Hernando County is a hidden treasure nestled on the Nature Coast of West Central Florida and the home of 173,000 residents. Happy thoughts and beautiful images of growing urban communities, schools and businesses mixed with sprawling country landscapes make up Hernando County. Having said that, would you believe that almost 1,000 Hernando children were victims of child abuse or neglect during 2013? Not such a happy or beautiful image.
As National Child Abuse Prevention Month, April is a time to recognize that we each play a part in promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families in our communities. Did you know in 2013 there were 3,324 children in Hernando County who were reported to the Florida Child Abuse Hotline for suspicion of child abuse or neglect? Out those, 941 were verified to be victims of child abuse and neglect. Almost half of those cases involved substance abuse. These are alarming statistics for our community.
Thankfully, there are agencies like Kids Central, Inc. that are focused on the prevention of child abuse. Kids Central in collaboration with other agencies, like Devereux Kids, serves almost 14,000 children in child abuse prevention programming.
What can you do to help? This month and throughout the year, Kids Central encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our community a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children's social and emotional wellbeing and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.
Recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not mean that child maltreatment is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination. If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect him or her and get help for the family.
Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to 1-800-96-ABUSE. Reporting your concerns is not making an accusation; rather, it is a request for an investigation and assessment to determine if help is needed.
For more information on child abuse in our community, visit EndKidsTears.com or to see how you can help contact info@Kidscentralinc.org.
Cyrus Robinson is on the Board of Directors for Kids Central, Inc., the lead agency charged and contracted by the State of Florida to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties.