take your child to, they are in your child’s classroom, you likely pass them by each day on your way to work. By spreading an awareness about CALM and by providing any financial contribution you can, you are part of the solution of helping CALM reach those silent children so they can begin healing their broken hearts. Most of the children who are being abused or are at risk of abuse cannot advocate for themselves, and the solution may be as easy as equipping their parents with the resources they so desperately need in order to create a loving home for their child. CALM cannot do what they do without the support of our Central Coast community.
Before I had children, I used to wonder how a mother could lose her temper and hurt her own child. I remember staring lovingly at my firstborn son as he lay peacefully in my arms. I couldn’t even fathom getting angry at him or losing my patience as a mother. Then when he was a little over two years old, I remember slamming my bedroom door to scream into a pillow and punching that pillow over and over again, as hard as I possibly could. I remember having a scary awakening that day, “Now I understand. I understand how parents lose their temper and hurt their child.”
Though I love my child dearly and would literally do anything to ensure his safety, in that desperate moment of mothering, I completely lost my cool. Anger and irrational thought took over every ounce of my being. The difference was, I knew better than to physically or emotionally hurt my child and I was equipped with enough parenting strategies to be aware that I needed to excuse myself from my child’s presence and take out my aggression on a fluffy pillow instead. And a crying phone call to my very patient husband also helped calm my nerves.
I did not physically hurt my child that day, but I did think about all of the mothers out there whose children were not as lucky as mine. I sympathized with them, I cried tears of empathy for them, for I doubt any parent goes into parenting thinking they will abuse their child. Child abuse can absolutely be prevented, and CALM is exactly the type of organization that takes on that challenge every single day.
Thank you, CALM, for the heartbreaking work you do in our community to help heal the broken hearted children and parents who are living in unsafe conditions or are at risk of harming the people they love most in the world.
There are so many reasons to be fearful about the world we live in, but no child should ever have to fear that they could be abused in their own home. No parent is perfect, but child abuse and child neglect are never ever ok.