The Recorder – Grant to help Children’s Advocacy Center provide families with necessities, educational materials | #predators | #childpredators | #kids

Local children will start school this year with what they need, whether returning to in-person or remote instruction, and adults will learn to detect abuse of those children thanks to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin.

The center received a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts that will help the children it works with receive toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, masks and more. The items will be distributed to families while providing them with educational materials about the pandemic and how to keep children safe during it.

Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Irene Woods said the agency has already made a donation to Just Roots community farm to provide extra food to families living in Leyden Woods, gift cards for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment. Quabbin Harvest in Orange also received money from the Children’s Advocacy Center to help feed families.

Additionally, the center provided Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County with supplies for backpacks, and will be at Sunderland Elementary School later this month to provide necessities and information to families.

“We’re including educational material on mandated reporting, internet safety and what to do if you think a child is not safe,” Woods said. “The materials will teach parents what to look out for when their teens are on the internet, because that’s where predators find them.”

Upcoming events the Children’s Advocacy Center is coordinating include a diaper drive at Valuing Our Children on Walnut Street in Athol on Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. It will also hold a pop-up event at Sunderland Elementary School with police to provide educational material and supplies to families on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Woods said it’s very important to work with families right now, because everyone has been isolated.

“Reports of child abuse and neglect have declined dramatically during the pandemic,” Woods said. “Children aren’t going to school or activities, places of worship or other public places where adults look out for their safety and wellbeing.”

For more information, call the Children’s Advocacy Center at 413-475-3401 or visit

To report child abuse or neglect, call the Massachusetts Child Abuse Hotline at 800-792-5200. Reports, including anonymous ones, are accepted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, if a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

The following are signs of abuse or neglect:

Signs of physical abuse ■Child appears frightened of the caregiver.

■Child has burns, bites, broken bones, bruising, black eyes or complaints of pain.

■Caregiver offers no explanation of an injury, or blames the child’s behavior or personality for the injury.

Signs of sexual abuse

■Child attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment.

■Demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or behavior for their age.

■Difficulty walking or sitting.

■Witnessing an adult inappropriately touch a child, watch pornography with a child or say sexual things to a child.

Signs of emotional abuse

■Child shows extremes in behavior: overly aggressive or compliant.

■Appears emotionally unattached to caregiver and others.

■Caregiver constantly blames, belittles or berates the child and refuses to help the child when needed.

Signs of neglect

■Child begs or steals food, has severe poor hygiene or states that no one at home provides care.

■Witnessing a child use alcohol or other drugs.

■Highly stressful family situations and/or adults in the home abuse alcohol or other drugs.

■Unlocked weapons or guns in the home.

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