Protecting our Children: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Mandy Mahan

Many may notice blue pinwheels this month in front of office building such as the Department of Child Services here is Wabash. They are in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month which is every April.

“Currently the Wabash County Department of Child Services has open involvement with 98 children in the county,” according to Julie Hobbs, Local Office Director of Wabash County Department of Child Services. “We also currently have 46 open assessments/investigations on families in Wabash County,” she said. “There are three levels of involvement with the department – an Informal Adjustment, an in-home CHINS (Child in Need of Services) and an out of home CHINS. 

“If a child can be safely maintained in the home and the parents are receptive to services, we can offer an Informal Adjustment.  If the child/children are not safe and need to be removed from the home this would be considered an out of home CHINS. The Department of Child Services wants to keep families together when it can be done safely.  In June of 2020 the Department rolled out the Family Preservation Model which is holistic approach to supporting families in crisis where the children are at imminent risk of being removed from their parents care and placed outside their homes.”

Hobbs told The Paper that the department of Child Services investigates many forms of abuse and neglect including but not limited to sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. Forms of neglect include lack of supervision, lack of food, shelter or clothing, environment life/health endangerment, drug exposed infants and medical neglect.

“A large contributor to the neglect cases we currently handle in Wabash County is attributed to substance use by the parents or caregivers and their inability to appropriately supervise their children and meet their basic needs,” she said.

In order to keep an eye out for potential abuse, look for these signs:

Consider physical abuse when the child has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes, fading bruises or other marks. The child may also seem frightened of their abuser which would be one or both of their parents or someone else.

Consider Neglect if the child is frequently absent from school, steals food or money, lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses, is consistently dirty and has severe body odor, lacks sufficient clothing for the weather or is frequently left at home without the care and supervision of an adult.

Sexual abuse can be suspected if a child has difficulty walking or sitting, suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities, reports nightmares or bedwetting, experiences a sudden change in appetite, demonstrates, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior and/or becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease.

Everyone is considered a mandated reporter and has a duty to report child abuse and neglect. If child abuse and/or neglect is suspected, contact the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month Wabash County DCS ask the community to join in on recognizing all of the children who have experienced child abuse and neglect by wearing blue on Fridays for the remainder of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“Help us embrace our children and families who are in crisis and keep our children safe,” said Hobbs. 

Posted on 2021 Apr 20