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Lending a hand can often be the small thing that stops child abuse.

Families that reside in supportive communities feel less isolated and overwhelmed. Parenting is challenging in itself, but when parents are encouraged to reach out to ask for help in dealing with daily life, and can receive support, that risk of maltreatment significantly lowers.

Many factors contribute to a child suffering abuse or neglect. Communities with high rates of poverty, unemployment and limited resources contribute to increased risks of maltreatment.

Our children need to live in a supportive, protective community. An important role you play as a member of that community is in watching for the signs and symptoms that a child could be abused or neglected.

Understanding what to look for is often a first step.

Neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. This may look like a child not having sufficient food or a safe home environment or a parent being unable to meet the child’s physical, emotional or medical needs. Even though a parent loves their child, sometimes they are battling their own struggles that adversely affect care of their child. Parents may need a helping hand in accessing services.

Physical abuse means the non-accidental physical injury of a child, which could look like unexplained burns, bites, unusual marks or bruises, as well as concerning interactions between a parent or caregiver and the child and a child that seems unusually frightened by their parent or caregiver.

Sexual abuse involves the exploitation of a child for sexual gratification of an adult or older child, commonly perpetrated by an individual known to the child. Some common indicators of sexual abuse may include the child demonstrating bizarre or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior and disclosures of sexual abuse and inappropriate touching.

If you observe some of these concerns and suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please make a report to the Division of Family and Children Services by calling 1-855-GACHILD (1-855-422-4453).

When a child cannot safely remain with their parent or caregiver, DFCS relies on family members and kin caregivers to offer temporary care for the child while services are provided to parents.

Sometimes a child may not have a relative or family friend that is able to step-in to support the family and it becomes necessary for the child to enter foster care. If a child enters foster care, it is important for them to stay connected to their family through regular visitations.

Foster parents needed

Floyd County currently has more than 220 children in Foster Care and we need more families that are willing to open their home as a foster home to care for these children. Keeping a child in their home community helps reduce trauma and supports faster safe reunification with their parent.

There are other roles you can also play as a community member. All children need loving parents that are equipped with the skills, knowledge and support in keeping them safe and helping them grow. It’s important for parents to understand healthy child development and have a toolbox of parenting ideas for activities, discipline and healthy family routines.

You can help by providing positive support, being available to talk with parents when they need an ear, and by encouraging them to get help when needed. You can also encourage parents to practice self-care.

When parents take even a few moments to themselves each day, they can better handle the daily juggling that is life as a parent.

Parents need supportive friends to rely on and help each other. Friends can be a lifeline, reaching out to one another and checking on each other. Sometimes it is simply a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. Other times it means help in case of an emergency or babysitting. Friends offer mentoring support to each other, with ideas on how to handle difficult life decisions and how to navigate the different stages of child development — those toddler, pre-school, school age, pre-teen and teenage years can all be challenging.

Families need caring neighbors and communities. As a caring neighbor, you can reach out to the families living near you or families in your church or even people you work with to offer support.

Reducing isolation reduces frustration and further strengthens a parents’ support system. Neighbors helping each other can mean watching out for each other’s children. You can also help by supporting your neighborhood schools in providing school supplies, emergency food supplies or even new shoes or winter coats to share with families in need.

Get involved with Restoration Rome to volunteer your time in mentoring children or helping with childcare for local parent support groups, along with learning about lots of opportunities to help families.

Every person in our community has a role in nurturing and protecting children.

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