April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month highlights the importance of community support in Buncombe County

Press release from Buncombe County:

Every child deserves a safe environment to grow up in; it takes all of us to ensure families are supported. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to bring together families, communities, prevention advocates, and supporters to raise awareness on issues regarding child abuse and highlight the fact that everyone in the community plays a role in preventing child abuse.

The latest Buncombe County Health and Human Services data show that in fiscal year 2023, 2,937 accepted reports met screening criteria for alleged abuse, neglect, or dependency. Of these reports, there were 392 confirmed cases where abuse, neglect, or dependency occurred, most of which involved more than one child per family.

Parental substance use, intimate partner violence, and complex mental health needs are the primary contributing factors to child maltreatment. There was enough evidence to show children were physically or sexually abused in more than 75 cases.

The County continues to see that structural and social determinants of health and wellbeing, including poverty and systemic racism, greatly impact parents’ abilities to provide safe, stable, and nurturing environments for their children free from abuse or neglect.

Children who live in families with access to economic and concrete support are less likely to experience abuse and neglect. And yet, too often our society thinks of raising healthy children as a parent or caregiver’s responsibility alone. This simply isn’t true. Community support and partnerships can help lighten the burden parents and caregivers face and strengthen families.

“It is our privilege at Buncombe County HHS to partner with parents to support them in navigating the many life challenges that come their way so they can create a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for their children,” says Social Work Division Director, Rebecca Smith. “A lack of affordable housing, unreliable transportation, mental illness, parental substance use issues, and intimate partner violence are some of the challenges faced by parents in our community. Child Abuse Awareness Month highlights the need for all members of our community to consider what we can do to support the health, safety, and well-being of children and families.  Together, we can prevent child abuse and neglect.”

This month, Buncombe County Government and Mountain Child Advocacy Center will host engagement opportunities and provide educational information through its website and social media platforms in the following ways:

  • The Buncombe County Commissioners will declare April as Child Abuse Awareness Month at their April 16 Commissioners meeting.

  • Presentation of the Children’s Champion Award to Buncombe County Sherrif’s Office Detective, Kenneth Clamser.

  • A Blue Light display at several County buildings including the Courthouse, Family Justice Center, and Health and Human Services.

  • A Stewards of Children training scheduled for April 25 at East Asheville Library from 5 to 7:30 p.m. which features poignant storytelling and expert testimony to teach adults practical actions they can take to reduce instances of child sexual abuse in their organizations, families, and communities.

  • Social media posts featuring key messages and spotlights on community members.

  • Storytimes for children at Swannanoa, Leicester, and North Asheville libraries.

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Mountain Xpress posts selected news and information of local interest as a public service for our readers. To submit press releases and other community material for possible publication, email news@mountainx.com.

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