Hit-Free Zones launch at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and other organizations

Hit-Free Zones launch at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and other organizations
Valerie Stanley, Ellen Siler, Councilman Garrett Dennis, London Kite, Michael Aubin, Dr. Randell Alexander, Teresa Simak, Robert Miller, Jessica Winberry, Tim Crutchfield

“Not in our four walls.” That’s the stance being taken by administration and staff at Wolfson Children’s Hospital when acts of corporal punishment, violence or abuse are observed within the San Marco-based medical center.

Michael D. Aubin, hospital president, announced April 5 the facility would launch a Hit-Free Zone initiative, promoting a welcoming, safe and healthy environment for patients and their families.

“As the regional children’s hospital, folks come from all over a gigantic area, and this is a stressful place. It’s hard enough to have all the stresses of life, but when you add that your child is sick that creates a lot of tension,” said Aubin. “Within our four walls, we decided to make sure this is a safe place, a place where people didn’t have to worry about any kind of violence or abuse.”

“We want to make a difference in our community, and make sure physical abuse of any kind is eliminated, especially in this kind of environment. We know that it’s controversial. We know there are folks who have reasons why they should be able to do this…but not in our four walls. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen here,” Aubin said.

Hit-Free Zones will be created in all of the hospital’s locations in Florida and Georgia. The focus is education, he said. “You can’t tell someone ‘Don’t do this’ without providing the tools to do something different. We believe we can do that.”

In the near future, all 40-plus Baptist Health hospitals and facilities will join Wolfson Children’s to ensure no adult shall hit another adult, no adult shall hit a child, no child shall hit an adult, and no child shall hit another child, said Aubin.

Also speaking at the launch conference was Randell Alexander, MD, PhD, Professor and Chief, Division of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics, UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “In 1783, Poland was the first country to ban corporal punishment in public schools. There are now 53 countries – over a quarter of all countries on the planet – that have now banned corporal punishment. Spanking is legal in the United States, but we’re not here to talk about the laws, we’re here to talk about what’s happening in our house.”

Alexander said while Wolfson is not the first Children’s Hospital to implement such a zone, it is the first in Florida. “Our real hope down the road is all Children’s Hospitals will be hit-free.”

Over 1,100 employees at Wolfson Children’s Hospital will have been trained how to de-escalate tension which might result in hitting, without getting in the middle of a hostile or threatening situation. Materials were developed by Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the UF Division of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics to help families find other alternatives to hitting.

Joining Wolfson Children’s Hospital and UF Jacksonville in launching Hit-Free Zones during National Children Abuse Prevention Month were other agencies, including Family Support Services; the Quigley House; the Office of  the State Attorney’s Homicide Divisions in Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties, and the District 4 Medical Examiner’s Office.

In addition, District 9 Councilman Garrett Dennis filed legislation to require all city-owned properties and facilities be designated Hit-Free Zones. Bill 2018-171, which is under consideration by City Council, will include training of city employees for intervention, and signage to identify hit-free areas.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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