One from the Heart

CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Association)


CAPA's headquarters are located in Port Royal, and it is there that I met Susan Cato and Gloria Duryea. Both women are totally committed to the values and goals of the organization. It exists to rescue abused children, but indeed, it is so much more. The organization maintains a shelter at an undisclosed location where children can actually live until their lives can be put back in order. This location is their safe haven.

Being guided by the "rescue and refuge" principle has brought many offshoots to this organization that sustain and enhance their core mission. One of the most important is their parenting class program. According to Susan, "We do not believe that parents want to be bad parents. We start from that belief."

Parenting classes and support groups are very powerful. The leaders feel that they can teach the classes and council participants, but coming from a peer who has actually been there, the message resonates and is taken more to heart. Parents often feel isolated and ashamed. Parenting class teachers see themselves as "hope brokers." They deal with those who have no support or hope and teach them that there is no shame in needing help.

"I came to the shelter frightened, feeling so overwhelmed by everything that had happened to me. Not only did I find a safe, homelike environment, but you taught me to believe in myself when no one else would."
                                                                                     -Teenage resident

In the Positive Parenting Program members are taught parameters of behavior and behavioral expectations. Often parents abuse children because they do not know a child's behavioral capabilities or what a realistic expectation should be because they were never taught that as children themselves. Parents must complete the 90-day program before their children can be returned to them. The goal is to break the cycle, and it's extremely rare for someone to complete the program and not be changed by it.

Children are referred to CAPA in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is as simple as a phone call that is a cry for help. Local law enforcement refers cases, and the Department of Social Services is also a source. There are times when a former client will call for help because of a situation they are not able to control or escape. Frequently, a child does not come to CAPA until something has been going on for a long time. This is particularly tragic and means there is a flaw in the system. There have been 2,000 children through the CAPA system in the 26 years since its founding. One in three girls and one in five boys will be the victims of abuse or neglect and 99% of these children will know the perpetrators.

CAPA is not standing alone either. They sponsor school outreach, character development classes, safety education, and classes in building healthy relationships for school-age children. Issues of pregnancy prevention are also addressed. They cooperate with CODA and Hope Haven as well in what is termed the Abuse Prevention Coalition. They go into schools and talk about bullying, date violence, cyber bullying, and relationship responsibility. In the words of Susan Cato, "The "P" in CAPA stands for Prevention."

I was so very touched by the work CAPA is doing that my last questions were, "How can I help?"  and "What can people do to further the wonderful work you are doing?" There are many ways to bring about change in the lives of children who have been mistreated. Their needs include donations of food and clothing, donations to the CAPA Closet, their thrift store in Port Royal, or simply sending a check. The "helping hand" suggestion that found my heart is "Cribs For Kids", and again speaks to the issue of prevention.
"A while back, we were actually approached by the County Coroners office with a report recording six infant deaths in the last 22 months. There were questions with no answers, but further research revealed that infant deaths are actually on the rise from what is known as "unsafe sleep," explained Gloria.

As times become more economically difficult, space becomes more of a premium, and adults may sleep in the same bed with small children and infants, putting them at an increased risk for injury or death.

1. It is very easy for a person who has consumed alcohol to
roll over in bed, suffocating an infant and not even wake up.

2. Pillow top mattresses are becoming more common, and the lack of a firm surface can lead to inability for an infant to move or turn over.

3. There is a trend to sleep with more and
more pillows, which can cause suffocation.

4. Many times a dog or other pet will
sleep in the same bed with an infant.

5. A smoke-filled bedroom or someone actually smoking in bed can be a contributor to infant suffocation. There are now studies about "third hand smoke." A car that someone has smoked in, unwashed smoke -filled bed linens, or even a person whose clothing is saturated with smoke can trigger a reaction in a child or infant.

The solution is simple: provide infants with a crib-a safe place to sleep. Further research revealed the Grayco Company manufactures a special crib that is sold complete with crib sheet and mattress for only $75. This crib is infant safe, and cannot be resold. The cribs are returned to CAPA when they are no longer needed; what a wonderful system and a lifesaver, too. A client must meet certain criteria to qualify for a crib and complete a training session.

CAPA is all about prevention, hope, and possibility. It is so very sad and tragic that an organization of this kind needs to exist. The only thing more sad and tragic would be if it did not. The "Open Arms Shelter" is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. To contact CAPA, call 843-524-4350.
For the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline, call 1-800-422-4453.