Local DCS office promotes Child Abuse Awareness Month

HUNTINGTON – During the unique time we are living in, speaking up about suspected child abuse or neglect is more important than ever before.

That’s according to Kerri Baker, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services’ local office, which has partnered with the city of Huntington to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and help raise awareness.

A proclamation Huntington Mayor Richard Strick signed Wednesday afternoon aims to keep child abuse prevention top-of-mind at a time that some children may be experiencing higher-than-normal risk.

 “With school closures and stay-at-home orders there are fewer eyes on children in communities in general, which could put children more at risk for abuse and neglect,” Baker said.

In her role, Baker says she has seen the Huntington community continue to place children’s well-being first as stay-at-home orders have taken effect.

“Within Huntington County specifically, our reporting numbers have not decreased as much due to the pandemic,” Baker said, “which is an indicator that as a community we are still making the safety of children a priority.”

Indiana has mandatory reporting laws, meaning anyone who observes or suspects child abuse or neglect must by state law make a report.

Baker added that current social distancing rules can make remaining vigilant more challenging. She provided several warning signs that are important to watch for during both in-person and virtual interactions with a child.

Red flags can include but are not limited to:

  • Unexplained injuries such as bruises, fractures or burns.
  • Injuries that don’t match the explanation.
  • Statements about being touched inappropriately.
  • Social withdrawal or lack of interest.
  • Decrease in school performance, including online schooling, or loss of interest in school.
  • Lack of supervision or basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline phone number is (800) 800-5556.

Baker said DCS will actively continue its mission to support children and families during this challenging time, and many services have shifted to virtual settings as a result.

In support of its efforts to prevent child abuse, the agency works to develop partnerships and connect families to needed community resources and counseling services. The goal is to help meet basic needs and address issues such as substance abuse, mental health, coping with stress, finances, budgeting, education, tutoring and more.

“Huntington has so many valuable resources available,” Baker said, “and we are here to assist people in learning about them.”

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