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Plenty of reasons to pay attention to Child Abuse Awareness Month
child abuse prevention

There were 61 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 2022 in Bryan County, according to numbers provided by Bryan County Family Connection.

Most of those – about 68 percent – were due to neglect. The rest were the result of either sexual or physical abuse.

The 61 cases were out of 492 allegations involving the mistreatment of children, she said, which means 430 claims were found to be unsubstantiated.

“Considering the number of referrals, that’s a low number in one sense,” said BCFC Executive Director Wendy Futch. “But one child is too many, so if you tell me we have 61 substantiated cases, when you think about it that’s equal to around two-and-half classrooms full of kids. That’s concerning to me.”

Futch, who keeps an abundance of such data as part of her role with BCFC, said she wanted the latest numbers from the Department of Family and Children's Services to make sure to have the right number of pinwheels to plant in gardens meant to raise awareness of child abuse.

She suggests caution when interpreting numbers, given differences in the way cases are reported, more awareness of the issue and the county’s population growth.

While some of the data can be difficult for a layman to interpret, numbers available show that from 2011 to 2020, Bryan County had a total of 411 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect, according to the online Kids Count Database for Bryan County, with the highest number of substantiated cases in a single year occurring in 2020. That year had 60 cases.

No numbers for 2021 were available Wednesday on the Kids Count database, but statistics show the county has in recent years had a higher rate of such cases than the state, according to information provided by Futch.

That’s one reason for efforts in April to bring awareness to the problem by those such as Futch, who uses the definition for child abuse or neglect provided by the state’s Child Protective Services. In short, abuse is either physical or sexual.

Neglect is “the failure of the parent or caretaker to see that a child is adequately supervised, fed, clothed our housed.”

As for the blue and silver pinwheel gardens sprouting up around Bryan County and the U.S., they’re meant to be a symbol of “the happy childhoods and bright futures that all children deserve,” according to the Pinwheels for Prevention website.

Other groups, including the Richmond Hill Exchange Club and Atlantic Area Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, as well as United Way of the Coastal Empire, are also involved in the campaign. To bring further awareness to the problem, BCFC, along with the United Way of the Coastal Empire, is hosting a pair of community awareness events.

The first is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at BCFC’s office at 40 South Industrial Boulevard in Pembroke.

There will be free activities for kids and families and free food, diapers and hygiene items.

The second will from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, May 5 at the Jacob Grant Teen Community Center in Richmond Hill during a free children’s clothing exchange event.

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