DARKE COUNTY – April has been declared Child Abuse Awareness Month. On March 28, the Darke County Commissioners and Greenville Mayor Michael Bowers signed proclamations to draw attention to the growing problem.
“We are 11 cases up from this time last year,” said Darke County Job and Family Services administrator Rebecca James, comparing January through March 2015 to the same period this year. “Many of the calls we are getting are about parents who are overdosing, or mothers testing positive when they deliver at the hospital – or babies testing positive at birth.”
The growing problem of child abuse and neglect may be a surprise to some.
“I’ve been working at children services for 21 and a half years and there are so many people in this county who are not aware that child abuse occurs in this county, and the effects of abuse and neglect on our children,” James said.
James hopes that by drawing attention to this issue people will be more aware and vigilant in reporting instances of neglect or abuse.
“It’s important to make people aware there are options available if they need to report child abuse or neglect, and that’s to contact our agency. They can remain anonymous,” James said, noting that all schools in the county are “our major reporting source.”
According to the proclamations signed by Greenville’s mayor and the county commissioners, the purpose of proclaiming a child abuse awareness month is to urge local residents to engage in activities that strengthen families and communities, thus providing children with a safe and healthy nurturing environment.
During 2015, the county spent $2,131,268.60 for the cost of abuse and neglect. That amount covers placement costs (food, clothing, shelter) and all case management costs. The amount did not include medical issues covered by Medicaid or transportation or the services of all the community partners in addressing and managing abuse or neglect.
The number of cases for abuse and neglect in Darke County are up, primarily due to drug and alcohol abuse, James explained.
Last year, Darke County Children Services had contact with or provided services for more than 1,837 adults and children. Of the 56 children in substitute care during 2015, 15 were placed due to parental drug and alcohol abuse. And while this may not seem high, the number is up from previous years, James said.
Also during 2015, more than 580 calls were made to Children Services, with 430 based on allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and dependency. And 96 children were reported for unruly or delinquent or out-of-control child behavior. Drug and/or alcohol abuse was a contributing factor in 103 intake reports.
According to a written report from James, there were 28 children who were able to remain safely in their homes with court-ordered protective supervision during 2015. Also 126 children received services from the Intersystem Diversion Team, a group of participating agencies that work with families who voluntarily want to make changes in order to preserve their families and reduce the likelihood of abuse.
For more information on Child Abuse Neglect Awareness Month, the programs offered by the Children Services agency or to report a problem, call 937-548-4132.
PHOTO CAPTION: Signing proclamations declaring April as Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month are front row, left to right, Rebecca James, administrator for Darke County Job and Family Services, commissioners Mike Stegall, Diane Delaplane, Mike Rhoades and Greenville Mayor Michael Bowers. Back row, Tim Tyo, investigative supervisor; Sgt. Tony Royer of the Darke County Sheriff’s Department; Margaret Hayes, Darke County Prosecutor’s office; Greenville Police Chief Dennis Butts; Annie Sonner, domestic violence worker; Darke County Prosecutor Kelly Ormsby; Terry Holman, health commissioner; Michelle O’Connor, supervisor at Children Services; Stephanie Lehman, Job and Family Services; Nicole Lefeld, Help Me Grow programr; and Andrea Townsend, Greenville City Schools. (Susan Hartley Photo)