For more than four decades, battling child abuse and neglect across the Great Lakes Bay Region has been the mission and purpose of the CAN Council.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has made the issue more difficult to spot, the fight continues.
“We work hard to free children from abuse and neglect,” said President and CEO Emily Yeager. “We want to educate people on the signs of child abuse, but we also want to educate the children on what abuse looks like so they can recognize it if they are experiencing it.”
The nonprofit CAN Council started in 1979, four years after Michigan passed the Child Protection Law to stimulate the reporting of incidents of abuse and neglect. For the past 41 years, the job of the CAN Council has been to spread information and education about child abuse and the ways to spot it.
With COVID-19 keeping people home, reports of abuse have lessened; however, the unfortunate flip side to that coin is that the decrease is likely due the abuse going unseen by other adults. Yet even with the pandemic, the CAN Council has continued working to support children and do its best to help children through a situation that is even more unbearable because of COVID-19.
“Please report suspected child abuse,” said Yeager. “If you ever get that gut feeling that a child is in harm’s way, report it. I have seen children when it was too late, and I always wonder why nobody said anything or if somebody saw anything. You can contact Children’s Protective Services at (855) 444-3911.”
The CAN Council has also moved its prevention education for parents and schools online for easy access.
“One child, one place, one time,” said Yeager. “Interviews with abused children could happen anywhere, with different people and can have to happen multiple times. The best practice is for the child to do the interview once with one trained person and having everyone that needs to be there see over closed-circuit TV.”
The CAN Council now includes court-appointed special advocates for children to complement Children’s Protective Services and attorneys. The advocates remain objective and are there for the child’s best interest. They see the child every seven to 10 days and develop a good rapport with the child. They make sure that the child’s needs are heard in court and are sometimes the person who lasts the longest on the case, giving the child a familiar face through a troubling time.
The CAN Council had 42 court-appointed special advocate volunteers last year that helped 120 children.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers,” said Yeager. “Not just for specialists, people can volunteer in many ways, like sorting clothing donations or doing clerical work. And if you would like to contribute in other ways, consider donating. Gifts that you think are small can be a big help to a charity.”
For more information on the CAN Council, visit cancouncil.org.