Childhood is meant to be a carefree, happy time of learning, exploring and growth. But in Oklahoma, almost 10,000 children in 2012 were victims of child abuse or neglect.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and area child-advocacy agencies, including CASA of Cherokee Country, Kid Connections, Cherokee County Smart Start, Hope House and Help-In-Crisis are gearing up for a full slate of events to raise awareness.
This afternoon, Help-In-Crisis and its Helping You Grow program will host a a rally at 3 p.m. in Norris Park. According to HIC Family Support worker Sara Davidson, the event will feature free activities for children, as well as snacks and educational materials.
“Participants can show their support by tying a blue ribbon on a tree, as blue is the color for child abuse prevention.”
HIC’s HUG program has also created a display to raise awareness at the Tahlequah Public Library, which will be up the entire month.
“Sadly, I don’t think the number of child abuse cases are waning,” said Davidson. “We’ve been involved in a number of cases recently. We’re happy to get into homes through the HUG program to educate new parents, because it gives kids a better chance. Parents who don’t grow up in good homes often have a hard time adjusting to parenthood.”
Next week, CASA, Kid Connections, Smart Start and Hope House are partnering to host the annual Rally Against Child Abuse at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 10, on the Cherokee Courthouse Square in downtown Tahlequah. The public is invited.
Smart Start Coordinator Bridget Tobey, executive director of Kid Connections, said over 150 children will attend this year’s event.
“We’re going to have all the students from Sequoyah Prekindergarten Center come down this year,” said Tobey. “I’ve worked closely with Anita Lightcap through the ‘Raising a Reader’ program, so she said they’d just come to the rally.”
Tobey said this year, in addition to the hot dog feed and ribbon-tying events, this year’s rally will offer lots of activities for children.
“The kids will be able to decorate their own paper dolls that will include positive messages, like ‘don’t be a bully,’ or ‘I’m a good friend,’” said Tobey. “Bikers Against Child Abuse will be there providing temporary tattoos, and we’ll also have face-painting.”
Tobey is planning to have two crafts and two games, with candy as prizes.
Finally, Tahlequah’s Multi-Disciplinary Task Team will host a baked potato dinner at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 30, to help raise funds for the Child Advocacy Center. Cost for this event is $6, and can be purchased at Help-In-Crisis’ office at 205 N. College Ave.
CASA of Cherokee Country Executive Director Jo Prout would love to abuse thwarted in her lifetime.
“Child abuse and neglect affect children of every age, race and family income level,” said Prout. “But research has identified many factors relating to the child, family, community and society that are associated with an increased risk of abuse and neglect, including parents who are young and unprepared for the responsibilities of raising a child, single parents who have little support, and families placed under stress by poverty, divorce or a child’s disability.”
According to information provided by CASA, in 2012, the most recent year for which Oklahoma child maltreatment statistics are available, more than 44,000 reports were made to child protective services about the safety and well-being of children ages newborn through 18. Studies conducted by the Child Welfare League of America have found there is an increased likelihood of future delinquency and crime in children experiencing abuse and neglect.
“A child abused or neglected has a 59 percent increased likelihood of being arrested as a juvenile, a 28 percent increased likelihood of being arrested as an adult, and a 30 percent increased likelihood of being arrested for a violent crime,” said Prout.
Studies show that in the U.S., one in every four female children will be sexually abused by age 16, and one in every six male children will be sexually abused by age 16. A history of child abuse or neglect has been associated with increased risk of mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and learning problems, social problems with other children and with adults, teen pregnancy, lack of success in school, alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and chronic illnesses.
The estimated annual cost of child abuse to the state of Oklahoma is $919,319,000.
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