Preventing child abuse is everyone's job
Child abuse in Haywood County has long been a problem. Statistically, Haywood is among the top counties in the state when it comes to abuse reports.
In 2012, more than 1,600 cases of abuse were reported. Of that, 466 reports weren’t investigated because they didn’t meet the legal definition of child abuse or neglect. Still, that leaves nearly 100 cases a month where social workers followed up on reports where children within our county may have been within harm’s way.
Thankfully, there is a broad circle of people who care about abuse who are on the front lines to help address the issue.
Removing children from the home is done only as a last resort, as is evident in the statistic that only 54 children were taken into foster care in 2012. Social service department workers, the staff at Kids Advocacy Resource Effort (KARE) and those who are part of the legal system in the county take aim at improving conditions within a home to keep families together and help keep children safe.
Sometimes that means providing public assistance to ensure the children have plenty to eat. Other times, it entails parental education, or perhaps it addresses childcare issues where children are left home alone while the parent is at work.
The end goal is always to resolve a situation that prompted the abuse report. By law, individuals in North Carolina who even suspect a child is not being cared for properly are obligated to report it. Those on the front line include daycare workers, the medical community and those working in the school system, but neighbors and even passersby who witness a child locked inside a hot car or violent behavior toward a youngster are tasked with reporting the incident.
As shown by the statistics, social service employees won’t intervene unless the facts warrant it.
As we mark April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s make an effort to be more aware of how the most vulnerable segment of our society is getting along. Every child deserves a chance, and those who start out in life being neglected or abused are facing a major obstacle that can hold them back always.
Haywood County is a caring community with a big heart. Let’s put both into action to help our children grow strong and healthy.
Whether that is because more people here are aware of the issue and report it or because things are just worse here is unknown.