Going Upstream for Crisis Prevention

Imagine you and I are taking a walk together. We’re strolling through the woods on a sunny, warm day when we hear water and people in the distance.

We walk toward the sound and come up to a river rushing fast from recent rain. We are alarmed to see people in the water being swept away by the current. We also see a crowd of people standing on the banks, working furiously to pull them to safety.

We rush to join the crowd on the banks and begin working alongside them, pulling people out as quickly as we can. It seems the harder we work, the more people there are to be rescued.

In the intensity of the rescue work, someone steps back and says, “Has anyone bothered to go upstream and see how all of these people are getting here to begin with?”

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before. It is one of prevention, and we’ve been telling it forever at the Children & Family Resource Center. At its core, it describes who we are in this community.

Our intent is to be an agency that is working upstream to keep people out of the crisis. To do that, we focus our work on children in their earliest years of life — believing we can have the greatest impact on their future, and our future, by intervening in those earliest years.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last month, I talked to you about foster care and the wonderful opportunity we have to love children in our community. There are 153 children in foster care in Henderson County, but only 58 foster homes.

I am incredibly thankful for the loving families who are willing to open their homes to children in great need of love and support. But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need them at all?

According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, 127,515 child abuse and neglect reports were made in North Carolina between July 2014 and June 2015, costing North Carolinians more than $2 billion in medical and mental health services, juvenile delinquency interventions and lost worker productivity.

Here at home, there were 1,200 child abuse and neglect reports made during that period. Of those, 1,003 cases were opened for investigation and 256 were substantiated or found in need of services.

Child abuse and neglect can occur in any type of family with no regard to socioeconomic level, gender or race, and has many forms, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and medical neglect.

Children who are abused suffer greatly and are more likely to experience low self-esteem, lack of self-control, higher levels of aggression and violence, academic and vocational problems, depression, alcoholism and interpersonal problems, and they are more likely to abuse their own children.

Sadly, our youngest children are at greatest risk. More than half (52.1 percent) of the nation’s child abuse and neglect cases involve children under age 7, with children under age 1 being the most likely victims.

Neglect is the most common type of child maltreatment, making up nearly two-thirds of all child abuse cases. Neglect ranges from failure to provide for the basic needs (like food) of a child to failing to properly supervise a child. Some 41 percent of deaths to children from abuse were due to neglect.

Somehow we have to work together to keep children out of these situations to begin with. Knowing our youngest children are most at risk, we can make that difference when we are able to work with new families to help them build protective factors like parental resilience and the ability to regulate emotion and respond to stress in a healthy manner.

We can also help create strong systems of support and connection for the family, help parents gain knowledge of child development and appropriate parenting strategies, and help children grow socially and emotionally competent.

The Children & Family Resource Center offers several programs and services that are considered best practices in preventing child abuse and neglect, and that help build these protective factors for children in our community. Fortunately, most parents do a good job caring for their children, but there are situations where some parents need extra help and support in caring for their children appropriately.

As adults, the responsibility lies with all of us to protect children. In fact, North Carolina law requires all adults to report possible child maltreatment if there is reasonable cause to suspect it.

If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you can make a report by contacting the Henderson County Department of Social Services at 697-5572 or, after hours, at 697-4911. You do not need proof or permission to make a report, and your report can remain anonymous.

Elisha Freeman is executive director of the Children & Family Resource Center (www.childrenandfamily.org; 828-698-0674).

Article was seen originally here.

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