In Buncombe County: 3,297 children were involved in investigations of abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2018. Of these reports, 82 children were victims of abuse and neglect and 603 children were found to be neglected. Abuse and neglect of any child steals valuable resources from our community. Studies continue to show that child abuse has long-term, damaging effects on the developing brain and puts children at a higher risk for developing mental health issues, chronic disease, high-risk behaviors, and suicidal tendencies. Child maltreatment and toxic stress threaten the integrity of our shared social fabric.
Rebecca Smith, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) Social Work Director says that a variety of factors can play into child maltreatment and there are ways that we can work to offset them. “Child maltreatment is most often unintentional and can be escalated by challenges such as mental health issues, access to appropriate treatment, a lack of preparation for parenting or understanding of child development. Our highly trained social work staff works with families to assess strengths and protective factors and to identify safety concerns. We try to build on the strengths and work to fill in areas of concern with supportive services. Safety and stability are our number one concern and that is what we are working on in the home. However, maltreatment and trauma are not just one family’s issue, inside of their home. The community shares this trauma in an immediate way and over a lifetime. Our community is an integral part of ensuring that children are surrounded by protective factors in the larger social and environmental context,” says Smith.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increased protective factors may lessen the likelihood of child abuse or neglect. Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.
Protective Factors include:
- Supportive family environment and social networks
- Concrete support for basic needs
- Nurturing parenting skills
- Stable family relationships
- Parental employment & education
- Access to adequate housing, health care and social services
- Caring adults outside the family who can serve as role models or mentors
BCHHS and community partners have implemented innovative, trauma informed models to address child maltreatment. Specialized Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse teams as well as strategic prevention efforts and resources help to mitigate the impacts of child maltreatment. “We applaud investments in early childcare, affordable housing, efforts to address the opioid crisis, among others. These forward thinking approaches offer real benefits now and in the future for the hardworking families and residents in Buncombe County,” adds Smith.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect:
North Carolina law requires all adults to report child abuse or neglect. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected by their caregiver, call (828) 250-5900 to report concerns to Buncombe County Child Protective Services (CPS). The reporter must provide the child’s name, address, and the guardian’s name.
Calling CPS is the best way to ensure that the family gets the support they need. Our social work team can provide resources that support and encourage the family, as they become a stronger unit.
Awareness Events in Buncombe County
- In partnership with the Mountain Child Advocacy Center (MCAC), there will be a pinwheel planting ceremony with preschoolers on April 2, 2019 at the Energy Loop sculpture (between the College Street parking garage and 200 College Street) from 10:30 am -11:30 am. The MCAC Children’s Champion will be announced at this time. This event is open to the public.
- On April 2nd, 2019, the Buncombe County Commissioners will make a proclamation at their regular meeting to acknowledge the importance of efforts to prevent maltreatment and protect children.
- Pinwheel gardens will be featured at public facilities across Buncombe County. Participating locations include Buncombe County public libraries, Lake Julian and Buncombe County Sports Park.
For more information on reporting abuse and neglect, visit www.buncombecounty.org/socialwork. For information on the Mountain Child Advocacy Center, visit www.mtncac.org.