Sherburne recognizes child abuse prevention month

On April 10, the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in Sherburne County, calling upon all citizens, community agencies, religious organizations, medical facilities and businesses to increase their participation in efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect in order to strengthen the community in which we live.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child abuse and neglect continue to be a significant public health problem throughout the United States, with more than 700,000 children abused or neglected each year; due to under-reporting this number is estimated to be much higher. In 2011, Sherburne County completed 170 child maltreatment assessments and 56 families received child protection services.

Sherburne County receives a high number of intakes with maltreatment concerns. In 2011, Sherburne County received 7,102 intakes regarding maltreatment reports and requests for county and community services.

Crisis Nursery
Crisis Nursery is a short-term, emergency-based service designed to prevent child abuse and neglect by assisting families in crisis with safe, temporary child care. The most common issues that lead a parent to access Crisis Nursery are family violence, medical necessity of parent or child, emotional exhaustion of the parent, chemical abuse treatment and financial crisis. In addition to accessing care in a licensed foster care setting, families are referred to community resources that will support their current needs and help prevent future crises.

In 2011, Crisis Nursery services were provided to 18 children and 91 percent of these families were not involved in a new child maltreatment determination.

Family Group Decision Making
Family Group Decision Making is a tool used by social workers to prevent out-of-home placement, increase child safety, create permanency plans for children and empower families to support each other and become less dependent on formal resources.

“The key component to Family Group Decision Making is to bring the family group together to develop and agree to a plan that addresses the safety concerns of the agency,” said Julie Mlsna, Sherburne County Health and Human Services lead social worker. “The goal is to develop a plan that identifies long-term supports for the family that continue long after county involvement.”

Parent Support Outreach Program
The Parent Support Outreach Program is a preventative program which provides support services to high-risk families in order to prevent involvement with the formal child welfare system. The program is available to Sherburne County families with children under the age of 10 who are at risk for maltreatment.

Signs of Safety
Signs of Safety is a tool which allows social workers to address safety within the family. A safety plan is developed with parents and children to address immediate safety needs and concerns as well as a follow-up plan to utilize if an unsafe situation arises.

“The family is truly the expert on their current situation. This process allows us to focus in on a family’s strengths and weaknesses to develop an internal support system and plan to set the family up for success,” said Mlsna.

“The reality is, we cannot always prevent abuse and neglect, but we can devote our attention to families who are at risk in order to reduce that risk,” said Mlsna. “Unfortunately, there will always be families that demonstrate a level of concern that results in a formal investigation or assessment. However, by putting efforts into prevention we are better serving our children, their families and our community.”