RALEIGH, N.C. — An estimated 111,000 children a year in North Carolina are reported to be abused and neglected, and 26,000 of those cases later are substantiated.
In 2007, the deaths of 25 children in the state were related to abuse and neglect.
Still, the level of child abuse and neglect is believed to be significantly underreported.
And the troubled economy is expected to result in more abuse and neglect of children and in greater demand for assistance from human-services agencies, which are finding it even tougher to raise money to meet that rising demand.
“If ever there was a time for more of our work, it is now,” says Rosie Allen, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina,
Founded in 1979 and growing out of a committee formed five years earlier in response to a mandate by Congress that every state form a group to study the impact of child abuse and possible strategies for preventing it, Prevent Child Abuse spent its first 11 years promoting awareness of the problem.
And in 1990, after having operated with only a board and executive director, Prevent Child Abuse began adding staff and developing programs.
Today, the group operates with an annual budget of $1.4 million and a staff of 13 people and focuses on preventing abuse and neglect though programs that aim to educate and support parents and are “evidence-based,” or known through research to be effective.
Prevent Child Abuse also is focusing on improving the way it develops resources, particularly in the face of the economic recession, so it can sustain itself for the long-term
The shift to a focus on prevention marks a dramatic change from the 1990s, when the organization operated a Winnebago, dubbed “Winnie,” that traveled the state and distributed information and materials about child abuse in locations like parking lots at shopping centers.
Prevent Child Abuse is a partner in two big statewide initiatives, one to help local communities work with parents whose children face behavioral challenges, the other to connect registered nurses with first-time, low-income mothers throughout their pregnancies and until their children are two years old.
With state funds and a grant from The Duke Endowment in Charlotte, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has teamed up with the North Carolina Partnership for Children, or Smart Start, to bring a national program known as The Incredible Years to local communities.
Launched in 2008 and now operating in 13 communities, Prevent Child Abuse provides a coordinator and coach for each site, with North Carolina Smart Start funding the work at each site to help equip parents with skills they need to work with their children who have behavioral challenges.
With 26 other communities voicing interest, the effort expects to add five more sites this year, says Allen, a former sixth-grade teacher who alter served as executive director of Smart Start partnerships in Cumberland and Rowan counties, executive director of Communities in Schools of Wake County, and development director for the North Carolina Partnership for Children.
The Nurse-Family Partnership, a national initiative launched in North Carolina in 2008 with funding from The Duke Endowment, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem and state division of public health, now serves eight communities, connecting registered nurses with first-time, low-income mothers throughout their pregnancies and until their children are two years old.
Prevent Child Abuse has expanded its board to 17 members from eight, diversified the board by adding members from throughout the state, and created an external relations committee to focus on diversifying and building the organization’s resource development.
And with funding from The Duke Endowment, the group has hired a vice president and an associate to focus on external relations.
Despite research showing adverse childhood experiences are akin to “toxic stress” that can result in serious problems in adulthood, “we haven’t really as a state and nation validated that parenting is the most important job any parent does,” Allen says.
So Prevent Child Abuse, she says, works with community-based organizations throughout the state so “communities will be better able to help all children thrive in nurturing families.”