Is it safe to Trick-or-Treat this Halloween?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

UPDATE: The CDC is currently in the process of updating its Holiday Guidance. We will update the information below if recommendations change for Halloween 2021.

It’s October, and you know what that means: HALLOWEEN! And since last year was a bit of a dud, it’s no wonder that people have some questions about this year’s trick-or-treating prospects.

This year is different in many ways from Halloween of 2020. Last October, we were still a few months away from any sort of COVID vaccine. This year, our vaccination rates are sitting at just over 72 percent for Skagitonians 12 years and older, and more people are choosing to get vaccinated each day.

Unfortunately, this October, our case and hospitalization rates are also higher than they’ve ever been throughout the pandemic. Though our vaccination rates are promising, we still have approximately 37 percent of our entire population unvaccinated, including kiddos under 11 who are not yet eligible. This means that we still have many Skagitonians who do not have protection against the virus and are at increased risk.

For this reason, it makes sense that people would have some reservations about going out on the 31st. So, is Halloween safe this year? Well … the answer is, like most things these days, not super straight forward.

To Trick-or-Treat, or not?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given the “okay” for children nationwide to trick-or-treat this Halloween—one year after it advised against the tradition last year due to coronavirus concerns. That said, there are a few caveats to consider.

Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are younger than 11 years old and thus, still unvaccinated. If children do go trick-or-treating, it is recommended that they do so in small groups. Also, when possible, it is best to avoid scenarios where many people are concentrated in a central location.

The CDC has published a helpful guide for people planning to trick-or-treat this year. Some tips for safe trick-or-treating include:

For people passing out candy:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • And of course, wear a mask!

For kids collecting candy:

  • Wear a mask!
    • PRO TIP: Make the mask a part of the costume! But remember, costume masks are not a substitute for a well-fitting cloth mask.
    • Remember: Kids younger than two years of old should never wear a mask to decrease the risk of suffocation.
  • Wash or sanitize hands frequently. Before settling down to devour treats, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain distance by staying at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

What about fall festivals and Halloween parties?

In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, like Skagit County, it is recommended that people two years and older wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and while attending outdoor activities where close contact with others is expected. This would include your fall festivals, pumpkin patches, trunk-or-treating events, and the like.

If planning to go to a large event outdoors, please know that the statewide mask mandate requires that masks are worn at large outdoor events of 500 or more people. This includes all people five years and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.   

In general, folks are asked to avoid large Halloween parties this year, especially parties taking place indoors with people from multiple households. When getting together, gathering outdoors is much safer than gathering indoors.

For those who choose to gather indoors, please:

  • Wear a well-fitted face mask
  • Keep your distance (6 feet or more)
  • Ventilate the space by opening doors and windows

If gathering in an indoor public space this year, know that the statewide mandate requires that masks be worn by all people five and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

What’s the best thing to do to prepare for fall and winter festivities?

The principles of this pandemic really do continue to hold. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor gatherings, ventilation is important, and masking remains crucial.

But above all else, the best thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated. This is the easiest thing that you can do to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe this fall and winter. And while you’re at it, get your flu shot, too!

Getting vaccinated now will help make this Halloween better than last year’s and will ensure many spooky-fun Halloweens to come. Want to be fully vaccinated in time for the 31st? You still have time! Get your single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 17th, and you’re covered!

Ready to get your shot? Go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ or stop by the Skagit County Fairgrounds on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 3-7pm.

For more holiday gathering guidance, go to the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/index.html.


Looking for Child Care in Skagit County? There’s Help Available!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Anyone who’s ever had to pay for child care will tell you the same thing: child care is expensive! If you’ve ever struggled to pay for the cost of child care or needed to make compromises to make ends meet, you wouldn’t be alone. With the added challenges posed by the pandemic, many parents and caregivers are looking for help—even those who never needed assistance before.

But did you know that on May 7th of this year, the Governor signed the Fair Start for Kids Act—a historic legislation meant to strengthen Washington’s child care system by assisting families with young children and licensed child care programs? This new legislation is BIG for those who take care of our most precious residents. So, let’s talk about what this means for Washington state families.

