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DHS, Community Partners Rally for Child Abuse PreventionDate: 05/04/2017
As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and several community partners recently rallied on the steps of the Capitol to bring awareness to the issue. There are 5,172 children in foster care in Arkansas due to neglect, or physical or sexual abuse.
“It takes our communities working together with government to solve an issue as complex as child abuse, and we in Arkansas have some amazing community partners working with us to prevent abuse,” DCFS Director Mischa Martin told the crowd that had gathered. “That is why our theme for today is building hope, building communities.”
Many people at the rally held up blue pinwheels, which is a symbol used across the country to represent child abuse prevention. Child abuse can include physical or sexual abuse, inadequate food, exposure to violent environments, medical neglect, and psychological abuse. In 2016, Arkansas received 35,493 calls to the Child Abuse Hotline reporting suspected abuse. Of those reports, DCFS and the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police confirmed 10,117 children were victims of some type of abuse or neglect.
Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson, DHS Director Cindy Gillespie and Second Chance Youth Ranch Operations Co-Director Rachel Hubbard also spoke at the rally, emphasizing the importance of community partners that work in Arkansas with the child welfare system. Community partners who were holding large puzzle pieces with their logos on them stood on the step next to the speakers to symbolize how it takes many organizations working together to prevent child abuse and support families so we can end cycles of abuse and neglect.
Child maltreatment occurs in all types of families and communities, rich or poor, with no respect for socioeconomic status, race, or educational levels. However, studies show that parents and caregivers who have support from family, friends and their community are more likely to provide safe and healthy homes for their children. Martin said one core component of prevention is focusing on strengthening families, because parents who lack those resources or feel isolated may be more likely to make poor decisions that can lead to neglect or abuse.
Protective factors that have been linked to lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:
*Concrete supports for parents. Parents need basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to essential services that address family-specific needs.
*This can include things such as child care, health care for children and caregivers, and mental health services.
*Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development. Parents who understand how children grow and develop can provide an environment where children can live up to their potential.
*Social connections. Trusted and caring family, friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family.
For more information, visit www.stoparchildabuse.com or www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, report it to the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964 . If there is immediate danger, call 911.