NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the pandemic has caused some concerns that acts of child abuse would be harder to spot and report.
The Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter tell us when schools shut down during the pandemic, it received fewer reports of child abuse. That’s because educators play a critical role in identifying and reporting children subject to abuse. With in-person classes back in session those calls are back up.
The Director of Youth Services, Ellie Lindgren says there are different types of abuse and several key things to look for.
For physical abuse; you may see bruises, welts or untreated injuries. When it comes to sexual abuse a child may be sexually acting out or engaging in behavior not appropriate for their age.
80% of the cases reported to the organization surround environmental neglect.
“It’s really another source of abuse where they really just aren’t being provided the things that they need, adequate food, they might not have clean or appropriate clothing,” said Lindgren.
Lindgren says nurses, doctors and teachers, for example, are considered mandated reporters and are trained to recognize and report signs of abuse. Educators are the most common group to make those reports because of the number of hours they spend with children.
Lindgren says it’s important to report signs of abuse but if you are not comfortable doing so yourself a teacher for example is a good person to go to with the issue.
The organizations goal is to break the cycle of abuse, working with kids so they don’t repeat what has been done to them and they can go on and live productive lives.
Lindgren says abuse is a learned behavior and for some kids the abuse they experience is all they know.
They provide emergency shelter for kids from birth all the way up to 18. They have a school on site and counseling services to help kids process their trauma. Most of all, Lindgren says they want to have fun with the kids so there are plenty of trips and activities.
“What we are really looking at for them is installing a sense of hope that their future and their life can look different than what their parent’s life looked like -as far as having a job, going to college, learning a trade and being successful,” said Lindgren.
Lindgren says they couldn’t do the work without their volunteers who help teach life skills and help foster positive relationships with the children.
Of course, foster families are important to provide support and care for the children from the shelter.
April 30 is the last day of the National Child Abuse Prevention Month but for the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter the work doesn’t stop.