For families, the Fair Start for Kids Act does the following:

State median income by household size.
  1. It increases the number of families who will qualify for financial assistance to pay for child care!
    Beginning October 1st, 2021, income eligibility will be raised, with new limits tied to the state median income instead of the federal poverty level. This means that a family of four can earn up to $5,139 per month (which is 60% of the state median income) and still qualify for help.
  2. It will reduce family child care copays to a maximum of $115 per month!
    Beginning October 1st, 2021 through the end of 2022, child care copays for families with state child care assistance will be reduced to a maximum of $115 per month. Some families may even pay less! And starting in 2023, these copays will be capped at 7% of one’s household income.

Did you know that there is even more help available to those who qualify?

Aside from the Fair Start for Kids Act, there are other opportunities for financial assistance here in Washington state. Washington Connection offers a fast and easy way for families and individuals to apply for a variety of services such as Food, Cash, Child Care, Long-Term Care, and Medicare Savings Programs.

To see if you qualify for child care assistance (or any other type of assistance listed above), go here.

So you’ve got finances figured out but you don’t know what child care services are available in your area?

Screenshot from Child Care Aware WA search function.

Once again—you’re not alone! If you’ve recently moved to a new town or you’re looking to put your kiddo in child care for the first time, there is help available.

Washington State has a centralized child care information and assistance service called Child Care Aware WA. Here, you can find a list of licensed child care providers in your area, with contact information, hours of operation, ages accepted, and quality ratings. You can also access information about financial assistance available to families in Washington, as well as guidance for how to select child care.

To search for a provider near you, click here.

Want to talk with someone about your options? Call the Family Center at 1-800-4461114. This free service is available Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Need before or after-school care for your school-age kiddo?

Skagit Kid Insider is a great resource available to you for local options! Here you can find a helpful list of before and after-school care programs here in Skagit County. The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and more local organizations offer safe places for kids when they can’t be at home. Many of these providers are even located right at your child’s school or at a location nearby!


Finding safe, reliable—and affordable—child care can be an overwhelming process, even under normal circumstances. Thankfully, there are people and agencies available who want to help!

If, after calling the Family Center Helpline at 1-800-446-1114 and reviewing available options online, you still need more assistance, we’ve got you! Call or text 360-630-8352 or email helpmegrowskagit@gmail.com to speak with someone at HelpMeGrow Skagit. You can also fill out an online form here and you will be contacted by one of their staff promptly.


Every Step of the Way: National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When we envision a newborn baby and mother, most people will instantly conjure up an image of mommy and baby sitting quietly in a cozy chair, looking at one another with love-filled eyes. Both are calm and content, happily playing their given roles.

For those who haven’t experienced infant feeding first-hand, it is no wonder that this image is considered the norm! This image of the peaceful pair is what is typically depicted in TV shows and movies. It is also—incredibly enough—the type of image that appears in so many pregnancy books and gynecologist offices.

It is not surprising that many parents first entering the journey of child-rearing expect the act of breastfeeding—or any feeding, for that matter—to be so much easier than it actually can be.

When I had my first child, I was astounded by the fact that it took my body two days to get the memo that the baby had been born. I sat up those first to nights in tears thinking that my baby would starve to death under my watchful care. Though I had read in the books that it could take a few days before one’s milk came in, when living it, all those words go right out of the window. And while those first few weeks were bumpy at best, it did get easier in time. 

Now, two children in and several years wiser, I know two things to be certain:

1. Breastfeeding can be extremely rewarding; and 

2. Breastfeeding can be extremely challenging!

This month, people across the United States are celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. While this is a time for people to celebrate the act of breastfeeding, it is also an opportunity for people to stop and think about what each and every one of us can do to make breastfeeding a bit easier for parents and caregivers.

In preparation for this year’s awareness month, a group of Skagitonians have gotten together to draft a proclamation declaring August as National Breastfeeding Month. In this proclamation, the Skagit County Breastfeeding Coalition recognizes the abundant health and bonding benefits of breastfeeding, while also recognizing how difficult breastfeeding can sometimes be for parents and caregivers in our community.

