Child Abuse Prevention Month

Family Services Promotes April as Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month

April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and all across the state of Florida, child welfare agencies are teaming up to promote community advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our communities – our children.

On Saturday, April 10, Family Services of Metro Orlando participated in the Osceola County Family Safety Fair at Chambers Park alongside the Child Advocacy Center for Osceola, Osceola County Health and Fire Departments, Healthy Start/Healthy Families, Children’s Home Society, Devereux, Center for Drug Free Living, Girl Scouts of America, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Help Now Osceola, Kissimmee Police Department, Osceola Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Child Rescue Network and Intervention Services, Inc. Families in attendance enjoyed a day of outdoor activities with live entertainment, face painting, characters and games.

Grant Lacerte, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Family Services, spoke on the need for our community to assist each other during difficult economic times and trying circumstances to ensure that the needs of children are prioritized.

“Our research and experience show that the majority of struggling families are dealing with between four and eight major challenges at once. These challenges can include domestic violence, job loss, homelessness, drug abuse, mental health issues and a crippling cycle of poverty,” said Lacerte. “But through prevention, our communities can help heal families before they get to the point where kids can no longer be kids and parents can no longer be parents.”

As a part of Florida’s Children’s Week on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 Family Services partnered with Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, Florida Department of Children and Families and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to plant a pinwheel garden on the front lawn of the hospital. Over two- hundred of the shiny blue Pinwheels for Prevention spun in the breeze, signifying the winds of change within Florida’s communities in terms of awareness and advocacy for our children. A press conference was held featuring Doctor Mark Swanson M.D., of Arnold Palmer Hospital; Adrienne Rowe, Early Learning Coalition Board Vice Chair; Gregory Kurth, Chief Executive Officer for Family Services of Metro Orlando; John Cooper, Central Region Director for the Department of Children and Families; and Major Danny Vereen, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

“Of the 690,000 abused children nationwide annually, three-fourths have no documented history of prior victimization. This means that as many as 80% of these kids never received the services needed to prevent that abuse. In other words, 80% of abused children were victims of our failure as individuals to notice them in their time of need,” said Kurth. “I cannot overstate the importance of individuals in our community coming alongside each other as active citizens to prevent, detect and end abuse.”

Child abuse is a life sentence. A child may never fully recover from the damaging effects of neglect or verbal, psychological, sexual or physical abuse. But child abuse is also a preventable problem. From July to December of 2009, Family Services was able to administer prevention and diversion services to protect over 3,700 children from ever having to suffer the pain of abuse. Currently, we continue to care for our community’s children both before and after difficult situations.

In January 2010, Family Services of Metro Orlando was in the process of serving over 1,500 children who – for various reasons – reside in primary out-of-home care scenarios. Seven-hundred eighty-one of those children resided in paid foster care placements. At the same time, we were also able to provide the support and aid to struggling families which allowed more than 1,800 children to remain in their homes without the risk of abuse.

As Major Danny Vereen summarized, the hope of all child welfare agencies is that the attitudes expressed over the course of Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month will last “not just one month, but a lifetime.”

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