Community collaboration can help prevent child abuse, neglect

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Crawford County Health and Human Services wokers stand behind 121 pinwheels that represent the alleged victims of child abuse and/or neglect in the county in 2020. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

 

Every year, between 4,000 and 5,000 children (age 18 and under) are substantiated as abused or neglected in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website.  

In Crawford County, 121 alleged victims of child abuse and/or neglect were assessed by the health and human services department in 2020. Of those, 34 children were found in need of protection and/or services.

The 121 are the ones investigated. The 34 are those cases that were taken to court, having risen to the level of meeting state standards to request the district attorney to file a Child in Need of Protection or Services case, according to a social worker in the Crawford County Health and Human Services family and children’s unit. 

This month, Gilman and her colleagues placed blue pinwheels, representing these alleged victims, in front of the Main Street entrance to the county administration building (121 pinwheels) and the county courthouse (34 pinwheels). There, the colored vanes spin valiantly and symbolize awareness for Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.  

General citizens do not need to be experts in the definitions of abuse and neglect to understand the signs of possible abuse and neglect. They need only to be prepared to recognize situations that may need to be reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) and law enforcement.

Signs of abuse and neglect are shared in the sidebar to this article. Become familiar with these signs. Anyone who feels these forms of neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse have happened or might happen can make a report to CPS in Crawford County by calling 326-0248 or law enforcement at 326-0241. If abuse is happening now or is violent in nature, call 911.

Once a report is made, CPS decides if the information is potential child abuse or neglect. If the report meets certain criteria for potential abuse, a CPS worker starts an initial assessment. According to another social worker in the Crawford County Health and Human Services family and children’s unit, the focus of the first assessment is child safety. It is not to establish legal responsibility or make criminal determinations. CPS focuses on protecting the child and engaging with families to keep children safely in their homes whenever possible. CPS workers talk with the family, the child and others to determine what is making the child unsafe, and they can help parents and caregivers get services, education and other assistance to support necessary changes that ensure safety and protection for the child.

Their goal is to try to keep families together.This follows closely with that of National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, in that it recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to strengthen families and prevent abusive or neglectful situations. These efforts, as well as awareness activities and initiatives, can produce thriving families.

Crawford County Health and Human Services teams up often with the UW-Extension Office to offer parent education, advocacy and service connection. Families can call Health and Human Services at 326-0248 to get information on community resources and available support. They may also call UW-Extension at 326-0223 to learn about programming tailored toward families and prevention of child abuse or neglect in the county.

Child abuse happens in every community, in every economic status.

Whenever county health and human services can do initiatives like the pinwheel project, it helps spread awareness, they believe.

There are a couple of specific ways individuals can support prevention efforts in Crawford County. 

1) Consider being a mentor. Learn more about the PALS (People Actively Linked with Students) mentoring program by calling 326-0217.

2) Consider supporting children and families through foster care. Contact Health and Human Services, at 326-0248, to learn more about foster care or other ways to support youth and families.

Other resources are included in the Crawford County Resource Guide at: www.crawford countywi.org/uploads/ 5/6/5/7/56576979/cc_resource_directory_

updated_8_23_18.pdf.

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