While I struggled to adjust to motherhood during those early days…the football hold, the latching, the midnight pumping, the many tears…I was thankful for the those who supported me in my breastfeeding journey. There are so many things that can act as a barrier to breastfeeding and can jeopardize a person’s chances at a happy and sustainable breastfeeding experience. Our friends, family, work environment, and policies can all affect the likelihood that a parent will continue to breastfeed; an important fact that was never once covered in my pregnancy books.

In Skagit County, there are resources and supports available to new parents—many of which are breastfeeding-positive and inclusive. That said, it is the hope of this proclamation, and this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, that many barriers to breastfeeding that currently exist in our community are removed in the days, months, and years to come.

Are you pregnant, preparing for a baby, or a new parent?

For a list of local resources—classes, support groups, clinics, and home visiting programs—go to: https://skagitbreastfeeding.org/resources/.

#

Proclamation Recognizing August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month | SKAGIT COUNTY
Tuesday, August 10th at 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
This event is open to the public!
Attend virtually: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/CountyCommissioners/main.htm#A
Attend in-person: Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place, Suite 100
Mount Vernon, WA 98273.
Masks are required for all individuals 5 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.


Prepare Them for Fall; Prepare Them for Life

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are your kids heading back to school? Whether your child is going to school in person or not, one of the most important things that you can do to prepare them for back-to-school is a visit with their doctor. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed or pushed back routine doctor visits, including well-child visits and routine vaccinations. Now is the time to get back on track!

Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), we figured this would be the perfect time to remind Skagit County families to get caught up on all routine medical appointments! NIAM is an annual observance which highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life.

During NIAM, we encourage you to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional to ensure that you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine check-ups and vaccinations.

So let’s get ready for back-to-school! Here’s a checklist to help them prepare for a healthy year…

Physical & mental health

During a well-child check, doctors will note a child’s growth and development, based on what’s typical or expected for their age, while also taking into account the child’s personal or family history.

And perhaps of equal importance—and especially so this year—a check-up with your child’s doctor provides a fantastic opportunity to check in on your kiddo’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Talk with your child’s doctor about mental health assessments and discuss any concerns that you may have. We all know that this past year and a half has been tough, so be sure to keep both the head and the heart in mind!

Visit here for more tips on well-child visits.

Vaccinations

One important aspect of the annual visit is to ensure a child’s immunizations are up to date. Vaccinations not only reduce the risk of serious illnesses but also save lives. And vaccinations aren’t only for babies or the very young. As children get older, they will continue to need additional immunizations and booster shots even through adulthood.

As your children head back to school this fall, it’s particularly important for you to work with your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they get caught up on missed well-child visits and recommended vaccines. For childhood vaccine schedules, check out the links below:

Vaccine Schedule: Birth – 6 Years

Vaccine Schedule: 7 Years – 18 Years

One of the new vaccines this year is, of course, for COVID-19. Children ages 12 and older are now eligible for this vaccination, which will help protect them against the virus and reduce its spread in our communities. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination, check out the following websites:

Adults: Remember to take care of yourself too! Make sure to receive any vaccines you need to stay healthy. Use CDC’s adult vaccine assessment tool to see which vaccines might be right for you.

Additional exams

In addition to having their overall physical and mental health checked, kids should also have the following special exams on a regular basis:

  • Hearing tests.
  • Vision exams.
  • Dental checkups.
  • For young girls who are going or have gone through puberty, chat with your provider about whether or when they should begin seeing a specialist.

More tips for a healthy year

Here are some more helpful tips to ensure your child is off to a good start this fall:

  • Ease into a fall bedtime schedule.  Good sleep is essential!
  • Know the safety tips for backpack use. Note the fit and keep the weight manageable.
  • Plan lunches and snacks.  Aim for well-balanced nourishing meals.
  • Reduce anxiety and manage stress.  Keep the lines of communication open to talk about what’s on your child’s mind.

