Springtime’s arrived and we’ve left another winter in our rear view mirrors. It’s a busy time of the year for almost everyone; the farmers are busy in their fields, school’s still in session and spring sports are in full swing. The days are longer and many of us are putting in some extra hours getting our yards and gardens into shape.

In a little more than a week, we’ll be on into the month of April, which is designated each year as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

We’re fortunate here in Ellis County to have several nonprofits that work with and provide for children who’ve been abused or neglected. While each one of them plays a different role, all are vital to seeing to it that the littlest of our community members are taken care of.

Do you know what the signs of child abuse are? Do you know what steps you can take to prevent child abuse?

There are any number of resources available to you where you can learn more about what you can do – and any one of our local nonprofits stands ready to assist you. As one example, here are some “Safety Tips for Parents” provided by the National Children’s Advocacy Center:

• Know everything you can about your children’s activities and their friends. Monitor children’s activities and participate with them. Don’t allow children to play alone in isolated areas.

• Teach your children about strangers AND to be aware of unusual behavior in people they know. Teach them to listen to their feelings and that it is OK to say no if any adults (including family members) ask them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

• Teach your children to refuse anything from strangers, including money, gifts or rides. Know where new items come from.

• Teach your children how to safely answer the phone if they are at home alone such as stating the adult in the house is “unavailable” to come to the phone.

• Teach your children to keep a safe distance from strangers and not to give strangers directions for help, finding lost pets, etc. Adults need to get help from other adults.

• Teach children to use the buddy system when walking home from school, sports activities, etc. The age-old rule of there’s safety in numbers is a primary safety precaution.

• Use secret codes with your children (for use to positively identify each other or to ask for help).

• Teach your children (including teens) to check first with you before going anywhere. Children need to let parents know where they are going, how they will get there, who will be going along with them, and when they will return home.

• Develop a family plan stressing where to meet if lost, when you are away from home. Do not have children meet you in the parking lot. Inside the store, shopping mall or amusement park are much safer places to meet. Teach them their phone number AND area code.

• Do not place your children’s names on their clothing or on the outside of their possessions.

• Teach your children to say NO to anyone attempting to touch them on the part(s) of their bodies covered by a swimming suit.

• Teach your children to say NO, then GET AWAY, and TELL SOMEONE if a person bothers them.

• Join with other concerned parents to set up safety systems for your neighborhood.

• Teach your children about appropriate and inappropriate secrets and that some secrets have to be told if children and parents are to be kept safe.

The better educated and more aware our community becomes, the safer and more protected our children will be.

I hope you are all having a blessed Easter holiday with time spent with family and friends. And, if not today, then soon.

Please, everyone, let’s keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week.

Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.