Staggering reports show that nationally an estimated 686,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect, with an estimated 1,640 of these children dying due to abuse or neglect. Of the children who passed, 69.9 percent suffered neglect and 44.3 percent suffered physical abuse either exclusively or in combination with another maltreatment type. To bring these numbers closer to home, 563 children in Lincoln County were reported to have been abused or neglected in 2012. According to Kids Count Data Center, Lincoln County’s reports of abuse and neglect have been rising for the past several years. This doesn’t necessarily mean that abuse has become more common, but that resources to report these problems are being used and children are finding the courage to come forward. With April’s observance as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Lincoln County Resource Board, along with their funded child abuse prevention providers, want Lincoln County residents to learn about free local resources for families in crisis.
Lincoln County Resource Board allocates approximately 50 percent of their funding to prevention and education, including four agencies who work to prevent child abuse and neglect—providing stability, love and care to our county’s children. Covering every aspect of care, Nurses for Newborns, Crisis Nursery Wentzville, Sts. Joachim & Ann Care Services and The Child Center, Inc. work together to provide Lincoln County residents with needed services to keep our kids safe and healthy.
When faced with a child who has been abused; parents, teachers, friends and family may feel overwhelmed by the “next step” that they need to take. Making sure that the community has the knowledge they need to find the right help can be one of the most important tasks for these providers.
Nurses for Newborns offers in-home services for any woman who is pregnant or any family with a child younger than two years of age. The agency’s programs cover families living in poverty that could face maternal depression, risk for domestic violence and risk for child abuse and neglect. They also serve at-risk families who have “medically fragile” babies, meaning, low birth weight, diagnosed with a genetic disorder, and babies who were exposed to drugs or alcohol before birth; parents and caregivers with intellectual or physical disabilities, or with a diagnosed mental illness; and teen mothers under the age of 19 at the time of delivery. Nurses for Newborns’ registered nurses go into the homes of local families to provide support and services that ensure the well being of the child and promote stability within the household.
Crisis Nursery offers crisis support services for families with children ages newborn to 12 years of age. Every hour, one child in Missouri is abused or neglected, which is why Crisis Nursery remains a needed support system for families facing extreme stress. Crisis Nursery is open for care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With the nursery and its staff’s constant help and guidance, statistics show that 99 percent of children do not experience abuse or neglect while benefiting from their services. “We want the community to know that we are here and our services can make a difference in their lives,” said Bonnie Define, Director of Community Relations. “It’s hard to take the first step but once you do, you will get the help you are looking for.”
The Crisis Nursery’s programs include: 24-Hour Helpline, Crisis Care For Kids and Family Empowerment. Crisis Care For Kids provides short-term care for Lincoln County children at its Wentzville location for families who are experiencing crisis situations. Family Empowerment offers crisis counseling, community referrals, home visitation, parent education and support groups to provide for the long-term health and wellbeing of the child and family.
Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service follows their mission statement “To serve those in crisis and to prevent homelessness and hunger.” Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service works with individuals and families, providing services such as housing assistance and in-home assessments of the child’s health status, to ensure kids’ basic needs are met, kids are safe and healthy and (if appropriate ages) are enrolled and attending school.
“Not having the adequate housing, food and emotional connections can fuel the fire of abuse, it’s not that the parent doesn’t love them, it’s the fact that for whatever reason they cannot provide for them at that time and we (Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service) need to step in to help stabilize the situation,” said Sarah Neumann, MSE, social worker.
The Child Center, Inc. works within Lincoln County schools focusing on sexual abuse prevention education. The Child Center not only speaks to students about their rights, but they also educate mandated reporters (those who would report an incident), on signs of sexual abuse, proper reporting and parent education. Their student programs are tailored for age appropriateness, covering topics from knowing their body rights to preventing online enticement, sexual harassment and cyber/online harassment. They also provide forensic interviews, mental health counseling and advocacy.
The Child Center works to empower kids to use their voice and ask for help, protecting the victim and non-offending family members so they can remain safe, begin to heal and evolve from victims to survivors. “It’s astounding the amount of children who get abused. When we are in a class speaking to the kids you can look around at the room full of students and the statistics say one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. According to the statistics there are a couple of victims in every classroom,” said Barb Skelton, Prevention Education Specialist and Sheila Stender, Prevention Education Supervisor.
For Lincoln County families and kids, the Lincoln County Resource Board works to ensure their providers collaborate on cases to meet the needs of area kids, creating a system of care and a safety net to keep kids healthy and safe. “If you are in a state of crisis for whatever reason, we are not here to judge you; we are here to help you. Our goal is to find the root of the problem and break cycles and get families on track to a happier, healthier lifestyle,” said Cheri Winchester, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Resource Board.”
Remember, taking the first step can be the hardest part, but in Lincoln County there are resources and health providers to help you through a crisis situation, while keeping kids safe and healthy so they may reach their full potential. To report child abuse or neglect, call the Children’s Division Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (800-392-3738, calls accepted 24/7 and are confidential for non-mandated reporters). For more information on the Lincoln County Resource Board call 636-528-2490; for information on Nurses for Newborns call 800-452-4784; for information on Crisis Nursery call 636-887-3070; for information on Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service call 636-528-2937; and for The Child Center, Inc. call 636-332-0545.