If you have visited Stafford’s George L. Gordon, Jr., Government Center recently, you may have noticed the garden of blue pinwheels out front. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Virginians display pinwheels as a visible reminder of the happy and healthy childhood that all children deserve. As well, it brings attention to what individuals can do to help prevent child abuse.
“With child abuse, it is vitally important for the community to work together for the best outcome for the child,’” said Director of Stafford County Social Services Michael Muse. “We have someone on call 24 hours a day to assist with concerns of abuse.”
Child abuse or maltreatment can take many forms – physical abuse, lack of shelter, lack of food, emotional abuse or any other area where abuse can happen. Those who witness abuse or possible abuse are encouraged to make a report or to communicate with a mandated reporter – a teacher, librarian, nurse, policeman, social worker or any other mandated reporter. Reports can be made to Stafford County Department of Social Services Monday- Friday from 8:00 - 4:30 at (540)658-4196 or through the Virginia State Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline after hours and weekends at 1-800-552-7096. Reports can also be made anonymously. Stafford Child Protective Services has someone on call 24 hours a day to determine the validity of reports and to respond to any emergencies involving a child. Social Services asks people to err on the side of caution. It is better to report than not to report an incident and a child to be harmed.
Another tool Social Services uses to prevent child abuse is to take steps and provide resources to strengthen families. According to Johanna Schuchert, the Executive Director for Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, the root of child abuse is often a lack of role models, limited education and not having reliable support systems. Parents learn by the way they were parented. Stafford’s Social Services works to help both the child and the parents. Studies have shown that children are better off with their birth families. Giving parents time to gain skills they may not already have, and expectations for meeting measured improvement can significantly improve their odds of success and family reunification.
For more information on resources helping to prevent child abuse, visit the Stafford Social Services page on Stafford’s website at www.staffordcountyva.gov/socialservices. Stafford offers parenting classes and information on other resources. Another resource is www.familiesforwardva.org. This organization is dedicated to disrupting the cycles of child abuse, neglect and poverty. They have a hotline, 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373), dedicated to everything from info on stages of development to reducing parental stress to securing resources.