Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, in partnership with the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), Kansas Children’s Service League (KCSL), Wesley Medical Center and the Wichita Police Department spoke at a “Pinwheels for Prevention” rally on Wednesday, April 12, at Wesley Children’s Hospital, Wichita. The event highlighted the role mandated reporters play in the abuse prevention process, and outlined steps Kansans should take if they suspect a child is the victim of abuse and/or neglect.
“Keeping a watchful eye for the signs of child abuse can help protect our Kansas children,” Attorney General Schmidt said. “We all have a responsibility to help keep children safe.”
In FY 2016, DCF’s Child Protective Services division received 67,642 reports of abuse and/or neglect in Kansas—up 9.7 percent from FY 2015. More than 20 percent (13,609) of those reports came from Sedgwick County, more than 9 percent (6,333) from Wyandotte County and nearly 9 percent (6,064) from Shawnee County.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, loving environment,” Secretary Gilmore said. “Parenting can present challenges, but we need to connect with our communities so that when we are struggling to cope, we know we’re not alone. DCF and our community partners offer many services to strengthen Kansas families, and keep children in their homes, as long as that is a safe option.”
One resource offered to families is the Parent Helpline. Sponsored by KCSL, the Parent Helpline is a free, statewide, anonymous information and referral service. Helpline advocates are trained and offer support to help with simple questions or complex situations. The Helpline is available 24/7. If you have parenting questions or need someone to talk to, please call the Parent Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN.
Mandated reporters, such as social workers, teachers and law enforcement, are required by law to report suspected child abuse. DCF Social Worker Sarah Hoss has spent 13 years working in Wichita’s Exploited and Missing Child Unit, investigating cases of child abuse and neglect. She understands firsthand the important role both mandated and non-mandated reporters play in protecting children from dangerous situations.
“I want to public to know that it is important if you suspect, or even have a concern, of abuse or neglect that you report it,” Hoss said. “They are the voice of the children, and without them reporting it, we don’t know that it’s occurring and we can’t help the families and the children in our communities.”
As part of Wednesday’s event, local children planted pinwheels outside the hospital in flowerbeds to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month. The planting ceremony is part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign—an effort to change the way our nation thinks about prevention and how we can deliver on our commitment to Kansas children. The pinwheel serves as an uplifting reminder of childhood and the bright futures all children deserve.
If you suspect a child is being abused and/or neglected, you are urged to call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 1-800-922-5330.