Organization's executive director ­spearheads efforts to prevent child abuse

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In 2005, Travis Barnett first heard about the Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (CPCAN), that for four decades has provided the Jackson community with services and educational opportunities to protect children.

"The director at the time, came and spoke to my church about CPCAN and I felt compelled to find out more," he says. "After speaking with her I asked if there was a need for a parent educator and the rest is history. As a parent educator I've taught all the programs we have to offer, from Parenting Classes to Safe Sleep Practices. It's very rewarding to hear parents say, 'I won't carry on the cycle, I've broken it.'"

Last September, Barnett became the organization's executive director, spearheading efforts to help all children grow up in safe, nurturing homes.

"This first year has been an exciting and rewarding experience and I look forward to serving as Executive Director of the only agency in Jackson County that deals solely with the prevention of child abuse and neglect," he says.

A lifelong resident of Jackson County, Barnett is dedicated to the community, and his past work experience provides a unique ability to interact and work with individuals of various backgrounds.

In May, in conjunction with Law Day celebrations, he received the Jackson County Bar Association's 2018 Liberty Bell Award for his sterling work in the community.

"This was a very humbling experience and I'm very honored to have received it," he says. "I strive to continue to make a Jackson a safer place for all children to have a happy and healthy childhood."

A graduate of Concord High School, Barnett earned a degree in music education from Spring Arbor University then taught in public schools for 10 years-the first 5 teaching music and the last 5 years in a high school alternative program, where he developed a passion for helping at-risk youth/ adults. He then worked as manager of the Prisoner Reentry program at the Jackson Parole Office.

In his role as CPCAN Executive Director, Barnett faces a daunting challenge: last year, there were more than 1,300 confirmed victims of child abuse in Jackson County; about half under the age of 4. The county's rate of child abuse is almost twice the rate of the state: 35.4 versus 17.9 per 1,000. The infant mortality rate in 2015 was 6.2 per 1,000, compared to a state rate of 6.8 per 1,000; and the birth rate for teen moms in 2015 was 7.9 percent, compared to a state percentage of 6.3 percent in the same range.

Poverty plays a huge role in the problem: where 22.2 percent of Michigan children lived in poverty in 2015, the Jackson County number was 25.2 percent. Barnett stated that "parents' anxiety and depression about finances can negatively affect children, and poverty can exacerbate abusive and neglectful behaviors."

Launched in 1977, CPCAN- that teams with local human services agencies and organizations-aims to be proactive. Believing education is the key to prevention, Barnett and his team offer free parent-centered programs addressing child development, age-appropriate discipline techniques and strategies for dealing with stress; as well as programs for teachers, law enforcement, social workers and concerned citizens.

Programs include:

- A free fatherhood workshop

- A program to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

- Safe Sleep, on protecting infants from sleep-related death

- How to de-escalate public child abuse situations

- Stewards of Children, on preventing, recognizing, and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse

- Mandated Reporter Training on recognizing and reporting suspected abuse and neglect to Child Protective Services

- Truancy prevention programs, in collaboration with the Jackson Family Court

Barnett himself, along with CPCAN Development Director Patrick Grubba, has made multiple appearances on the Bart Hawley Show on local TV; on the local radio channel K105.3; held a professional development training on ACEs Adverse Childhood Experiences; hosted April's annual "Pinwheels for Prevention" kickoff for Child Abuse Prevention month; and sponsored a table at Baker College's charity fund-raiser "Baker Tea." CPCAN also provides child safety presentations and distributes parenting materials at fairs, expos and other special events including the Community Baby Shower, and Kids' Fest. Barnett is looking forward to CPCAN's annual fund-raiser, the October 20 Halloween Costume Ball at Cascades Manor House in Jackson.

"This will be a fantastic event for a great cause-come out and support CPCAN and show off your costumes," he says.

For more information, visit www.cpanjackson.org or call Barnett at (517) 788-4239.

Published: Tue, Jul 31, 2018

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