Schedule your child’s visit

Now is a good time to call your healthcare provider to schedule a visit for yourself and your children. For those who do not have a healthcare provider or who may be struggling to access healthcare, there is help available.

Help Me Grow Skagit provides a wide range of resources designed to support you and your family. Go to their website or call/ text (360) 630-8352 to talk to a specialist or complete their contact form online.


Let’s Be “Water Safe” This Summer!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s hot this week. Like, hot-hot. And this weekend looks like its going to be a scorcher. With seriously warm weather coming, you and your family might be planning to spend some time in, or near, water this weekend. Whether you’re planning a trip to the beach, to the lake, or just a casual Saturday around the kiddie pool, it is critical to be thinking about water safety at all times.

Why is water safety important?

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools and hot tubs, at the beach or in oceanslakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets. 

How do you ensure water safety?

Being “water safe” means that you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones while enjoying time in, and around, the water. These steps include:

  1. Buddying Up: Always swim with other people. Designate a buddy from your household to swim with before you enter the water.
  2. Suiting Up: Always wear life jackets on boats. Make sure everyone has U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets at all times.
  3. Knowing Your Limits: Only swim as far as you can safely get back. Don’t hold your breath for longer than you can. Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.
  4. Knowing the Water: Don’t enter cold water or very fast-moving water. Always jump feet first into unknown water.
  5. Keeping an Eye Out: Actively supervise young children and inexperienced swimmers. Stay within arm’s reach and avoid distractions.

How do you make water safety a priority, in every location and situation?

Use “Layers of Protection” In & Around Water

There are things that you can actively do to ensure water safety and prevent drowning. Here are just a few:

  • Even if lifeguards are present, you (or another responsible adult) should stay with your children.
  • Be a “water watcher” – provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising; avoid distractions, including cell phones.
  • Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Take specific precautions for the water environment you are in, such as:
    • Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers, including four-sided fencing that separates the water from the house.
    • At the beach, always swim in a lifeguarded area.

Know the Risks & Take Sensible Precautions – Even If You’re a Strong Swimmer

  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs (including certain prescription medications) before or while swimming, diving or supervising swimmers.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or fishing, even if you don’t intend to enter the water.

Ensure That the Entire Family Learns How to Swim

Now is a great time to look into swim lessons for everyone in your family! Most fitness centers with a pool offer swim lessons for kiddos 6 months and older. For a list of swimming lessons being offered in Skagit County, go to: https://skagit.kidinsider.com/pools. Note: Some information may have changed due to COVID.

Know how to respond in case of emergency

One of the best, and proactive things that you can do to ensure water safety is to learn how to respond during an emergency. Want to become CPR certified? Find a course nearby!

Some helpful links:

The American Red Cross has fantastic resources available that cover every water safety topic. For more information, visit: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html.

Links to specific topics:

  1. Drowning Prevention Facts
  2. Home pool & hot tub safety
  3. Swimming Safely at the Beach

Playground Safety: A Mom’s Public Service Announcement

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It has been a real privilege to share information on our Skagit Health Connection Blog over the past year. One of the greatest gifts of my role as Communications Coordinator is being able to share with you both professional and personal information I’ve gleaned over the years as a Public Health employee, wife, mother, and Skagitonian. Creating content for the blog has been—in many ways—a cathartic experience during these difficult months; a place where I can share my thoughts, but also provide content that is essential for the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community.

Today’s post comes from a more personal perspective: it is a PSA provided by me, a 30-something mother of two young children; a bit crazed after a long rainy winter and weather-worn from COVID. It also comes from a place of humility as I share some things I’ve learned from my most recent “mommy fail.”

About a month ago I took a quick trip to a local playground with my two young daughters, ages 4 and 18 months. It was a park that we’d never been to before and my girls were running hog wild! At one point my youngest made her way to the top of the tallest slide, and, instead of grabbing her off and suffering the consequences of a toddler tantrum, I decided to take her down on my lap.

Big mistake. Her leg must have caught or twisted just so, resulting in a spiral fracture to her left tibia. 6 weeks with a full-leg cast. Not cool.

