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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 17, 2024

How being a trusted adult can change a child’s life

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Staff Writer

Having an adult to trust can make a world of difference in the life of a youth. 

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and one of the most important things you can do is to be a trusted adult and help protect children and teens in our Coast Guard community.   

The Coast Guard reminds its shipmates and civilian personnel that taking the necessary steps to protect our children is not only our choice but our duty. 

The Coast Guard’s Family Advocacy Program Manager, Johanna MacGillivray, explains that “a trusted adult can be anyone a child or teen knows they can trust and rely on to share what is happening in their life.”  

MacGillivray continued, “You can be a parent, family friend, mentor, teacher, coach, bus driver, or relative—really anyone who plays a role in their life. Being kind, patient, honest, dependable, nonjudgemental, and listening and believing in them makes the child or teen feel safe and willing to share how they are doing.”    

When becoming a trusted presence in a child or teen’s life, ensure that you and the youth are protected. Here are tips for safely engaging with them: 

  • Always meet in public places 
  • If a child confides in you about their harm, remain calm and listen 
  • Reassure the child that they did the right thing by sharing with you, and convey that you believe them 
  • Explain to the child or teen that you will keep their confidence and tell only people needed to keep them safe 
  • Tell the child’s parent if the issues discussed are not related to them 

Once you become a trusted adult, the young person may confide in you. If you observe that the child or teen appears worried, reports abuse or you suspect abuse or neglect, here’s what you can do to get help: 

  • Call your local Work-Life  Family Advocacy Program (FAP). Your FAP office is a safe space for the Coast Guard community to get the resources and support needed. The Family Advocacy Specialist will coordinate services to ensure the young person’s safety, help coordinate counseling, support, and additional educational or community services.  

MacGillivray reminds us that, “children are a gift, and they are our future—so they deserve our best,” she said. “Your presence as a trusted adult could be everything a child and their family needs to flourish or to correct the cycles of child abuse to heal.” 

If you have concerns about child safety, contact your local Family Advocacy Program at 202-475-5100, the Child Help National Abuse hotline at 800-422 4458, or 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778) or visit

Additional resources include: 

  • Coast Guard Family Advocacy Program:  Provides support, assessments, individual, couples, and family counseling, parenting programs, couples’ communication, anger management, stress management, safety planning, and other resources. Contact your local Work-Life Field Office through the Family Advocacy Program at 202-475-5100. You can also contact Johanna MacGillivray, LCSW, Family Advocacy Program Manager, 202-475-5161 or Marshe Milbourne-Jackson, LPC, HSWL Service Center FAP Coordinator, 757-628-4374, 
  • CG SUPRT:  Provides active-duty members, reservists, civilian employees, and family members assistance with a full range of issues such as financial matters, relationship discord, and other work life stressors. 855-CG SUPRT (247-8778)  
  • The Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline: Live chat, call or text at 800-422-4453  
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance: To request assistance with CGMA’s Safe Harbor Program, which empowers intimate partner abuse survivors and their children with a fresh start, please contact Jessica Manfre, CGMA's case manager, at or 571-438-9501.   
  • Coast Guard Legal Assistance: Coast Guard legal assistance attorneys provide advice and counsel regarding personal legal matters at no cost. Locate a Legal Assistance Attorney.