April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources, more than 28,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect are reported each year.

Providing Alabama’s children with the adequate care and protection they deserve is what we are called as a community to do. It’s critical that we create a system for nurturing children from cradle to adulthood.

Embrace Alabama Kids believes that each of us can play an important role in protecting the most vulnerable among us. That’s why our ministry, which has provided homes, healing and hope to hurting children for more than 130 years, will shine a spotlight on ways communities can make a difference.

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Governor Kay Ivey has declared April 11-17 as “Embrace Alabama Kids Week,” and communities in Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham will collaborate on a beautiful and compelling traveling mural to spread awareness on critical issues facing Alabama’s children.

We believe art has the power to unite communities around a cause, so we’re bringing together donors, churches, and community leaders and individuals in Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham to create different sections of the mural. Once completed and connected, the finished product will be revealed in Montgomery alongside a permanent mural. Both will serve as visual celebrations of the power of strong families.

Embrace Alabama Kids is asking Alabamians to help us do just that. Founded in 1890, our ministry has changed the lives of countless neglected and abused children and youth, homeless families, and teenage mothers through adoption services, foster care, family preservation, higher education, and school readiness programs.

Our mission is our name, and we work diligently to bring together church, community and state resources to ensure that all children can have a stable, loving and safe home environment. Embrace Alabama Kids started as a single campus-based ministry in Selma and has since grown into a vast network offering many programs in many locations throughout the state that serve children, youth and at-risk families.

We believe that, in response to God’s word, we are called to embrace and nurture vulnerable children and families by providing homes, healing and hope.

We hope that Embrace Alabama Kids Week will simply be the start and that, in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, each Alabamian will do his or her part to bring critical change to our communities.

Whether it’s further educating yourself about the issues, financially supporting organizations that care for abused children, or even becoming a foster parent, everyone can play an important role in creating real, meaningful change for our kids who need it most.

Blake Horne serves as President and CEO of Embrace Alabama Kids, a Ministry of UMCH. To learn more about Embrace Alabama Kids or to get involved, visit www.EmbraceALKids.org.