It was only after a blubbery call to my husband and a lengthy urgent care trip that I was informed by the doctor that sliding with a child on your lap isn’t something that you should do. I had no idea!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 352,698 children under the age of 6 were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 through 2015, and many of those injuries were leg fractures. Of those under 6 years old, toddlers age 12-23 months had the highest percentage of injuries. The most common injury overall was a fracture at 36 percent, usually involving the lower leg.

The biggest issue appears to be the size and weight of adults. When a young child slides down by themselves, they are unlikely to get a severe injury to their leg, even if the foot catches due to the relatively low forces involved. The force generated by the forward momentum of an adult with a child on their lap is much greater and can easily break a bone if a child’s foot gets caught on the slide.

Thankfully, my daughter’s leg is healing quickly enough and the cast is scheduled to come off in the next few weeks. However, the experience has definitely left me a bit unnerved. I am now finding every opportunity to share what I’ve learned with friends and family—and I hope you will share this information, too!

To prepare for the fun days of summer ahead, I am taking time to read up on other playground safety tips. If you’re interested in this type of information, here is a great place to start. Play equipment like swings and monkey bars can be incredibly fun, but they can also pose safety risks for children—especially those a bit more daring than the rest.

I hope you and your family enjoy our local playgrounds and have a wonderful June.

Play safe and have fun!


Women’s Health Week

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

The month of May welcomes blossoming lilacs, budding apple trees and more sunshine. Along with the second Sunday of May, set aside in in recognition of the mothers, and women who have been like mothers, in our lives. The week that follows has been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as, “National Women’s Health Week,” May 9-15, 2021. A time to acknowledge and celebrate the strength, resilience and health of women. Check in with ourselves and ask, “How are we doing?” especially these days. 

One of my oldest friends, who will be turning 100 years old this coming October, has lived by this simple wisdom, she reminds me, “Put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise, you’re not going to able to care for anyone else.” How true are these words. As women, we often put ourselves last while taking care of others. Whether that be the care of children, elderly parents, community, even our pets. Sometimes we forget the importance of our personal care. In no way is selfcare being selfish; rather, it is self-preservation.  

This past year, while enduring the pandemic, we have altered, adjusted and reinvented ways of engaging.  At times, this has been exhaustingly stressful, wearing on us in various ways. Maybe we haven’t kept up with our routine healthcare checkups, or the isolation from family, friends and community has taken its toll on our mental health. We have all been affected in one way or another.  

Let’s pause, acknowledge the challenges we have experienced, and reevaluate our present state of health. Are we finding a balance in our days? Are we getting outside and moving our bodies in the sunshine? Are we getting enough sleep? If we are feeling out of balance, it is never too late to regroup and start fresh. Selfcare is an ongoing daily practice.  

During this week (and every week!), let’s make our health a priority. The Office on Women’s Health has listed a few important points and suggestions for our ongoing selfcare and preservation during this critical time in our lives. 

Here are some important considerations for our wellbeing, taking care of our physical and mental health: 

