by CORI McFARLANE, Deputy Director, Door County Department of Health & Human Services
The sad reality is that children in our nation – and right here in Door County – are abused and neglected. According to the latest national data, 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 2020. Child protective services investigated or responded to more than 3 million allegations of child maltreatment, and a total of 618,000 children were found to be victims.
In Door County in 2021, the Department of Health & Human Services received a staggering 517 reports alleging child abuse or neglect. Social workers carefully screen every report to determine whether it meets the statutory threshold for the county to become involved, and about 25-30% of the reports received are screened in for investigation each year.
The majority of these result in the family being connected to in-home services and supports to ensure safety and strengthen families. The goal is always to maintain children safely at home. When this is not possible, they may be temporarily placed in foster care until the situation stabilizes enough for them to return home safely.
We are fortunate in Door County to have many great organizations that work together to provide children and their families with what they need to thrive, including building parental capacity through protective factors. These are conditions or attributes that mitigate or eliminate risk, increase the health and well-being of children and families, and provide parents with the tools they need to parent effectively, even under stress.
Major protective factors include:
• Parental resilience, or the ability of parents to deal effectively with stress, adversity or trauma.
• Social connections such as relationships with family members, friends, neighbors or other community members.
• Concrete support in times of need, which gives families important resources during times of struggle and stress.
• Knowledge of parenting and child development because children don’t come with instruction manuals!
• Social and emotional competence of children – also known as social and emotional learning – which helps children to properly label and understand different emotions in themselves and others.
Everyone can play a role in providing families with the support they need. To make child abuse less likely to occur, we need to invest in our community and our families. In Door County, consider partnering with family-focused organizations and programs such as Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, United Way/Door County Partnership for Children and Families, HELP of Door County, or Lakeshore CAP/Cradle to Career. To learn about becoming a foster parent or respite provider, contact Health & Human Services at 920.746.7155.
If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, please call 920.746.7155 (or 920.746.2400 nights and weekends) to report it.
All children deserve to grow up in safe, supportive environments. Learn more at Prevent Child Abuse America at preventchildabuse.org. Together, we can end child abuse and neglect.
This column is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.