Guest Blog: Welcome baby! How 90by30 is helping to reduce child abuse

Over the past five years, 90by30 has talked to thousands of community members, mapped out child abuse prevention resources in Lane County, identified gaps in coverage, and crafted child abuse prevention plans custom made to address local needs. Now, with the help of Pip & Grow, we're launching an initiative to reduce child abuse and neglect in Oregon's Lane County by 90 percent by 2030 - 90by30. Our first program is the Welcome Baby Box. 

What is the Welcome Baby Box?

The Welcome Baby Box starts with a Smitten. A safe sleep space is the first and most basic gift a parent can give an infant, so we want to give every baby born in South Lane County (and eventually the entire county) a Smitten.

Next, we’re filling each Smitten with supplies like diapers, onesies, and information on local organizations. We’re grateful for all of the donations we’ve received to fill the boxes – everything from quilting blankets to cash donations that we use to purchase diapers, medical kits, clothes, books, and other items. Everyone has a role to play in making this project a success.

90by30 Team members, Jackie Lester and Ana Maria Dudley, with a sample Baby Box

90by30 Team members, Jackie Lester and Ana Maria Dudley, with a sample Baby Box

How this prevents child abuse
Each community is different and has different needs. So, we started at the beginning – talking to people and studying the data. We focused on which factors and resources, when added to a community, effectively address root causes of child abuse. Families and communities told us what they feel they need to succeed. South Lane County families identified the Welcome Baby Box as a tool that would make a difference. 

The Welcome Baby Box is modeled on the same Finnish Baby Box tradition that inspired Smitten and that is credited with dramatically reducing Finland's infant mortality rate. The box promotes social connection by connecting parents to community resources and to each other. It promotes parental resiliency by educating caregivers on parenting tips and infant development. It reduces stress during those first few weeks by providing new parents with an "infant starter kit" containing a lot of the items they will need to care for their new addition.

A sample Welcome Baby Box

A sample Welcome Baby Box

The process of putting together the boxes is in itself community-building. One local group is knitting booties. A Lane County business is funding a DVD that describes "The Period of Purple Crying" - a film designed to prevent shaken baby syndrome. Another group will donate diapers and another bottles. 90by30 and its partners, such as Parenting Now!, HeadStart, local Relief Nurseries, United Way and Lane County Public Health are providing resources and educational materials to support new parents. Building and filling the Welcome Baby boxes offers community members the opportunity to participate. Communities succeed when they share common goals and work together.

Pip & Grow has been integral to our effort. The company is making it easier and more affordable for us to obtain the boxes we need to welcome babies in our communities. During the holidays, 90by30 will benefit from Pip & Grow's "buy-one-give-one" program that enables community members to buy one Smitten for themselves and donate another at a reduced price. You can also donate a Smitten outright or find information on how to donate items or funds to the program at the 90by30 website.

In this month of giving thanks, it's a wonderful chance for people to give back to their communities. Whether you live in Lane County or across the globe, you can be part of this pioneering effort to help infants start off life on the right foot. The holidays are a time of gratitude, and a Baby Box is an expression of gratitude that goes beyond saying a few words before serving the turkey. If Black Friday is about getting, the donation of a Smitten is about giving. A happy, healthy childhood is the biggest gift of all! 

Emily Keizer, 90by30

Emily is the Communications Coordinator for 90by30. 90by30 is working to reduce child abuse and neglect in Lane County, Oregon.