How Are the Children?  The Answer Depends on Whom You Ask

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On any given day, nearly 200 callers contact Georgia’s Dept. of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to report their concerns about the safety and well-being of children.

Most DFCS-substantiated reports increasingly identify child neglect—not physical abuse—as the leading cause for Child Protective Services intervention. For some of these families it’s not poverty, but the mounting struggles, that increase the risk of child neglect. Just ask the teacher who notices a child’s sudden withdrawal, the neighbor who fears the kids next door don’t have enough food, or the family member with a troubling sense that all is not well.

Families living in areas of concentrated poverty:

  • struggle to meet their children’s basic needs,
  • lack transportation,
  • feel a sense of isolation, and
  • face other poverty-related barriers to overall family success.

At Community Partnerships for Protecting Children (CPPC) our approach to protecting children involves helping communities reclaim their responsibility to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. One agency alone can never ensure that children are not maltreated. Ensuring that our kids are safe requires an entire community’s diligence.

CPPC is a community-driven child abuse prevention, intervention, and practice change model that targets communities with high rates of child abuse and neglect. We promote local partnerships among families, service providers, and formal and informal organized groups to raise awareness of child maltreatment issues within the community, and we develop appropriate prevention and intervention responses.

Over the past decade our partners across the state have embraced the charge to take a close, honest look at child abuse in their neighborhoods. Community members are surprised by their local child abuse data, and often fail to make the connection between child abuse and other community issues.

As communities begin to look beyond the data—asking family service workers, teachers, neighbors, and parents about child safety and well-being, a new picture of child abuse perpetration and victimization emerges. Not only does this picture reflect the instances of abuse, it also depicts the growing effects of:

  • domestic violence,
  • substance abuse,
  • unemployment,
  • underemployment, and
  • a lack of social supports.

With clarity, communities begin to grasp risk factors for child abuse and envision opportunities for prevention.

If we are to eradicate child abuse, communities must come together to consider the welfare of the most vulnerable, hard to reach, and at-risk children.

So how are the children?