Durant Children’s Center Child Abuse Prevention Month: Still Figthing For Our Children

April 09, 2021
Gloria McClary, Director Durant Children's Center Gloria McClary, Director Durant Children's Center

The old saying is that “it takes a village” when it comes to raising our children. The fact is, it takes a nation. With that being said, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is in April. The Durant Children‘s Center wants to involve all of our partners across the Pee Dee Region in planting Pin Wheel Gardens representing Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Durant Children’s Center is an accredited Child Advocacy Center, a program of the Pee Dee Coalition. The Durant Children’s Center is located in three cities in S.C. These cities are Hartsville, Sumter, and Florence and we serve seven counties in the Pee Dee Region. The center provides the following services: forensic medical exams, forensic interviews, counseling, and family advocacy.

Along with the core services we provide, we also have prevention programs. These

programs include Parent Education Parent Support (PEPS), Talk About Touch and, Stewards of Children. PEPS is a free 12-week, evidence-based, course designed to offer parents skill building and life skills. Talk About Touch teaches students in grades Pre-K-6th the basic skills and rules for protective actions in all types of dangerous situations including bike and gun safety, child sexual abuse, and more. Stewards of Children is a two-hour evidence-informed training program that empowers adults to prevent child sexual abuse and raises awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse.

April is our opportunity to highlight the work we do all year long, and it is our chance to help educate our communities about protecting the most vulnerable among us. Perhaps the most vulnerable of the vulnerable when it comes to abuse is children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“Sexual victimization and intellectual disabilities among child welfare involved youth,” is a recent study that was done in the U.S. that suggests children with disabilities experienced maltreatment at 3.4 times the rate of nondisabled children. Recent studies found that children with mental or intellectual disabilities are almost five times more likely to experience sexual violence than are non-disabled children.

The study also highlighted the high prevalence of sexual victimization among youth involved in the child welfare system, and the risk of subsequent victimization as a result: “Retrospective studies have found significant associations between youth with histories of child welfare involvement, sexual abuse, and having been paid to have sex before age 18 and entry into commercial sex work.” Id., p. 4.

Given the threat of sexual victimization among children, it is evident that this past year forced our children to be at greater risk during the pandemic. We do know that the abuse and neglect increased, and we do not know how or what the long-term effects of the pandemic will have onour children. As we review the previous year and look toward some normalcy, let's not forget that families and children need services such as the Durant Children’s Center more now than ever. Not just in April but throughout the year Durant Children’s Center spreads the message and educates the communities.

As professionals in the field, this study should confirm what we already knew, either anecdotally or from experience. The real utility of a study like this lies in the researchers’ recommendations for policy and practice. In this case, the researchers recommend that to increase the potential for positive outcomes for transitioning youth, we should institute universal screening of all children entering child welfare services for intellectual and developmental disabilities and we should be providing enhanced training in sexual victimization prevention.

Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) and multidisciplinary teams work hard at assessing every child that needs assistance. Our knowledge about the association between children with IDD and the increased risk for victimization, and about the association between those children and the risk factors involved is evident that additional resources and support is needed. Durant Children’s Center can offer an opportunity to help promote positive outcomes. Certainly, as we provide services, we encounter children with IDD—and as we do, we can take the time to pay particular attention to the risks they may encounter and provide additional education to prevent further harm.

This April it’s important to remember that we speak on behalf of all children and that we work to help even the most vulnerable of the vulnerable heal, recover, and thrive. An additional resource can be found at the following resources below:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network(NCTSN) has developed a toolkit for supporting children with IDD who have experienced trauma. These resources include training on Tailoring Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Children with IDD, a fact sheet for providers on The Impact of Trauma on Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a “Spotlight on Culture: At Intersection of Trauma and Disabilities” fact sheet, and so much more. You can access the Road to Recovery Toolkit online.