  • Continue to protect yourself from COVID-19 by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, watching your distance, washing your hands often, and getting a COVID-19 vaccination when available. 
  • Schedule your COVID-19 vaccination or any vaccinations you or your family might have missed during the pandemic. If you have questions about vaccines, talk with your healthcare provider. Making sure to get information from reliable sources. In addition to Skagit County Public Health, you can find locations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at: https://vaccinefinder.org/search.  
  • Keep up with your preventive care, PAP smears, mammograms, stress tests, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.  
  • Stay active! Spend time outside, especially in the sunshine (don’t forget the sunblock!) and be active for 30 minutes a day. This is great for our well-being. Move your body, incorporating exercise that builds and strengthens your muscles. Find what works for you based on your abilities, age and stage of life. Explore and have fun. 
  • Eat well-balanced meals and snacks. Heart-healthy eating involves choosing certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting others, such as saturated and trans fats and added sugars. It’s important to ensure you are getting enough vitamins in your diet, like vitamin D. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, orange juice, and cereals; oily fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, canned tuna, and sardines; and eggs. Calcium is an important nutrient for your bone health across the lifespan. 
  • Practice good sleep habits to improve your mental and physical health and boost your immune system. Follow a routine for going to sleep, and be consistent going to bed and getting up, even on weekends. Try to get at least seven hours sleep. 
  • If you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, please reach out to a health professional, especially if this is getting in the way of your daily activities. Pay attention to your mood changes. If you or anyone you know is experiencing changes in thinking, mood, behavior, and/or having thoughts of self-harm, reach out for help: SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 
  • Monitor alcohol intake and avoid illicit drugs, including drugs that are not prescribed to you. 
  • Look out for your lungs: quit smoking or vaping. Smoking weakens your lungs and puts you at a much higher risk of having serious health complications, especially if you have COVID-19. 
  • Seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24/7 confidential service that supports victims and survivors of domestic violence. The hotline can be reached by phone at: 1-800-799-7233(SAFE), by text by texting LOVEIS to 22522, or via online chat at https://www.thehotline.org, select “Chat Now.” Highly trained, experienced advocates offer support, crisis intervention information, educational services and referral services in more than 200 languages. The website provides information about domestic violence, online instructional materials, safety planning, and local resources. 

Now is the time to take care of ourselves, so we can be supportive and present for our families and friends, and so we can contribute to our community with healthy, loving kindness. Stepping outside to smell the lilacs, soak up the sunshine and celebrate each day for the gift it truly is.  

“Lilacs” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Post by the Skagit Valley Family YMCA

Every day, the Skagit Valley Family YMCA focuses on creating healthy activities and environments for kids to learn and grow! As part of this, each April, we join Washington State’s Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) in spreading awareness about child abuse and prevention strategies. Here are a few tips to help protect children in your community:

Know the signs.

Unexplained injuries aren’t the only signs of abuse. Depression, watchfulness, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility are often signs of abuse. Learn more about the signs here.

Evaluate if a report should be made.

Anyone who has reasonable cause to believe a child has suffered from or is at risk of abuse or neglect, should make a report. “Reasonable cause” means a person witnesses or receives a credible report alleging abuse. The report must be made at the first opportunity, no more than 48 hours after witnessing or receiving a credible concern.

Make a report.

If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, make a report to your state’s child protective services department or local police. When talking to a child about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened. If the child is in immediate danger, please call 911. For all other reports, call, text, or online chat the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1800- 422-4453).

Not sure about making a report? The Skagit Valley Family YMCA is here to help! All Y Kids staff are trained in child abuse prevention and reporting and our childcare centers are located across the Skagit Valley from Anacortes to Sedro-Woolley. Give us a call or visit one of our Skagit Y childcare centers.

Long-Term Effects

Child abuse has many long-term effects on children including brain trauma, PTSD, alcohol or drug use, and criminal activity. Childhood maltreatment has also been linked to life-long health problems including lung and heart damage, diabetes, high blood pressure, vision problems, and more. Fortunately, however, there is promising evidence that children’s brains and bodies may be able to recover with the help of early and appropriate interventions to decrease the risk of long-term effects.

Abuse Today

While school and childcare staff are trained to recognize the signs of potential abuse and the proper reporting procedures, COVID has limited contact that children have with trusted adults outside of their homes. With the lack of contact that trained adults have to youth due to COVID restrictions, there have been fewer reports made and a rise in hospital visits of kids who have experienced abuse or neglect. That’s why we need your help to identify and report signs of abuse or neglect. 

Get Involved

Join us for Wear Blue Day on April 2 as we kick-off child abuse prevention month! We encourage you to take photos and post them on social media using the hashtag #growingbettertogether and #CAPmonth.

Show your support by purchasing, making your own, or coloring a printable pinwheel! All proceeds from purchased pinwheels go toward Prevent Child Abuse America

Consider joining a parent group within Skagit and encourage other parents to keep an eye out for any signs of abuse or neglect. If you see something strange, you are likely not the only one. Together, you will be able to better determine if making a report is the right next step.

