by MARY ANN MURPHY & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hat would it be worth not to have to read or hear another story about a baby being tortured?

At the kick-off conference for the Our Kids: Our Business campaign this month, we heard about the creative ways that Spokane professionals responsible for responding to child injuries have gone way beyond a safety net. They've woven a web of interconnecting relationships among law enforcement, Child Protective Services, the courts, the medical centers, the schools, and social and health service agencies that are designed to heal the children and seek justice for the crimes committed against them. They are multidisciplinary collaborations Spokane has developed over the past 20 years.

It was inspirational to hear about the skills, the professionalism, the dedication and compassion of these front-line responders and what they have accomplished by the simple act of coming together.

It's not enough, though. It will never be enough, which is why those same professionals are inviting every single person in our community, in our region, to join the Our Kids: Our Business team -- to commit to doing one thing to express the value that children are our number one priority.

We mourn the children who have been injured and we'll never forget them. But we call upon the grown-ups to step up their commitment, to protect children before they are ever injured.

What can an ordinary person do?

First, you may already be doing it. The Our Kids: Our Business call to action is not intended to be yet another organization -- rather, it's a big tent, highlighting all the great people and action happening now for kids and inspiring us to have a collective focus. After all, there's no one answer to making a safe community -- there's plenty of work for all of us.

One of those things we were already doing in Spokane as a city and Idaho as a state was a commitment to the America's Promise Alliance to fulfill the five promises to our youth. So we adopted those five promises as the goals for the Our Kids: Our Business call to action: Caring Adults, Safe Places, Healthy Start, Effective Education and Opportunities to Serve.

The challenge is to unleash the creativity of our citizens, our neighbors and our family members to think of hundreds, thousands and even millions of ways each of us can take action to contribute to any one or all of these goals.

It can be as simple as a gesture of neighborliness; I'll never forget a friend rescuing me with baby toys and a sympathetic ear when my 6-month-old California-raised granddaughter realized her parents had left her with me, a veritable stranger at the time, and her protesting howls could be heard across the street. No matter what our credentials are for parenting, a baby's cry gets under our skin -- that's what it's designed to do. Parenting is the toughest job anyone undertakes. It helps when we offer a hand and reassurance to those on the front line. Sacred Heart Children's Hospital is doing just that by launching a program to train all of its staff to make that facility child-safe and child-friendly by reaching out to help the stressed parents they serve -- positive help, not judgment.

We can take heart from the model of Toni Lodge and her small group of indomitable board members and friends who, against all odds, built a beautifully designed building to house NATIVE Project/Native Health in the poorest legislative district in the state. Even as they heal the sick, the building's vibrant paintings and artwork celebrate indigenous culture, its wisdom and resiliency. If they can overcome the challenges they faced in this remarkable achievement, what's to stop me -- or you?

Our media have set a powerful example of setting aside their usual competition to work together on this campaign. Chief Kirkpatrick, Sheriff Knezovich and I invite other leaders from business and education to join us at the helm of the Our Kids: Our Business campaign.

Most importantly, we invite you.

Mary Ann Murphy is executive director of Partners with Families and Children in Spokane.


Here are a few of the events scheduled around the month-long focus on children and child abuse.

Saturday, April 12, all day: Pick up free "Our Kids, Our Business" pinwheels from Partners with Families and Children at Jacob's Java Coffee, 526 S. Washington St.; Zip's Drive Inn, 725 E. Francis Ave.; and Chuck E. Cheese, 10007 N. Nevada St.

Thursday, April 24, from 8-9:30 am: "Our Kids: Our Business" breakfast featuring Dr. Robert Anda speaking about "Connecting the Dots." Coeur d'Alene Resort, 2nd St. and Sherman Ave. Cost: $15. Call (208) 667-8112.

Thursday, April 24, from 11:30 am-1:30 pm: "Our Kids: Our Business" business luncheon featuring Dr. Robert Anda. Spokane Convention Center, Ballroom A. Cost: $30 per person. Call 838-6581.

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