Local resources available for child abuse prevention

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Local experts are marking National Child Abuse Prevention Month by drawing attention to the problem of child abuse and letting parents and caregivers know there are resources available to help prevent it.

“The goal is to empower everybody in the city,” said Brenda O’Donnell, the Early Childhood Development Commission coordinator. “If it helped one child, it would be worth it.”

Visitors to local daycares and libraries have seen signs promoting child abuse prevention awareness, along with a local hotline number to call. The number is 514-7458.

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Information is also available at the Health and Human Services building, 135 Hall Ave., and at Sentara Obici Hospital, 2800 Godwin Blvd.

Information available includes tips on co-parenting with an ex, what to do when a child reports abuse, how a single parent can choose a new partner while protecting children and how to tell if your child is ready to stay at home alone.

Child abuse can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment or emotional and psychological abuse. The most serious cases end in death. Those who survive may suffer emotional problems and are more likely to have problems building and maintaining relationships, low self-esteem, depression, thoughts of suicide and other mental health issues.

Getting information out is crucial, said Marli Laudun, public health nurse supervisor and Healthy Families program manager.

“If they know about the resources, they can respond appropriately,” Laudun said. “Nobody should be ashamed to ask for resources, especially for first-time moms. It’s getting harder and harder to be a parent.”

In Suffolk, a variety of agencies and entities work together on preventing child abuse. The health department and Social Services have a variety of programs to support families. Sentara Obici Hospital works with new parents to provide resources and also, unfortunately, sees cases of child abuse in its emergency department, where it works with the Suffolk Police Department to help prevent repeat incidents.

“What we hope is we’re making an impact before any of this happens,” said Phyllis Stoneburner, vice president for patient care services at Sentara Obici Hospital. “The more we can do proactively, it’s so much better than what we can do on the back end of that. I think that makes a huge difference.”

“The collaboration is amazing,” said LaTonya Brown, family services supervisor in the Department of Social Services.

Stoneburner said simply knowing there are resources out there can help prevent child abuse.

“It’s giving people tools they can have in their hand and utilize, and I think that’s so important,” she said.

Activities planned locally for National Child Abuse Prevention Month include a presentation at this Wednesday’s City Council meeting, “Wear Blue Day” on Friday, and Blue Sunday on April 30, when houses of worship are encouraged to call attention to the issue.