Social workers

Family Service Association's Alvord Child Development Center's Family, the Settles, who are participating in this year’s effort to raise awareness about resources to strengthen families.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday formally recognized April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, emphasizing the vital role that strong community partnerships play in preventing abuse and neglect before it starts.

“Child maltreatment can negatively impact the health and wellbeing of victims throughout their lives,” said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, District 2 Supervisor. “We are a better community and a more compassionate society when we value and protect the wellbeing of our children. Communities must make every effort to promote programs and activities that create strong and thriving children and families.”

In the last fiscal year, Riverside County caseworkers responded to 51,500 reports of child abuse and neglect. More than 3 million cases of suspected abuse and neglect are reported annually nationwide. About three of every four cases reported are due to neglect. Despite the statistics, experts say abuse and neglect can be prevented.

“Each child deserves to live in a healthy and supportive community that is committed to acting and safeguarding against emotional, physical and sexual abuse,” said Charity Douglas, assistant director of Children’s Services for the county Department of Public Social Services (DPSS).

Douglas, whose department collaborates with public, private and faith-based partners to meet the needs of the children and families in the nation’s tenth most populous county, said children suffer in silence.

“They carry immense guilt and shame because of sexual abuse. As children become adults, if their pain is unresolved, it impacts them in every area of their lives,” Douglas said.

Dr. Sophia Grant, medical director for the Riverside County Child Assessment and Sexual Assault and Forensic Examination teams at Riverside University Health System Medical Center, likened the interdisciplinary work of the partners who prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect to a puzzle.

“Nobody is more important. Without one person, we are incomplete,” Grant said. “Together, we form a complete picture.”

This year’s theme is “Thriving Children and Families: Prevention with Purpose.”

Riverside County residents are encouraged to advocate for children and families during Child Abuse Prevention Month this April by:

• Participating in Wear Blue Day on Thursday, April 1! Show us your blue on social media with the hashtags: #WearBlueDay and #ChildAbusePreventionMonth and don’t forget to tag us @RivCoDPSS on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

• Attending this year’s virtual Children’s Conference on April 29 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to learn about best practices for working with Riverside County children and youth and topics related to their wellbeing and safety. Spanish translation available. Information at www.hopecollaborative.org.

• Reporting any suspected case of child abuse or neglect by calling the 24-hour Riverside County Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-442-4918. Outside of Riverside County, please call the National ChildHelp Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.

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