If you have visited Stafford’s George L. Gordon, Jr., Government Center recently, you may have noticed the garden of blue pinwheels out front. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Virginians display pinwheels as a visible reminder of the happy and healthy childhood all children deserve. It also highlights what individuals can do to help prevent child abuse.
“We investigated 586 valid reports of child abuse in 2022. Mandated reporters, like teachers or nurses, are invaluable to keeping children safe but we also depend on the public,” said Director of Stafford County Social Services Michael Muse. “We are available 24 hours a day to help a child and family in crisis.”
Stafford Dept of Social Services asks that residents call regarding any concerns of a child’s safety or well-being. It is better to report a concern and allow Stafford DSS to take appropriate action than not to report and a child be harmed. Stafford Child Protective Services has someone to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day. They are trained to ask the appropriate questions to determine what action is needed. The names of people who report are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous when making a report.
While everyone should be concerned about child abuse and/or neglect, certain professionals and other individuals are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect i.e. teachers, librarians, nurses, policemen, counselors or any other mandated reporter. Now, mandated reporters have an online reporter portal at Virginia Child Protective Services Hotline. This portal allows mandated reporters the ability to expedite the submission of a report directly to the Virginia Department of Social Services State Hotline.
One of the most effective ways to prevent child abuse is to take steps and provide resources to strengthen families. The root of child abuse is often a lack of role models, limited education and unreliable support systems. Parents parent the way they were parented. Stafford’s Social Services works to help both the child and the parents. Studies have shown that children are better off with their birth families. Giving parents time to gain skills they may not already have and expectations for meeting measured improvement can greatly improve a parent’s odds of success and to a family’s reunification.
For more information on resources helping to prevent child abuse, visit the Stafford Social Services page on Stafford’s website at www.staffordcountyva.gov/government/departments_p-z/social_services. Stafford offers parenting classes and information on other resources. If you have reason to suspect child abuse or neglect, contact the Stafford County Department of Social Services by calling 540-658-4196 Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m. or on weekends and holidays, call the statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline toll-free at 800-552-7096.