Prepare your Kids

Talk to your kids about what appropriate relationships look like with other adults. It may not be the right time for you to share what inappropriate behavior looks like, but by setting expectations for appropriate behavior, you provide a guide for your child to know what to expect and recognize behaviors that fall outside of the norm. It’s important for kids to know that they should trust their instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, to talk to you, a teacher, coach, or other trusted adult.

Even if your child isn’t exposed to abuse, they may know someone who is. Your kids are the best judge of any changes in their peers’ behavior and can help recognize potential signs of abuse or neglect. Consider asking your child questions such as: Did all of your friends seem happy today? Is there anyone in your class who seems left out? 

Many times, children who are abused, may repeat their abuse to other children without early intervention and support. Together, we can help stop the cycle to protect all children from abuse and neglect.


Get Familiar with the Family Resource Center!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you live in Skagit County and have young children, you most likely know about—and love—the Children’s Museum of Skagit County. Once snuggled in Cascade Mall, the museum now sits prominently at The Shops (a.k.a. the outlet mall) in Burlington.

It was truly a sad day for all Skagit families last year when the museum’s doors closed temporarily due to COVID-19. I can’t tell you how many times my toddler asked to go to the museum, only to be told that we couldn’t because of the virus.

But even though the doors have been closed to visitors, the staff at the Children’s Museum have been busier than ever! Through a partnership with the Children’s Council of Skagit County, Help Me Grow Washington, and Skagit County Public Health, the museum has been able to continue to serve our community in a new and innovative way.

What is the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center?

Opened in October 2020, the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center is the brainchild of the Children’s Council and was made possible through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) funding from Skagit County. Partners decided to house the center at the Children’s Museum because the museum was already an established, safe, and trusted community center for Skagit County families.

Though Skagit County has many resources for families, all too often community providers hear from people that they didn’t know that support was available at the time when they needed it. It is the goal of the Family Resource Center to make accessing help an easy process, so that families can quickly find what they need, when they need it, in the way that they need it.

Now, more than ever, parents and families need extra help. As our community faces this pandemic, we have witnessed the reality that many families are being left without a safety net, whether due to loss of income, loss of childcare, or the over-night shift to remote learning. Families are feeling stressed, anxious, and scared. Traditional supports (like extended family or neighbors) may also be less accessible because of state-mandated social distancing and concerns around disease transmission. 

Who can get assistance through the Center?

The Center is available to anyone who could benefit from a little extra help or connection. Even if a family isn’t struggling to afford basic needs, there are so many other types of supports and services available—if you are curious, just ask! The Center’s staff would love to hear from you!

When you contact the Center, staff will use a screening form to determine need. From your call, online form, or email, staff can prepare a package to meet your specific needs.

What kinds of assistance are available through the Center?

The Family Resource Center is providing reliable local information, referrals to services, and application assistance for public programs. The Center is also distributing emergency basic needs items to families who demonstrate a COVID-related financial need.

Whether parents are looking for connections with other parents, opportunities for fun and educational activities for their family, information about their child’s development, or help applying for services, Help Me Grow staff will be able to help in many ways. Here are some examples:

  • Basic Needs assistance: help with things like food, shelter, utilities, diapers
  • Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Support: maternity support services, new parent groups, and the support through the Welcome Baby program
  • Childcare/Early Learning: find options for childcare, preschool, play-and-learn groups, library story times, Kindergarten registration, and more
  • Family Fun: activities and events
  • Family Support: parent coaches, support groups, warm lines, and home visiting programs
  • Health and wellness: free/low-cost health care, dental care, family planning, mental health services and supports, and recovery services
  • Special needs: services and supports for families of children with health and developmental concerns

The Center is also providing activity kits and books to families to promote early learning and to help occupy young children in positive ways for short periods if their parents are struggling to care for their children while working from home, or assisting older children with virtual education. Each family receives a care package filled with items like hand sanitizer, cloth face masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bubbles, resource lists and information, tissues, Vroom parenting tips and prompts.

How can I connect with the Center?

