Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families, is continuing its work amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and raising awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. While most citizens are safe with their families following Stay At Home orders, many children remain at high risk for abuse during this time due to additional stress, financial burdens and extended school closures.
“Right now, we know the combination of social isolation and stress puts a large number of children at risk for increased abuse,” Dr. Carole Swiecicki, Executive Director of Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, said. “And, children are not regularly interacting with people like teachers and authority figures who commonly make reports, so we’re helping support teachers as they continue to check-in with their students online and helping them identify signs of abuse remotely.”
Each April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Its mission is to raise awareness and empower people across the nation to play a role in making great childhoods happen.
“Our goal this April, and throughout the entire year, is to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families,” Swiecicki said. “This year, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is more important than ever. To help the community during this time of uncertainty, we are providing abuse prevention resources across every channel, adding telehealth services and working closely with professionals to ensure they are in a position to recognize the signs of abuse.”
Dee Norton’s direct service providers continue to go into the office for essential, emergency services. These include forensic interviews, child and family advocacy, and medical examinations (provided by MUSC’s Child Abuse Pediatrics Division) for children with imminent concerns for child abuse.
In 2019, Dee Norton helped 1,269 children throughout Charleston and Berkeley counties. Dee Norton provides coordinated care that is proven to be effective – more than 90 percent of children who receive therapy from the Center show no clinically significant symptoms after their treatment.
The nonprofit relies heavily on grants and generous donations from the community, especially after pivoting the Center’s service delivery to include telehealth software and hardware not previously budgeted. Community members can make a visible commitment to preventing child abuse this April by donating to Dee Norton’s Pinwheels for Prevention fundraiser. Donors will receive a virtual pinwheel, which has come to serve as the national symbol for a safe, happy childhood.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that most adults across the country believe child abuse and neglect is a preventable problem but are unsure of how they can help. Activities supporting the overall well-being of families and communities contribute to the prevention of child abuse, from donating time and resources to organizations that support children and families to helping babysit for an overburdened family. Anyone can make a difference through simple acts of kindness, mentorship, advocacy, donations or volunteer work.
To learn more about how you can help prevent child abuse, visit www.deenortoncenter.org. The website also includes relevant pandemic resources, including tips for speaking with your child about the outbreak.