Press Coverage

Study finds childhood trauma dramatically impacts problems in adulthood

A new report finds that adverse childhood experiences can cause health problems, mental illness and drug problems adulthood.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finds 1 in 6 adults in New Jersey and across the nation experienced four or more types of such experiences in childhood. At least five of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with these experiences.

Rush Russell, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, called the study “one of the most powerful public health reports in the last 50 years.”

Adverse childhood experiences are indicators of severe traumatic incidents that happen to children. They include child abuse, having a parent with mental illness or living through a divorce.

The report finds that these experiences are responsible for significant increases in heart and lung disease, alcohol and mental health problems, unemployment, marital problems and suicide.

Russell said that preventing adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, could reduce depression cases by 44% and reduce other major health problems by at least 15%.

He also noted preventing these experiences could cut smoking rates by a third and heaving drinking by 24%.

Russell said that as a first step, parents should be aware of the way they speak with their children because this can work toward eliminating adverse experiences they have that can lead to future problems.

Russell said that the brain is incredibly resilient and “there’s a lot that can be done to strengthen the resilience of children” who have experienced ACEs.

“ACEs don’t always predict the future,” he said.

Christine Norbut Beyer, the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, believes that more could be done to raise awareness about ACEs.

Beyer said her department is “focusing more on outcomes and on helping families heal and recover from trauma and ACEs.”

State Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, the chairman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, has introduced a resolution that calls on the governor to develop strategies to reduce children’s exposure to ACEs in New Jersey.


Human trafficking presentation well attended at Ocean County Library

By Andrew Harrison

TOMS RIVER- Residents filled the seats at the Ocean County Library recently when they came to learn more about the crimes of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Victoria Spera gave the presentation on Oct. 25, which was held in the library’s Mancini Hall.


Spera is a program specialist on human trafficking for the non-profit organization Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey.

“It is really important to have community presentations like this,” Spera said. “At the heart of prevention is community mobilization. Awareness is really key for an issue like this. Human Trafficking is such an underground and illicit industry. The more you are able to educate at a community level helps with better outcomes.” 

According to Spera, in 2016, New Jersey had 193 reported human trafficking cases. In the same year, there were 596 hotline calls on human trafficking.

She said it is important to know the red flags and signs for those who may be seeing someone in this type of trouble.

“It is also important to know that it is not always appropriate to be the superhero and go try to rescue someone in a situation like human and sex trafficking. It can be dangerous for you, it can be dangerous for the youth or individual caught in that situation,” Spera said.

The Ocean County Department of Human Services sponsored the event and asked for Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey to come back to speak on this issue at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library.

“I hope people took away from the presentation that they can be an essential part in the movement,” Spera said. “Human and sex trafficking is a very overwhelming thing. You can never underestimate the power of one person with knowledge. I just hope everyone knows that you can do something and that you can make a difference.”

Dusty Devlin was one of the guests in attendance at the event.

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Father Appreciation Event inspires, encourages South Jersey dads

Courier-PostMOUNT LAUREL – Bryant Brittingham was surprised to be awarded one of the Most Valuable Dad awards at Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey‘s first-ever Father Appreciation Event

“I’m not really one for awards. Everything I do, I do because I’m supposed to,” said the 41-year-old father of three from Camden.

The event, held earlier this month at the International Sports and Skating Center in Mount Laurel, celebrated fathers, offering inspiration and hope and providing them with information and resources to support their families.

“We want fathers to be actively engaged in their children’s lives,” said executive director of PCA-NJ Rush Russell. “This is an opportunity to get dads more involved.”

The night featured friendly games of flag football, pizza, free haircuts and racks of business attire, a job fair and resource offerings.

Jerome Allen, an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, and professional motivational speaker Steve Perry offered words of wisdom and advice to the dads.

“The greatest way to show children you love them is to be vulnerable to them,” Perry said.

Faheem Lea, 47, of Camden and a father of four came specifically to hear Perry talk about fatherhood.

“Being a committed father, I’m trying to get some tips on how to do better and spread these tips to my community,” he said.

Kelly Gales, 41, of Cape May County appreciated the educational aspects of the event.

