Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
We all can play a part in strengthening families
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, the Stearns-Benton Child Protection Team encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our community a better place for families. To prevent child abuse and neglect, it is important that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children.
Each year, county and tribal child protection agencies throughout Minnesota respond to thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect. Children who have been abused and neglected are more likely to perform poorly in school and get involved in criminal activities. Strengthening families and communities actually results in reducing interventions for crime, corrections, truancy, hospitalization, special education and mental health care.
Research shows five important factors are present in healthy families. Promoting these factors is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect:
* Nurturing and attachment, building a close bond helps parents better understand and communicate with their children.
* Knowledge of child development, parents learn what to expect at each stage of development and how to respond appropriately.
* Parental resilience, recognizing signs of stress and finding ways to cope.
* Social connections, parents with a network of family, friends, and neighbors have better support in times of need.
* Concrete support for parents, access to resources that help meet basic needs (financial, housing, childcare, healthcare).
Things you can do to help prevent child abuse and neglect:
* Get to know your neighbors
* Help a family you know that is under stress
* Provide support by babysitting, playing with children or volunteering with youth-oriented programs
* Be an active community member by volunteering with school or community organizations
* Learn how to recognize and report signs of child abuse and neglect
* Help connect parents to local resources, such as community emergency funds, counseling or food shelves
A great source of information for local community resources is the 2-1-1 system, a free service covering all of Minnesota where people can find resources to help themselves, their family, neighbors and friends. Dial 2-1-1 from a land line or call (800) 543-7709 from a mobile phone.
To learn more about how you can recognize and prevent child abuse and neglect, visit the Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota website at www.pcamn.org, or call 1-800-Children. To report suspected abuse and neglect, please contact your local county social service or law enforcement agency. The identity of people reporting child maltreatment is kept confidential and is not disclosed to the family.
The Stearns-Benton Child Protection Team consists of representative from Stearns County, Benton County and other community agencies. This team provides public and professional education, and develops resources for prevention, intervention.
Reporting possible maltreatment
The State of Minnesota sets out the guidelines for what constitutes child maltreatment, and each county can make those guidelines more specific (but not less specific). These guidelines are approved by the county board. You can find "Stearns County Child Maltreatment Screening Criteria" on the county's website.
People in professions working with children (teachers, law enforcement, daycare, for instance) are mandated reporters. If they see signs of possible maltreatment, they must report it to the county Human Services office.
But anyone can report their concerns to Human Services.
The Human Services office staff review each report to see if the allegations meet the state statutes defining what is maltreatment.
But removing children from their homes, even temporarily, for their protection is another process, and Human Services does not have the authority to do this.
Human Services can refer a case to the county attorney who can then request a court order to remove children from a dangerous situation. Law enforcement also can remove children as needed to protect them.
Stearns Co.: (320) 656-6075
Wright Co.: (763) 682-7449
Meeker Co.: (320) 693-5300.