LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Department of Social Services is turning blue Thursday to spread awareness of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Staff members at DSS and other county departments were encouraged to wear blue on Thursday to kick off a month that seeks to bring awareness to efforts aimed at ending child abuse, said Velvet Nixon, county DSS director. She also encourages participants to post photos on social media using the hashtag #WearBlueDay2021.
“I believe all entities within our communities play an essential role ensuring the safety and well-being of children. It’s vital that we use this nationally recognized month as a reminder about the importance of working together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect,” Nixon said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “At least one in seven children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate. In 2019, 1,840 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States.”
The county Social Services Department receives about 2,800 to 3,000 reports of child abuse per year, said Tina Barnes-Dawson, program manager for Child Protective Services investigations.
The county DSS uses state standards to respond to and investigate reports in order to protect children and provide necessary resources for families to thrive, she said.
In 2020, the department investigated 2,109 reports, Barnes-Dawson said. It received 2,888 calls related to child abuse that year alone.
The county Social Services Department also plans to plant a blue pinwheel garden Thursday on its grounds, if weather permits.
The pinwheel symbolizes the “innocence of children” and “reflects the future that all children deserve,” Barnes-Dawson said. The wheel is a positive emblem that shows it takes everyone working together to make that happen.
“April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention month, it just stresses the importance of our community working together to prevent child maltreatment,” she said.
Targeting child abuse and neglect is important not only for the physical well-being of the child, but for the effects it can have on the child’s development and path as they become adults, Barnes-Dawson said.
“For example, exposure to violence in childhood increases the risks of injury, future violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities,” according to the CDC.
“Chronic abuse may result in toxic stress, which can change brain development and increase the risk for problems like post-traumatic stress disorder and learning, attention, and memory difficulties,” the CDC website reads in part.
Gov. Roy Cooper also declared Monday that April will be observed in the state as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina stressed the importance of state residents working together to prevent child abuse by creating caring connections, supportive environments and positive experiences for all children and families during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Science tells us that connections matter,” said Sharon Hirsch, PCANC president and CEO. “Our work to build positive connections, stable foundations, supportive communities and strong families where all children can thrive has never been more important than it is now as North Carolina families grapple with additional stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The PCANC and the NCDHHS Division of Social Services work will each county in the state to “ensure parents have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to care for their children,” according to NCDHHS.
For more information on how to prevent child abuse, visit https://www.preventchildabusenc.org/.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]