“I learned a lot here,” he said. “I got some valuable information that can save me later on in life.”

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Middlesex County CCYC Launches Barbers and Books Project

The Middlesex County Council for Young Children (CCYC) launched its Barbers and Books Project in February to coincide with Library Lovers Month. Containers with children’s books are placed in area barbershops so children – especially young males – have access to a variety of books. The Project is an innovative way to bridge literacy gaps by giving children books and helping to develop a love of reading. It encourages fathers to read to their children and play an important role in their ongoing education.

More than 1,000 new children’s books were donated by Barnes & Noble of East Brunswick and Bridge of Books. Participating barbershops include: Distinguished Ones, New Brunswick; B & B Barber Shop, Sayreville; Straightline, Perth Amboy; Metro Barbershop, Colonia; Kids Kuts, Woodbridge; and Precision Hair Studio, Old Bridge. Ruben Martinez of Distinguished Ones stated, “I am excited about the opportunity to make a difference in the community and to empower others.”

CCYC Program Coordinator Ediza Lahoz Valentino added, “Literacy gives children the opportunity to exercise their brain, develop their imagination, improve concentration and learn about the world around them. Our Barbers and Books Project is an example of how small organized efforts can make a big difference in our communities to improve the lives of children.” Continue reading


When Is It Your Responsibility To Step In Against Suspected Abuse?

Image result for cbs news new york 2018 logoNEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The case in which 13 malnourished siblingswere reportedly kept captive in filthy conditions by their parents in California has raised a multitude of questions, like whether or not the neighbors should have gotten involved.

Should they have seen, or done something? In the same circumstance, what would you do? Every few years there’s a case of child abuse or neglect that’s so horrific it makes us question ourselves.

Some New Yorkers offered up what they think they’d do.

“My first instinct as a New Yorker is to mind my business, but if I sensed there’s something wrong then kids need help,” Astoria resident Hampton Gathers said.

 “I think people are hesitant to call, especially on a neighbor or especially here where your neighbors are so close,” Upper West Side resident Eve Epstein said. “What if you made a mistake?”

Fear of being wrong and a desire to “just stay out of it” keep a lot of people from calling child welfare agencies when they see odd things, but experts tell CBS2’s Elise Finch that people need to try to think of it differently.

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We All Can Fight Sexual Harrassment

By Rush L. Russell; The Times 

Regarding continuing stories about Harvey Weinstein and victims of sexual abuse:

It’s inspiring to see the many courageous stories from women disclosing incidents of sexual abuse by men in power positions in Hollywood, in sports and in politics.  We hope leaders and the media will devote increasing attention to what it will take to stop this from happening.

Youth-serving organizations, including sports organizations and schools, can adopt codes of conduct to prohibit “boundary-violating” behaviors that offenders use to groom potential victims.  Co-workers can be educated to watch for and report inappropriate behavior.  Schools should be prohibited from signing “nondisclosure” agreements when terminating an employee for sexual misconduct.  Parents and co-workers can be educated about sexual-abuse prevention and take simple steps to be more vigilant.

We need to shift the conversations from past crimes to smarter policies and solutions.  Everyone can play a role.

The Times of Trenton


How the USA Gymnastics child sexual abuse scandal was preventable

By Rush L. Russell; The Star Ledgar

TheStarLedgarA major investigation published by the Indianapolis Star recently uncovered pervasive failings by USA Gymnastics to report cases of child sexual abuse by coaches.

Sound familiar?

The story repeats many of the same elements as the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State in 2011. In each case, it appears the institutions were more interested in protecting their reputations than reporting horrific crimes happening in clear view on their watch.

How many times does this have to happen before we take stronger action? What needs to happen to stop it now?

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Home health visits can ease child-care stress

By Rush L. Russell, Daily Record

DailyRecordWe have now experienced two party political conventions and are headed into the final stretch before the presidential election in November. Major issues dominating the race include terrorism, the economy and jobs, health care, race relations, crime and law enforcement, immigration, and international relations.

It may not be unusual for a presidential campaign, but rarely, if ever, will you hear a word spoken about our children and what can be done to create stronger, healthier, and successful families and a more competitive workforce for our future.

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