Child Abuse Awareness

The Deltona Woman’s Club has planted pinwheels to bring attention to Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. From left clockwise are members Brigitte Smith, Anita Weintraub, Nancy Schleicher, Josephine Carilli, Eldine Marchbank and Mary Niehaus.

The pressures and predictors of child abuse are strongly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, including anxiety, loss of income, loss of employment, food and housing insecurity, and declining parental mental health.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and never has the time been more important to spread the word about vital community resources to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

One of those agencies designed to assist children and families is the Children’s Home Society.

“I’ve always felt that Child Abuse Prevention Month is something that was needed to be highlighted in a month,” said Ernie Hamilton, CHS Northeast Region director. “It’s a time for our community to band together to ensure that all of our families have the support that they need. Unfortunately we do know that abuse does exist and thankfully we have this month to really highlight and to shine a light on a very hard topic to talk about.

The CHS focuses on preventative services, Mr. Hamilton said. “During this pandemic, there’s been a lot of isolation. These children who at least had a teacher or a counselor or someone who can notice the abuse (who could report it), we saw that the numbers were going down. But we know that abuse wasn’t stopping. Abuse and neglect were still occurring, but it was going unreported.”

There was a “devastating increase” in abuse cases landing in emergency rooms, he said.

The society's focus is reaching out to families before they get into crisis,” Mr. Hamilton said. “If someone is feeling overwhelmed, they feel helpless, they’re scared or they just need support, I want them to contact us.”

Maia Bass, CHS Dependency Program manager in Daytona Beach, said the agency also works with helping children with mental health problems.

Services are for children with mental health needs, but some of those needs may have stemmed from abuse or neglect.

Ms. Bass hopes Child Abuse Prevention Month brings awareness about the problem and that “if you see something, say something.”

Community Partnership for Children is a not-for-profit agency that has built a system of care using 23 contracts with 13 local providers. T

“It is through the efforts and involvement of the community that we are able to keep children safe and build strong families,” the agency's website states. “Our robust community-based network also includes the partnership and support of other stakeholders, including the Department of Children and Families, county governments, the faith-based community, local businesses, volunteer mentors, foster parents, the Center for Business Excellence and the Community Alliance.”

The House Next Door is another Volusia agency that has as a primary goal to build a positive rapport with the family. The family education and support programs require parental involvement. The family must also commit to being open and honest in sessions, and strive to follow the recommendations of the program counselors. The family education and support programs serve children and families in the school, community and in the home.

Andrea McNally, public relations manager for CHS, stated, “Experts project that child poverty will increase 25 percent from its pre-Covid-19 rate. In Florida, that’s an additional 210,000 children. This is especially concerning, as statistics indicate that children in poverty are seven times more likely to experience neglect and three times more likely to experience abuse.

“Early predictions estimate a 15% uptick of kids entering foster care and the resulting consequence to the taxpayer’s pocket is at minimum a whopping $108 Million.”

For more information from CHS, visit chsfl.org or call the 24-hour hotlines at (888) 733-6303 to receive support.

For more information from Community Partnership for Children, visit communitypartnershipforchildren.org, or for House Next Door, visit thehnd.com.

To report child abuse or neglect, call (800) 962-2873.

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