Posted: February 23, 2021
By: Kris Demers, Prevent Child Abuse NC Communications Manager

In the PAN Member Spotlight monthly series, hear from Prevent Child Abuse NC’s (PCANC) PAN members, learn about their work, and what inspires them and their partnership with PCANC to help build safe, stable, nurturing environments in North Carolina!

For our fourth PAN Member Spotlight, we introduce Ginger Espino, MSW, Community Engagement and Training Coordinator at SAFEchild, a child abuse prevention agency in Raleigh, NC. As a PAN member, Espino embodies the importance and prevalence of Protective Factors that help strengthen families and prevent abuse from ever occurring in Wake County. Over the past year Espino, along with a group of community leaders, parents and representatives from several youth-serving organizations in Wake County, have come together to strive toward the vision of safe and stable communities as they work to develop the Wake County Child Abuse Prevention Plan (Wake CAPP).

Prevent Child Abuse NC supports community members, like Espino, in building Community Prevention Action Plans (CPAPs) which are meant to educate, empower, and support communities to implement effective child abuse and neglect prevention strategies so every child grows up in a safe, stable, nurturing environment.

Learn more about Prevention Action Network Member Ginger Espino and how she is working to prevent child maltreatment in Wake County

Q: Why is prioritizing child maltreatment prevention in Wake County important to you?

A: Taking care of children and helping them thrive is everything. You can tell a lot about a community by how we treat our children. It is so important to for children to feel secure, for them to feel safe, for them to feel loved. It really is our duty as adults to keep our children safe and to help them learn and be who they are and develop into wonderful citizens.

Q: Would you recommend others who care about children’s healthy development join the prevention Action Network? If so, why?

A: Yes, I think any opportunity that is available to the community to learn more about what you can do [is important] because we are all responsible for the well-being of children.

Whether you have your own children, if you work with children, or if you are going to interact with children and parents or with people who do have an impact on children. You are also going to interact with adults who may have experienced trauma when they were children which can impact how they are going to be able to interact with you.

Q: Tell me how your work strengthens families and communities where children can thrive

A: Since 1993 SAFEchild realized that there was not a lot of support for families and parents who were struggling. Parenting is hard and there didn’t seem to be a lot of resources and support out there, so we have really tried to strengthen families and parents, empower children to recognize when something’s happening that’s not OK, and inform the community that child abuse and neglect is real and it’s out there.

We have several programs and services that we provide but we also know that we can’t do this alone. It takes all of us to protect children and to help them feel safe. We want to partner with everyone in the community to help create safer environments for our children.

Q: As a parent support group facilitator, why do you think it’s important to increase concrete supports specifically and resources for parents across North Carolina?

A: I think the pandemic has really reminded us of how the lack of concrete supports for families can have such a huge impact on the health and well-being of the whole community. With the pandemic, even families who had their basic needs well met are now discovering that that’s not the case anymore and it’s caused this ripple effect throughout the community.

At SAFEchild, we have found that our families are really struggling with issues that they weren’t struggling with before. It’s definitely hard to be that parent focusing on our children’s psychological and emotional needs when our basic needs are not being met. It’s really crucial that families can feel safe and know where their next meal is coming from or feel safe in their home so they can provide that support for their children.

Q: Tell me about your work on the Wake County Child Abuse Prevention Plan. What has the Wake CAPP accomplished, what do you hope to accomplish, and how has COVID-19 altered the process?

A: We started the Wake County Child Abuse Prevention Plan work to make sure that all children are nurtured by strong families, thrive in stable environments surrounded by caring adults, and feel safe and protected. In this work we gathered information from the community about what we need to do to move upstream to get in front of child abuse and neglect and figure out how can we better support families in the community.

We created the Wake County Child Abuse Prevention Plan that was released early last year. Since then, we’ve merged with another initiative here in Wake County to combine our efforts, so now in addition to really focusing on child abuse prevention, we’re looking at all Adverse Childhood Experiences and how can we prevent the experiences that can cause significant harm to a child into adulthood.

Q: What are some changes you are seeing in Wake County due to the work being done around the Wake County Child Abuse Prevention Plan?

A: I have noticed is that the language is changing and some of the silos are finally being torn down. We’re talking to each other more. Government agencies and nonprofits; we’re increasing our connections and our relationships. We’re learning from each other. We’re working together. I think that is going to be the key an all of this since we want to bring together not just professionals, but bankers, businesses, parents, and others.

One of my goals is to make sure all these initiatives know about each other, work together and divide and conquer this work so we can create safe, stable and nurturing environments for our children.

The Prevention Action Network (PAN) is an affiliation of agencies and individuals who are invested in developing safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all North Carolina children. PAN members have access to trainings, research, statistics and a network of other professionals and citizens who are also committed to ensuring all North Carolina children and families remain strong. Learn more and join today!