TheFamily Resource Center is not a drop-in center, however staff will work with you if special arrangements are needed. There are several ways to get in contact with the Center, including by phone, text, email, and by submitting an online form. At present, assistance is available in English, Spanish, and Mixteco. See below for contact options:

Scheduled pickups are COVID-friendly. Plan for curb-side pickup at the Children’s Museum: 432 Fashion Way, Burlington, WA 98233.

Will the Center eventually close when COVID isn’t as prevalent?  

The Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center and partners are busily making plans for the future. Once the museum reopens in the coming weeks, the Family Resource Center will continue to operate out of the museum, and assistance will continue to be provided through curb-side pickup. Onsite programs, such as Kaleidoscope Play & Learn groups, the Parent Café weekly groups, and parenting classes will also resume at the museum.

Are there plans to reopen the museum soon?

Wait—did I just read that the museum will reopen soon?! Yes, you read correctly!

The Children’s Museum of Skagit County is excited to reopen on Wednesday, June 2nd! Museum staff are working tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare the facility and exhibits. The plan is to operate at reduced capacity (according to the WA State guidelines) with time ticketing and following all state mandates. At this time, staff are also planning for Summer Camps to take place this year. For updates about reopening, visit the Children’s Museum website here.

To learn more about the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center, visit the Help Me Grow Skagit website. If you have questions about the program, or need additional information, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Celebrating Safely This Easter

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Here comes Peter Cottontail, Hoppin’ down the bunny trail, Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way…”

Spring is here, the tulips are blooming, and Easter is just a hop-skip and a jump away. Spring is an exciting time—especially in the Skagit Valley—as we say “see ya later” to winter and begin planning for the warmer days ahead.

After a relatively dreary winter season, I’m eager to begin putting together spring and summer plans for my family. Like most, we’ve been essentially homebound this past year, and now that more and more people have gotten vaccinated, I’m feeling excited for what the next several months may bring.

That said, we still have a little ways to go until things can really open up again. COVID-19 is still spreading in our community, and with the new variants that we’re seeing across the state, it remains vitally important that we continue to use precaution.

So, what does that mean for Easter this coming Sunday?

The CDC continues to recommend staying home and postponing travel at this time. Doing so remains the best way to protect yourself and others this springtime. The recommendations are the same as they’ve been for a while: Limit your gatherings, keep a 6-foot distance, avoid unnecessary travel, wear a facemask, and wash your hands frequently.

Skagit County—and the rest of the state—is currently in Phase 3 of the Roadmap to Recovery, which means that indoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to 10 people from outside your household, and outdoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to a maximum of 50 people. When gathering, remember to wear your mask and practice safe distancing from non-household members.

The CDC’s recommendations are slightly different for those who have completed their series of COVID-19 vaccinations and have waited two weeks after their final dose. That said, everyone must continue to do everything that they can to end the pandemic until more is understood about how the vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19 and how long protection lasts for those who have been vaccinated.

If you intend to travel for Easter (or at any time this spring or summer), please keep current travel recommendations and restrictions in mind. It is still recommended that Washingtonians avoid unnecessary travel when possible and delay travel if the traveler is experiencing signs of COVID-19 or has been recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. After all, travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

If you must travel, the CDC offers the following steps to protect yourself and others:

  • If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Before you travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

This news most likely isn’t what you were hoping for, especially since this is our second COVID Easter. However, compared to 2020 (ugh!), we have a lot more opportunities to celebrate safely this year!

If you’re feeling like me, you may be itching to make this year’s festivities a bit more…festive? The mom guilt is strong and I’m looking for new (and safe) ways to make Easter fun for my family. For those looking to shake up the usual “Easter egg and chocolate” routine, there are some great ideas online! This is the perfect year to try an Easter-themed Nature Scavenger Hunt or an Easter Egg Relay Race.

Looking to do something out of the house and in the community? Check out Skagit Kid Insider’s EASTER EGG HUNTS & ACTIVITIES GUIDE for some local events taking place this Easter weekend. If you decide to take part, please remember to wear your mask and follow all COVID-19 guidelines.

Hoppy Easter!