Seeing Blue for Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness
by Sherrie Norris
Blue ribbons and bows are used as a symbol to help remind us of heartbreaking situations that happen every day -- and very possibly, in our own neighborhood.
Nowhere does the color blue hold more significance than it does at The Children's Advocacy Center of the Blue Ridge located near Boone and serving the needs of sexually and physically abused children of Watauga, Avery and Ashe Counties.
A nonprofit organization designed to help streamline child abuse cases, prosecute the offender, and provide treatment for the child victim, the CAC has had a local presence since 2011.
According to Selena Moretz, director and forensic interviewer, great strides are being made with the help of several local partnering agencies involved in various aspects of child abuse cases, but more work is needed.
"In 2013, we conducted 93 forensic interviews and 60 child medical exams here at the CAC," said Moretz. "These numbers are up from 2012, in which we conducted 64 interviews and 41 exams.
Local Statistics for 2013
According to the CAC, in 2013 Watauga County Child Protective Services received 441 reports of possible child abuse and/or neglect; of those, 264 reports were screened for investigation and/or assessment. Of those numbers, 31 were confirmed reports of alleged abuse and 185 reports alleged neglect; 12 reports alleged abuse and neglect, and one of alleged dependency.
In Avery County, Child Protective Services received 226 reports, of which 137 were screened in for investigation/assessment. No further details were available for Avery or Ashe Counties.
Community Working Together
In providing a child and family-friendly atmosphere, the CAC helps coordinate collaboration, Moretz said, that makes a difficult situation much easier on victims of child abuse.Without such unity, Moetz said, a child victim would have to endure multiple interviews by different professionals in various settings.
At the CAC, Moretz interviews the child and records the interview; Beth Browning, a registered nurse, conducts an onsite forensic medical examination, eliminating the added trauma usually associated with an emergency room visit.
Also a part of the local CAC team are Holli Sink, licensed psychologist, and Ashley McKinney, licensed psychological associate, who provide trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy to child victims and their non-offending family members.
The CAC works within a multidisciplinary team representing all agencies involved, which includes, but is not limited to, local departments of social services, law enforcement, district attorney's offices and mental health.
The team meets to review the cases monthly, and in addition to gathering information to prosecute the perpetrator in the case, the representatives also work to ensure that the victims and their families get assistance with other treatments and services as needed.
The CAC, "in a nutshell," Moretz said, is designed to minimize trauma to children (and their nonoffending family members) resulting from child physical or sexual abuse; to advocate for and support child victims and their nonoffending family members, and to enhance the legal process in achieving optimal criminal prosecutions.
This agency is a program under the umbrella of the Morganton-based Southmountain Children and Family Services, which has provided services to children and their families of western North Carolina for more than a century, and is also known as the state's first and only foster community.
Show your support, buy a blue ribbon
In preparation for Child Abuse Prevention Month, the CAC is making available blue ribbons to local businesses and organizations in the High Country for $10 each.
"Several locations have agreed to help us raise awareness about child abuse by displaying blue ribbons or bows (during the month of April) at their locations," said Moretz. "I think it will be neat to drive through the High Country and see blue ribbons everywhere as a show of support to our children."
In addition to private business, ribbons and bows will also be displayed at local schools, law enforcement and other government agencies, social services offices, medical offices, "and anywhere else I can get them," Moretz said.
Her goal, she added, is for people to notice the blue symbols and ask what it's all about.
"At that point, the business or agency representative can tell them about child abuse prevention, or provide them with a small handout that we make available," she said.
Bouquet Florist and Log house Florist in Boone are providing blue ribbons and bows for Watauga County; the Flower Shop in Pineola is doing the same for Avery County.
The Children's Advocacy Center of the Blue Ridge is located at 105 Niley Cook Road between Boone and Blowing Rock.
For more information, call (828) 414-9277 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tax-deductible donations to help with the continued operation of the CAC of the Blue Ridge may be mailed to CAC 105 Niley Cook Rd. Blowing Rock, NC 28605.
Learn the signs of child abuse; report your suspicions
North Carolina has a mandatory reporting legislation indicating that anyone who knows or suspects any type of child abuse should immediately report same to law enforcement or to your local department of social services.
According to Chad Slagle, speaking for child protective services at Watauga County Department of Social Services, "If you don't report it, we can't protect the children."
The following are just a few of many possible observations that may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.
- Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
- Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention.
- Has difficulty concentrating that cannot be attributed to health issues.
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
- Lacks adult supervision.- Is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn.
- Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
- Shows little concern for the child.
- Denies the existence of or blames the child for the child's problems in school or at home.
- Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
- Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
- Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
- Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.
The Parent and Child:
- Rarely touch or look at each other in public.
- Consider their relationship entirely negative.
- State that they do not like each other.
Source: The Administration for Children and Families