KENILWORTH, NJ — For children dealing with the trauma of abuse, the reality of “back-to-school” can be daunting. In order to help lessen anxiety, Girl Scout Troop 42867 of Kenilworth used their July service effort to equip victims of child abuse with school supplies.
Over 25 backpacks loaded with pencils, pencil cases, folders, binders, notebooks and other essentials were collected at Kenilworth Recreation Center. Backpacks were later distributed by Union County Special Victims Unit detectives to victims and their families in towns including Elizabeth, Kenilworth, Linden, Plainfield and Rahway.
Troop 42867, comprising of Kenilworth fifth graders, brainstormed the idea following a visit to the Friends of the Union County Children’s Advocacy Center, or CACUC, located on West Jersey Street in Elizabeth.
Special Victims Unit Supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor explained to girls the purpose of the facility, according to press release.
“I explained that many of the abused children that come through the Child Advocacy Center, already with financial challenges at home, face the start of the new school year with anxiety about acquiring needed school supplies.”
CACUC is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on financially supporting costs associated with mental health evaluation and treatment for children at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and or depression after the being sexually abused.
Every week, 10 children in Union County are victims of physical or sexual abuse, according to the CACUC.
That’s a 20 percent increase over the last three years. In 2015, nearly 600 Union County children were reported as being abused.
The facility also helps by consolidating treatment, placing the many services victims seek under one roof. The website says that prior to establishing its facility, victims and their families would be required to have multiple interviews at different locations across the county.
Troop mom Nydia Y. Monagas told LocalSource in email on Sept. 5., that the troop previously learned information about child abuse and neglect, but visiting the facility directed the girls to take action.
“Visiting the CACUC brought to light the issues that these children and their non-offending families face when abuse is disclosed,” she wrote. “Ms. Lawlor and her team at the CACUC did a fantastic job helping the young girls understand the complexity of how families are impacted in age-appropriate terms.”
To spread awareness and recruit donations, the troop designed a flyer and delivered it to neighbors, friends and local businesses. Both the Kenilworth Recreation Center and parents supported the initiative. They also used word of mouth and social media.
“The reality that ‘back-to-school’ would not be exciting for some children who were dealing with the trauma of abuse affected the girls, and they wanted to provide some comfort to the child abuse victims and their siblings,” Monagas said.