LAURINBURG — A stiff breeze buffeted a close formation of pinwheels planted in front of the Scotland County Department of Social Services office on Wednesday as 50 members of the Health Department and Social Services staffs gathered to mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Spinning furiously, the pinwheels represented the 27 children in foster care in Scotland County and the vulnerability of young children in general.
“We have placed these pinwheels in honor of our foster children, not just to say we care for them, but to say they are overcomers — although things may not seem to be the way they would have planned,” said social work supervisor Jennifer Byrd.
Between July 2014 and June 2015, Scotland County’s Social Services Department received 659 reports of child abuse, according to supervisor Wendy Stanton. Of those, 489 met state guidelines for further assessment of the safety risk to children involved and 85 families were ultimately added to the department’s case load.
Since July 2015, DSS has had 366 reports of possible child abuse.
Also during the ceremony, Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block recognized Child Abuse Prevention Month in the city. His proclamation noted the role of social programs in alleviating the stresses that can lead parents to mistreat their children as well as the correlations between childhood abuse and unhealthy teen and adult behavior patterns like crime, substance abuse, and obesity.
“Child abuse and neglect can have lifelong implications for victims,” Stanton said. “While the physical wounds heal, there are several long-term consequences of experiencing the trauma of abuse or neglect.”
Program administrator Sandy Connor applauded the department’s social workers and staff in DSS food and nutrition, health care, and financial assistance departments.
“This staff often works under extraordinary circumstances to serve and protect children 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. They sacrifice time with their families and come to work after sleepless nights on call,” she said. “Every program in this agency must run efficiently to support each other so that vulnerable and needy children, adults, and families can thrive.”
While anyone who suspects that a child is being mistreated is encouraged to report the situation to DSS, preventing child abuse before it happens involves educating parents and addressing families’ basic physical needs.
“We’re in a community where people are stressed,” said Byrd. “Single parents, they’re stressed and those stressors unfortunately spill over to child abuse.”
“Our parents need to be educated on how to deal with situations to prevent child abuse from occurring,” added lead social worker Atysha Locklear. “In parenting you don’t get an instruction manual and they haven’t been taught, especially the young parents.”
The Scotland County Department of Social Services will also mark Child Abuse Prevention Month with a family fun day at 11 a.m. on April 23.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.