Last year, the Department of Human Services gathered evidence that 1,317 children in an eight-county region in Northeast Mississippi were victims of abuse and neglect. Statewide, there were 8,158 children identified as victims of abuse and neglect.
“We can’t do it by ourselves,” said Shelia Nabors, the regional community partnership coordinator for the Division of Family and Children’s Services. “It takes the whole community. … We all have a role in keeping children safe.”
This week, advocates in Pontotoc and Tupelo will hold awareness events. Monday’s event on the Pontotoc courthouse square aims to share community resources. At Wednesday’s event at the University of Mississippi-Tupelo, speakers will focus on issues surrounding child abuse and sexual assault.
On April 17, the annual Stop the Hurt conference will be at St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo. The featured speakers will include social worker Danielle Seale and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Randy Pierce. The conference is open to professionals and volunteers from across the community.
Child abuse is a problem across the country, said Kim Shackelford, associate professor of social work at the University of Mississippi, and it can happen even in financially stable families that appear to have a fairy tale life.
“It knows no boundary,” Shackelford said. “It’s equal opportunity for abuse and neglect.”
Economic difficulties, increasing parent stress levels and substance abuse have impacted the number of cases of child abuse and neglect, said Carrie Coggins, area social work supervisor for the Department of Human Services.
The number of cases in the region also reflects an intensive effort to reach kids in crisis.
“The idea is that we’ve developed this huge safety net for kids,” Shackelford said.
The eight-county region has piloted a new practice model for the Department of Human Services that emphasizes smaller caseloads for social workers with more intensive contact with families and more involvement by community stakeholders, such as doctors, mental health professionals, teachers and other community leaders.
“There’s a lot of good things going on,” Coggins said. “We do care. We do want people to call us.”
CHILD ABUSE AWARENESS EVENTS
• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Pontotoc courthouse square
• 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Ole Miss-Tupelo cafeteria
• Free and open to the public
STOP THE HURT CONFERENCE
• 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 17
• St. James Catholic Church, Tupelo
• Registration $45; $10 for students
• Contact Jackie Smith at email@example.com
Child abuse and neglect hotline