Pickerington Times-Sun

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Incidents, their severity increasing in Fairfield County

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It can happen anywhere, in any community. Child abuse knows no geographical or socio-economic boundaries.

Fairfield County Job and Family Services officials seek to impart that urgent message of awareness and advocacy to all of Fairfield County, including greater Pickerington, especially during April which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

"Our hope for this month and throughout the year is to recognize many children in our communities are impacted by child maltreatment, and the maltreatment is becoming more and more dangerous, violent and traumatic," said Kristi Burre, FCJFS protective services director.

Burre said FCJFS received 4,400 cases regarding child abuse and neglect in 2013 and she estimates 1,000 cases will be filed by the end of this April.

"Our numbers over the last few years have risen," Burre said.

"What stands out is not just the spike in the numbers, the types of cases we investigate are much more intense and complex than in the past," she said.

She said the opiate epidemic in Fairfield County has certainly contributed to that complexity.

"It makes it different for us. When a (parent) becomes that addicted to a substance, that becomes your primary goal," Burre said.

"Unfortunately it results in kids not getting their basic needs met.

"Kids are going to school having been up all night, and exposed to all types of things," she said.

Another common denominator that drives many of the child abuse and neglect cases is violence in the home.

"In over 50 percent of the cases we get involved with, domestic violence is present," Burre said.

FCJFS has changedin how the agency is intervening in domestic violence incidents.

"Our staff is trained to ask the right questions," Burre said, adding usually the victim of abuse has fear instilled in them and thus is reluctant to open up.

Burre said the Pickerington area is not immune from child maltreatment despite its relatively affluent status.

"In 2013 we were able to track that we received over 200 calls from the Pickerington school system alone related to concerns of child maltreatment for their students," she said.

"That number has increased from previous years."

Burre said in the near future, FCJFS will be moving a satellite office into the old Fairfield County Utilities Building at 11050 Tussing Road in Pickerington, establishing a much needed presence in the northwest region of the county.

"We plan to eventually provide visitation services at the new location for children in our custody and placed in foster care or with relatives to have visitation and parenting time with their parents," she said.

"Our caseworkers will also use this location as needed when meeting with families in that area of the county," she said.

Burre commended Pickerington Police Chief Michael Taylor for attending the Child Abuse Prevention Month's kickoff event in Lancaster's Rising Park April 1.

In another effort to promote awareness, Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray will present a proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month at the Pickerington City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 15 in City Hall, 100 Lockville Road.

A "Candlelight Walk To Prevent Child Abuse" will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 24 in Lancaster. The walk will begin at the FCJFS office, 239 W. Main St. and continuing to the Zane Square Gazebo.

Each candle in the walk will represent a child in agency custody -- at last count more than 200.

"Those are our most severe cases," Burre said.

"We want to show our support and promote that all kids deserve to be happy, healthy and safe," she said.

Concerns for maltreatment of children can be reported to FCJFS protective services by calling 740-653-2020.

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