SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Spokane community gathered for a candlelight vigil in Riverfront Park Wednesday night to honor lives taken too early, and to answer a call to action.
The deaths of Adalynn Hoyt in Spokane, Maliki Wilburn in Coeur d'Alene and another 3-week-old baby in his Spokane Valley home have broken the hearts of our community, and opened the door for a serious conversation about child abuse and neglect.
The vigil, hosted by Spokane Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (SPO-CAN), was a chance for the community to take a stand.
“It's really a time for us to not only honor the children who've lost their lives or who are struggling because of the effects of abuse, but also to help the community understand what they need to do,” said Dena Chappell.
Chappell is a member of SPO-CAN, which is comprised of about 35 different community agencies who share a goal: to be proactive, instead of reactive, about child abuse and neglect.
How can we as neighbors and friends be more than bystanders?
“I'd say the number one thing is to not judge because you never really know what's behind that person and what kind of path they've been down,” Chappell said.
The stigma that comes with reaching out for help, or encouraging someone else to is often enough to keep the community from getting involved.
That has to change.
“It should be a strength if you reach out and ask someone for help,” Chappell said.
One of the most effective ways to prevent child abuse is one of our most basic skills- social connection.
Empathizing with a struggling parent can minimize some of the stigma or shame they may associate with reaching out for help.
“Maybe connect with the family on how hard parenting is and just say i remember those days, or i was just there yesterday and you're going to be okay... You're going to get through this,” said Amy Vega.
Vega is the executive Director of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, one of the most accessible resources for parents here in Spokane.
In light of the recent child deaths, the nursery is making some changes.
Their phone line, which was previously available at 7:00 in the morning will now be accessible 24/7.
“There's no reason why we couldn't have been a solution for these children and they didn't call,” Vega said.
In a world that is so often dark the community has a chance, and a responsibility, to be a light for each other.