Child safety center director encourages child abuse prevention

Staff Writer

Usually during the month of April, individuals at the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center host an annual fundraiser for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Even though the organization cannot host this year’s event because of the coronavirus outbreak, the organization still want to stress the important of child abuse prevention month. 
Executive Director Christa Neal said for an extremely long time child abuse was not talked about; instead, it was something that could be hidden in the dark. 
“The more we talk about it, we can empower kids to talk about if they are harmed,” Neal said.
To bring awareness, the organization has been sharing information on social media. The organization has also selling blue pinwheels for individuals to place in their yards. 
Pinwheels are a symbols for child abuse prevention month and represent the carefree life children should have, Neal said. 
The organization is hoping to also place information in the lunches schools districts are giving out during the closure. Normally at this time, organization representatives would be speaking to students in person, she added. 
Hot Spring County Judge Dennis Thornton is also trying to raise awareness about the importance of child abuse prevention.
Later this week, Thornton plans to proclaim April Child Abuse Prevention Month in Hot Spring County. Thornton will make the proclamation on video which will be posted online, he said.
“Our youth are very important to me and they are our tomorrow,” he said.
Along with the virus outbreak affecting how the child safety center can raise awareness about child abuse, Neal said it is likely that more children are being abused. 
During the outbreak, children are staying at home and they are not around mandated reporters such as teachers and individuals at church, Neal said. 
Advocates across the nation agree that is it even more urgent to bring awareness about child abuse prevention during the pandemic.
Stress related to school closures, economic uncertainty and job loss are all possible triggers, said Rebecca Cooper, national spokesperson for the nonprofit group Childhelp, which works to prevent and respond to child abuse.
"In our rush to try and prepare for the pandemic, people are forgetting these victims," Cooper said. "We have children who will die as a direct result of this pandemic, as a result of child abuse."
According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually and neglect is the most common form of maltreatment.
When asked how people can prevent child abuse, Neal said that anyone can call the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline. 
She encouraged people to trust their guts if they see something that seems concerning. 
“People don’t like to believe that such evil can happen, but it does,” Neal said.
Thornton also encouraged individuals to make reports if they see something suspicious. He noted that a call to the hotline could save or change a child’s life.
“We can make a difference,” he said.
Reports of child maltreatment can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD, according to the Arkansas State Police. 
When making a report individuals should have this information:
•The name of the child who is the victim of abuse. 
•The names of parents or child caretaker.
•A precise location or address where the child can be found.
•An accurate description of the abuse allegations. 
•The operator will also need to know whether the person who has caused the abuse is someone responsible for the care of the child.
More information about how to call the hotline is available on the Arkansas State Police website.
It is also important for adults to show children that they are safe adults for children to come to if they are being harmed, Neal said. 
The child safety center is based in Arkadelphia and provides services across five counties including Clark, Pike, Nevada, Hot Spring and Dallas.
After a person contacts the Child Abuse Hotline, the center is contacted to investigate the report, Neal said. 
Services include forensic interviews, trauma-focused therapy, advocacy and community education.
The center can be reached at 870-403-6879. Information is also available on the organizations Facebook page and website at pdmcsc.org. 

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