HEALTH REPORT: Fairbanks Resident recognized for advocacy against child abuse and neglect

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - “Dare to be the one!” This is the slogan that has been resonating around the state for national child abuse prevention month.

In Fairbanks a group of community members gathered to advocate for families recognizing Brenda Riley for the work she has done in the community.

Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust spoke about her determination bringing awareness to this issue.

“But the one thing everyone had in common when they spoke about Brenda, when Brenda puts her mind to something nothing gets in her way, stand back and watch magic happen, and when you look at the history behind the creation of the Fairbanks Children’s Museum, you understand why everyone describes her this way,” said Storrs.

Approximately 15 years ago Brenda Riley was introduced to Heather Lambert. Their mutual passion to provide Fairbanks a safe place for children and families was the inspiration for the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. A place where families can learn together, and most of all have fun.

“Really at the museum we worked very hard to make sure we can take care of as many children and families as possible, and in my new role as the director at the United way, I hope to start looking at how our organization can empower other non-profits and other organizatio’s in this community to make a difference and move the needle on child abuse and maltreatment in our community,” said Riley

She says the work that she did in creating the children’s museum provided a place where all families are treated equally and welcomed. There is access to resources and special programs.

Riley said she is honored to be recognized by the Alaska Children’s Trust.

“The Alaska Children’s Trust is this great statewide organization that really does do a lot of great work to end child mal-treatment, that’s child abuse and child neglect. I am extremely honored. You know it’s not something that anybody who does in the community work does it just for the recognition, and so it is nice to pop up and get a pat on the back and say you did well. It’s very cool,” She remarked.

The Alaska Children’s Trust works as a catalyst to invest funds throughout the state to support programs that are preventing child abuse and neglect. They also work as a convener bringing those people together to have those hard conversation, as well as advocate to change policies in the system that act as barriers.

“The important thing to know about child abuse and neglect is nobody wakes up and says today is the day I’m going to hurt my child,” said Storrs.

Storrs compared stressors in life to that of an elastic band. The band stretches and stretches until one day It breaks and someone gets hurt.

Barriers that families face are those of basic needs. Storrs says when a family can’t figure out where they are going to sleep that night, or how they are going to feed the child, the stress can put an enormous amount of strain not only on the family in need but on the community.

“Barriers to that could be that someone doesn’t have access to substance abuse treatment,” said Storrs.

He says over 80 percent of all child abuse and neglect cases have alcohol involved.

“And most importantly parenting is probably the hardest job that we have in this state, and it’s nothing that comes with an instruction book or much support and that too can lead to child abuse and neglect,” Storrs explained.

Both Storrs and Riley agree that helping children at a young age can make all the difference when it comes to development, helping families thrive, and being the voice for those who haven’t found theirs yet.

More information on the Alaska Children’s Trust can be found at https://www.alaskachildrenstrust.org/.