By: Angela Henderson | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: April 2007
Each hand print on the tree displayed was made by a victim interviewed at the William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center. (Photo courtesy of Belinda Strotheide)
Two local child advocacy agencies, the William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center and Tri-County Court Appointed Special Advocates, have announced that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties, as well as in other locations around the United States.
Each week child protective services agencies throughout the nation receive more than 50,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. In the federal fiscal year of 2003, an estimated 2.9 million reports concerning the welfare of about 5.5 million children were made.
In approximately 68 percent of those cases, the information provided in the report was sufficient enough to prompt an investigation. As a result of those investigations, approximately 906,000 children were found to have been victims of abuse or neglect. On average, four children die every day as a result of such mistreatment.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services reported 13,328 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in the state of Oklahoma in 2005. Rogers County had 293 cases of the 13,328, while Mayes County had 150 cases, and Craig County had 33. A shocking total of 476 cases of abuse and neglect were established in the tri-county area.
More than 60 percent of mistreatment victims are neglected, meaning a caretaker failed to provide for the child’s basic needs. Nearly 20 percent of victims experienced physical abuse. Ten percent were victims of sexual abuse, which is usually more publicized due to the heinous nature of the crime. The smallest percentage of victims were those of emotional abuse, which accounted for five percent of all victims. Emotional abuse is intolerable and includes criticizing, rejecting or refusing to nurture a child.
While both the William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center and Tri-County CASA assist abused and neglected children, each organization is involved at different levels. The William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center, also known as CAC, becomes involved during the initial phases of a child abuse investigation, always at the request of law enforcement or by the Department of Human Services. The CAC, however, coordinates multi-disciplinary team intervention, conducting on-site forensic interviews and medical examinations and providing mental health treatment for the young victims. CAC also organizes parent classes and court advocacy throughout criminal prosecution for non-offending parents.
Tri-County CASA later enters the scene when abuse or neglect charges have been substantiated, and the child is living in protective custody. CASA recruits and trains community volunteers to participate in juvenile court proceedings, where they give each child a voice. The ultimate goal of every CASA volunteer is to find safe, permanent and nurturing homes for abused or neglected children as quickly as possible.
“Both the CAC and CASA see our mission as that of helping children in our community who cannot help themselves,” said Martha Kross-Vinson, director of the William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center.
Kross-Vinson said parenting can be stressful, and she recommends that parents seek assistance or take a time out before abusing or neglecting their children.
“Stress in life is a given,” she said. “None of us are exempt from it, but how we choose to respond to that stress is our choice. If every parent would think about the consequences of their actions before they’re made, I think we would see a noticeable decline in abuse and neglect cases.”
To commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month, the CAC will sponsor the Third Annual Penny Drive in Rogers, Mayes, and Craig county schools during the entire month of April. If you would like to contribute to the Penny Drive, please call the CAC at 283-2800 or check out the website at www.cacclaremore.org.
Tri-County CASA will spend the month of April training additional CASA volunteers. Orientation is scheduled for April 5 at 1:30 p.m. at the CASA offices, located at 510 E. Will Rogers Blvd. Training will continue through the end of the month. If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, please contact Jessica Brown at 343-1515 or Michele Rogers at 693-9032.