NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – Providing a safe, nurturing environment for growth and learning is a vital part of the childhood experience. In New Hanover County, Health and Human Services’ Child Protective Services works diligently to make sure children in our community have the emotional and physical support needed to grow up in a stable and caring home.
With April being recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is important to remember that not all abuse can be physically seen and to know how you can help.
“Over the past five years, Child Protective Services has investigated an average of 2,400 reports of child abuse and neglect each year. What we’ve found is that approximately 80 percent of those cases center around neglect, not physical abuse,” Child Protective Services Manager Holly Royals said. “Neglect includes things like failing to care for medical, mental or educational needs, improper supervision based on a child’s age or development, or utilizing inappropriate discipline. Since the start of the pandemic, we know routines have been disrupted, both for children and adults. It’s important to remember that frustration is normal, but it’s important not to express it in ways that could negatively impact a child.”
As an alternative to lashing out, parents and caregivers are encouraged to try simple techniques to decompress and re-evaluate the situation. Some of those include:
- Taking a moment to breathe and remember that you are the adult
- Press your lips together and count to 10 or 20
- If you need to put your child in a time-out chair, limit the time in the chair to one minute for each year of age
- Put yourself in the time-out chair and focus on why you are angry
- Talk to a friend or family member
- If possible, ask for a trusted friend or relative to watch the children, then take a walk
“While parents and caregivers play such a crucial role in helping a child understand the world, it’s important for family members, close friends and the community as a whole to know they can help as well,” Royals said. “If you feel comfortable helping someone by babysitting or providing them a moment to collect their thoughts, please offer that support. And, if you don’t really know any families with children, there are ways to get involved through community groups and other local wraparound service providers to help out. It might be reading to children at the library, volunteering at a school or working in a church setting, but there are plenty of ways to be involved.”
How and when to make a report of suspected abuse
North Carolina law requires that anyone who suspects that a child is being abused or neglected must report concerns to Child Protective Services. Mandated reporting applies to everyone, not just professionals. Reports can be submitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the New Hanover County child abuse hotline at (910) 798-3420. If you need to make a report after 5 p.m. during the work week or on a weekend or holiday, please call 911 if it is a life threatening emergency or non-emergency dispatch at (910) 452-6120 and ask to speak to the social worker on duty.
Learn more about how to recognize potential child abuse at SocialServices.NHCgov.com/abuse.