Helping Children Blossom in Henderson County

by Jamie Wiener, Executive Director

Henderson County is an amazing place to live. As I look out my window at the office, I see so many things blooming, the crocuses, the hydrangeas waiting to explode, and all the other trees I can’t name.  Who wouldn’t want to live here? 

The sad truth is that Henderson County is not an amazing place for all its residents.  Abuse and neglect of children do occur and instead of being able to look outside and see the beauty of the Spring, many children are worrying about when their next meal will come, what mood mom or dad might come home in, and if they can get to school how will they cover their bruises so they do not get in more trouble.

In Henderson County in 2022, there were 1,565 investigated calls for abuse and neglect. Of those, 229 were substantiated. In 2021, that number was 150, and in 2020, it was 231. Our local Department of Social Services, Safelight, and Children & Family Resource Center in addition to other community partners can confirm that unfortunately, these abuses are taking place in our community. 

At Children & Family Resource Center, we are committed to working upstream to provide interventions that prevent abuse and neglect in homes across Henderson County. The incidence of child abuse and neglect is reduced when protective factors (such as concrete basic needs support, knowledge of child development, access to treatment of depression, and social connection) are strengthened, and risk factors (such as poverty, social isolation, absence of supportive adults, and violence in the home or neighborhood) are alleviated. Children under age six are most at risk for child abuse/neglect, which is why so many of our programs focus on prevention in these earliest years. 

Being a caregiver at any age is challenging but being a parent while also trying to graduate high school and be a teenager adds an entirely different set of stressors to the mix.  The Adolescent Parenting Program (APP) is a secondary pregnancy prevention program for teens up to age 19 who are pregnant or parenting for the first time. APP provides one-on-one visits, intensive case management, goal setting, coordination of family planning services, and group educational sessions with the primary goal of preventing a second pregnancy until adulthood.

The Parents as Teachers (PAT) program has been an activity of the Children & Family Resource Center for approximately 22 years. Parents as Teachers serves parents that have children ages prenatal to kindergarten. The program serves families with significant stressors that may include having a low income, being single or teen parents, having a child(ren) or parent(s) with a disability or chronic health condition, or being in situations with domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, unstable housing, and incarcerated parents. Parents as Teachers implementation research conducted in Connecticut found a 22% decline in the incidence of child maltreatment substantiations for families taking part in the program compared to those families who did not.

There are pages of research to confirm that being in homes and seeing families in person helps prevent abuse and neglect.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America declared the pinwheel as the national symbol for child abuse prevention through the campaign, Pinwheels for Prevention. According to Prevent Child Abuse, “Pinwheels symbolize the notions of playfulness, joy, and childhood. It serves as a reminder of the great childhoods we want for all children. The cyclical nature of the pinwheel depicts positive cycles of love and support we want to help families create.” 

As you drive around Henderson County this month, look for the pinwheels outside the helper agencies in our community working to not only provide awareness about the work left to do but also as a reminder that big work is happening.

Child abuse and neglect do not often occur in a vacuum and many co-occurring issues affect children and families.  It is our hope at Children & Family Resource Center to build the strengthening and protective factors that work to create tools and appropriate supports that will prevent abuse and neglect.

Take some time to look at all the new blossoms and new growth coming in as well.  As you do, think of the nearly 1000 children born each year, growing and blossoming in Henderson County.  Like each child, each bud is a little bit different but will blossom to showcase the beauty of this community. Let’s keep helping to make Henderson County a better place for all children.

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